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Flood Warnings in Canmore, Crags Might be Affected

Floods in 2013 changed the approaches and bases of hundreds of climbs in the Bow Valley

Alberta has issued flood warnings in Banff and Canmore as heavy rain and snow melt are causing creeks and rivers to rise. The area could receive a month’s worth of rain in 48 hours.

Environment Canada issued this statement today: “A prolonged period of heavy rain will continue today. Rainfall totals will be between 75 and 125 mm by Wednesday morning. The heaviest rain will fall to the west with local rainfall totals of 150 mm or more possible along the Foothills and the front range of the Rocky Mountains.”

In 2013, historical floods damaged properties and roads in Canmore, Exshaw, Calgary and more. The floods also forever changed several popular crags.

In Banff, firefighters are creating artificial riverbanks to raise a wall up to 1.2 metres to prevent flooding. That means the creeks that drain into the main rivers are raging, which will alter approaches and the base of routes. Several riverside trails are closed this week in Banff National Park.

Canmore is expecting more than 150 millimetres of rain this week, which will affect crags in Cougar Creek, Grotto Canyon and Heart Creek. Cougar Creek has been closed for the past few years as flood mitigation work has been taking place to prevent damage to homes and roadways.

Before 2013, the Hemingway Wall in Grotto Canyon had a small forest in front of it. Photo by Brandon Pullan

One of the differences between this flood and the one in 2013 is that it’s colder in higher elevations this year. Instead of rain on mountaintops like in 2013, it’s snowing which is slowing the rate of melt.

Heavy rainfall is expected all week in the Canadian Rockies, but interior B.C. has a sunny forecast so heading to the Okanagan Valley or Fraser Canyon might be the best bet for climbers.

The Cougar Creek debris net built post-flood in 2013. Photo by Brandon Pullan