Ice climbers are counting down the days until the season begins in Canada, with all eyes on the Canadian Rockies. The Rockies are consistently the first area where climbers are able to ice climb out west, thanks to their high altitude and position along the continental divide.
After a record-breaking hot summer in the Rockies, from Calgary to Jasper to Golden to Radium Hot Springs, August has seen a dip in temperatures to below freezing at night, in some areas. Kananaskis Country had a dusting of snow to the valley bottom on Aug. 17 and the upper elevations have accumulated quite a bit. While there’s still some summer left, there will be a healthy supply of melting snow that will provide the base to some potentially fat early season ice.
In 2020, the ice climbing started in early October in the Rockies. The Canadian Farmers’ Almanac had an unusual forecast last year, calling it: “The Winter of the Great Divide: Wet, white, and wild in the West, everything crazy in the East.” In the Bow Valley, Super Dark in Protection Valley was climbed by Ian Welsted and Nikolai Paterak, shortly before Amadeus M5 WI4 in Kananaskis Country. A few days later, Bourgeau Left WI5 near Sunshine Village.
The second week saw three big new climbs, with one on Goat Mountain west of Calgary, and two on the Storm Creek Headwall. On Oct. 22, Alik Berg, Peter Hoang and Dylan Cunningham made the first ascent of the 410-metre seven-pitch Goat Face Ice Line M5+ WI4 on Goat Mountain east of Canmore. It’s one of the biggest front range mixed routes to be climbed. On Oct. 25, Takeshi Tani and Toshiyuki Yamada made the first ascent of Ichinen WI5+R M4, a new three-pitch 130-metre mixed route on the Storm Creek Headwall on Highway 93 South in the Canadian Rockies. On Oct. 28, Niall Hamill and Patrick Maguire climbed a new 130-metre M4 WI6 on Storm Creek Headwall called Fancy Feast.
There are already climbers improving their skills at drytool crags like the Playground and Drive In, but having a well-formed ice climb is still probably just under two months away.
Be sure to follow the new Facebook conditions page Rockies Ice and Mixed Conditions for daily updates once the season starts.
— Tiffany Lizée (@TiffanyLizee) August 17, 2021