This is what the adverts say nowadays for Ice Climbing in the Rockies in 2013.
“Climb in the Rocky Mountains of Western Canada and you’re in for a feast. This is the Mecca for modern-day Mixed & icefalls climbing. 33000 square kilometres of National Park wilderness complete with Moose, Grizzly Bears, and Cougars and of course, acres of beautiful ice.”
We were in Canada in the early 80’s ice climbing it was a very quiet place in these days, no crowds and less than 100 routes in the guide books. After 3 days we realised that we needed some more kit to abseil of the routes and were told that some tubular piping bought from a local ironmonger’s would do the trick. You cut it into manageable pieces and batter it into the ice and abseil off, sound simple and cheaper than leaving kit, we only had a few ice screws. Armed with our new secret weapon we set of together for Louise Falls near Banff with it famous château of Lake Louise as spectacular as the name sounds. It was about an hour walk in next to the frozen lake complete with ice sculptures we were soon at the falls. It was an impressive view that met us.
This was a step up a grade 4 ice routes but would easily be a grade 5 in Scotland it looked impressive. Though about 300 feet high it has 3 pitches and you can climb both sides of the waterfall. My hardest climb in Scotland had been about this grade but this was a bit different. The two easy pitches are as steep as anything I had climbed before and the pillar looked wild. The crux is a steep pillar of ice and it looks intimidating as you reach the safety of the cave. We had a fun day and only two climbed the steep top pitch, then we had the abseil off and got a rope stuck but what an introduction to steep ice. As for our new secret weapon the tubing was not the right stuff and bent as I abseiled off, I was the lightest then! In the end we had to go back and get the rope next day and then find another route to climb. We had 5 days on the climbs and had a day off at the Alpine Club where we met some more of the names in Canadian mountaineering.
Bill March and Rusty Ballie arrived as they were now living in Canada and we had a fine night. Bill was a great exponent of ice climbing at Glenmore Lodge in the 70’s and Rusty was another well-known climber. Soon we had everyone about asking us about climbing in Scotland The Alpine Club at Canmore was a great place to be and we got lots more information for our trip. Then we went off to Field after a day on the classic Professors Falls another great climb in superb conditions. We met many of the young Canadian climbers and Albi Sole a wonderful climber of the time Guy Lacelle came with us to Field and what a trip we had in this wonderful area. We had with us the only guide-book of the time Waterfall Ice by Albi Sole, it was dedicated to Bugs McKeith . The 1982 SMC journal did a review of this wee guide ” Impressive horrendous ice falls —— The authors definition of “free” relating to ice climbing would be a nasty shock to all of us.”
To be continued!