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Ice Climbing Weekly Update #15: Cold Canada and Lots of Ice

The West Coast is finally getting some fat ice, Polar Circus climbed lots, new Quebec routes and stay-at-home orders in Ontario and East Coast

Temperatures dropped in Canada over the past week, which saw ice form in B.C., southern Ontario and the Maritimes. Quebec, northern Ontario and the Rocky Mountains continue to see great weather for ice climbing.

The Canadian Rockies have seen some safer avalanche conditions over the past week, which led to climbs like Riptide WI6 180m, Polar Circus WI5 700m, Kidd Falls WI4 70m and Stairway to Heaven M7+ WI5+ 100m getting climbed.

No big news from the Rockies this week in terms of new routes, just a lot of traffic on the classics. From the Ghost to Kananaskis to Field to Jasper and south to Waterton, thousdans of ice climbers have been hooking out the many formed lines.

Greg Barrett wrote about his and Nick Baggerly’s ascent of Stairway to Heaven: “It’s a stellar route that deserves more attention. The rock is remarkably solid, with many positive edges. Pulling onto the ice is a bit stiff right now, as you have to traverse the bottom of the snapped off pillar. Approach ice (Midnight Rambler) is in good but brittle shape. We hiked over to Totem Pole and descended it in three raps, which I would strongly recommend instead of rapping Stairway and downclimbing. This probably goes without saying, but it’s huge avi terrain and I wouldn’t recommend it until after this cycle.” Always check avalanche conditions here before heading out.

In B.C., the Asylum M7 WI5 170m has been climbed a number of times over the past few weeks. It was established by Jim Gudjonson and Sean Isaac in February 2000. In December, 2013, Jonny Simms and Mike Mason equipped the first three pitches with bolts and anchors. It’s become a moderate test-piece mixed climb.

B.C. West Coast

Ice has thickened up on the Duffy Lake Road, which has brought a number of climbers north from the Squamish area. One update about the Rambles area this weekend, reads, “Rambles left and Center yesterday, Jan. 30. -6 at the car at 9 a.m., -2 when we left at 3 p.m.. Left – Lower tier the ice was brilliant, even got in a few 22 cm screws. The ice was brittle in places but bomber. The middle tier was definitely still in but much wetter than lower – may delam if the temps go up. We couldn’t see much of the upper tier but looks thin. Center looks pretty fat, although seems wetter than lower left.”

Also on the Duffy, Closet Secrets WI4 and Loose Lady WI5 were climbed. Routes up the North Joffre Creek, like Aldergroove, are formed. Kalina Malowany’s update about the North Joffre area: “Most ice is snow covered, with the best looking ice being in Aldergroove and the Upper Wall. Saturday Artem Bylinskii and I climbed up a slightly wet and snow covered Spank Me. While our friends Seton and Nic Gobin climbed Things We Do. In both cases the low angle WI3+ ice is a bit rotten and snow covered making screw placements and V threads hard to establish, but if you are willing to dig, solid ice can be found below. On Sunday we checked out Sharpie,T2 and U. After deliberating, we climbed the first 120 m of U. It was a series of steep flows and rotten snow steps. Again rotten ice conditions perisited, but gear placements were still possible. Careful for rocks underlying the snow. Swiss Wall was quite snow covered and we couldn’t bring ourselves to wallow through the many snow steps. We sent a drone to scope out Rhapsody and Floyd and Free Tibet, and they did not appear to have formed, however, I won’t make any guarantees to that regard. The sheer amount of avi debris in that valley is impressive, so I would not go out there unless you were certain of the snowpack. Alder Gove and Upper Wall were the only areas without avi debris at the base. Fingers crossed this cold snap continues. I’d like some blue water ice!”

Ice is also fattening up in Bridge River, like Shriek of Sheep, The Gift and The Theft.

At Sumallo Bluffs near Harrison Hotsprings, Mohammad Pahrbod and Sam McEwen climbed The Buszowski/Kippan “in pretty lean conditions (took mostly yellow screws). It was climbed in tjree pitches with the final pitch feeling a bit steep and chandeliery for WI4. We did three rappels, two from trees and one v-thread. We found some very old rappel tat on trees, from the first ascent? Only a few centimetres of snow from last night, but started up again heavily in the afternoon. Size 2 avalanche debris below the climb from the upper bowl was noted.”


Northwestern Ontario: The Thunder Bay area is having its worse year since 2003, with no major routes having formed on Mount McRae or McKay. However, Lost Falls WI3 is being climbed. White Lightning WI3 is also formed, however access isn’t currently allowed. Orient Bay and Kama Bay routes are fully formed and are getting a lot of attention from local climbers.

Northern Ontario: Ice around Montreal River, Agawa Canyon, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury and Parry Sound is formed and fat. Ontario is currently under stay-at-home orders so updates on conditions are few and far between. Ice at Kluke Lookout in Algonquin Park was climbed.

Southern Ontario: Bancroft ice has been fat for the past few weeks, as has ice around Diamond Lake. Farther south around Hamilton, rumours of ice being formed and climbed have circulated, but most known ice climbs are slushy or not frozen. Tiffany Falls is freezing and has lines from WI2 to WI4. From the Hamilton Conservation Authority website: “When the weather permits, Hamilton Conservation Authority allows use of Tiffany Falls. Climbers must be members of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), or be attending an ice climbing class with OneAxe Pursuits. No individual ice climbing permits will be issued by the HCA.”

Virtual Ontario Ice Fest: Don’t miss the virtual Ontario ice fest with speakers Ian Welsted and Barry Blanchard on Feb. 6.

Quebec and Maritimes

Quebec is having a stellar ice climbing year with dozens of classics formed. Over the past week, routes like La Ruée vers l’est WI5 90m and le Grand Diedre WI4 80m have been climbed.

A new route was climbed at Gros Morne en Gaspésie by Jean Francois Girard and Mathias Arroyo Begin called Ad Absurdum M6 WI5+ 105m. Girard and Carl Darveau also climbed Inconscient Collectif M6- Wl5 220m.

In Nova Scotia, the 85-metre Siren Song WI5 has formed, but it’s unsure if its been climbed yet. The first ascent was back in 2010 by Matt Peck and Roger Fåge. The second ascent was in 2017 by Greg Hughes, Luc Gallant and Michel Martin. Other ice routes in Nova Scotia have formed, but the province is under stay-at-home orders so few conditions are being reported.

In New Brunswick, Walton Glen Canyon ice climbs are formed. The description for the area is: “This is a fairly remote area. Access can be complicated due to the fact that this is in a wilderness area with no houses, businesses or towns nearby. In the event of an accident, rescue would be difficult. Cell phone coverage here is sporadic so a sat phone or and In Reach are a good idea. The reward for the risk and hard work to get in this area is definitely worth it though. The climbing is superb, it has an alpine feel and the shear beauty of this place is quite breathtaking.”

Siren Song in 2017  Photo Greg Hughes


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Past reports: Ice weekly #1Ice weekly #2Ice weekly #3Ice weekly #4Ice weekly #5Ice Weekly #6Ice Weekly #7Ice Weekly #8Ice Weekly #9Ice Weekly #10Ice Weekly #11Ice Weekly #12Ice Weekly #13, Ice Weekly #14