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Five Fun and Mellow Bow Valley Ice Climbs

Some of the best intro-to-ice routes around Banff and Canmore

The Canadian Rockies have hundreds of pitches of ice climbing, from short rambles and pillars to monster alpine ice climbs. If it’s your first season or if you’re just looking to get in some swings on low-angle ice, then look no farther than the Bow Valley.

Close to Canmore and Banff are a number of fun and mellow early season ice climbs. Below are five, but there are many more. All routes can be rappelled, mostly from ring-bolt anchors.

Grotto Falls WI2+ 50m

Found far up Grotto Canyon on the eastern edge of Grotto Mountain north of Canmore, Grotto Falls is a rambly 60-metre WI2+ up a tight canyon. Park here and follow the trail west into a canyon until a fork where you’ll see two steep ice climbs (His WI5 and Hers WI4) and head right up canyon to Grotto Falls.

Junkyards WI2/3 60m

Junkyards is the closest ice to downtown Canmore, takes less than 10 minutes to walk to on a paved road from the parking and has a dozen WI2/3 lines. Park here and walk along the road south to a hydro station. Go right up a steel staircase and left to the ice climb. One of the most classic routes in the area is the Scottish Gully, read about it here. Check out the new drytool crag, The Tool Shed, here.

Ghoster Coaster WI3 100m

Ghoster Coaster is tucked in behind Mount Lady MacDonald up Cougar Creek, a popular rock climbing area. The approach takes about 90 minutes, but the three pitches of WI3 are worth the hike. Park here and follow the creek for 45 minutes to a fork. Go left and head for a canyon on the left marked by a big yellow wall. Head up the trees to a gully and the ice. Due to dam construction, access might be tricky this winter.

Rogan’s Gully WI2+ 300m

One of three routes on Cascade Mountain next to Banff that offer good early season climbing. The first pitch leads to short steps up a canyon to final steeper steps. Park here and approach the central ice climb, Cascade Falls WI3 300m, and go left through the forest to the base of Rogan’s Gully. Extreme avalanche danger after snow, visit here to check conditions.

Cascade Falls WI3 300m

The central ice route on Cascade Mountain and the most obvious. The first few pitches offer some WI2+ which is followed by 150 metres of ice and walking. The upper pitches are WI2+, WI3, WI3 and WI2+. The final WI3 pitch is at the back past the notch and many climber skip it and rappel from the final WI3 pitch. Park here and approach the central ice climb. Extreme avalanche danger after snow, visit here to check conditions.