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jesselillis

Canadian Rockies Ice trip- planning help solicita

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I'm interested in making a trip to the Canadian Rockies (from Seattle) for ice this season. I haven't been anywhere in Canada east of Lillooet. Could folks comment on closest drivable worthwhile ice destination, and contrast with ice destination closest to an airport?

Thanks

 

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Hi Jesse,

 

Try giving Alex or Dane a PM. They have both been to the Canadian Rockies quite a bit.

 

Dan

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Calgary airport I guess? Banff area ice. But once you get to Banff anything on the Parkway is game if you have the time to drive.

 

Gibralter Wall at Canal Flats but we generally climb it on the way home to break up the drive. Big rush to get there of course.

 

Things seem warmer (you think) so Cascade gully isn't always a sure bet anymore but Loiuise Falls and everything at Field is. Stanley Basin is always good.

 

I've flown in several times and think it sucks because you spend so much time on the road (in the airport) getting back to Banff and most everything is still an hr north of that.

 

I tend to base at the hostels. Lake Louse, Eisenhowser junction or Rampart Creek pretty much covers everything I want to climb on the Parkway.

 

Easy weekend from Spokane. A killer 3 day trip from Seattle. It is 600+ miles one way no matter how you pencil it from Issaquah. Way easier and faster than Ouray though. Not much shorter for us than a direct flight to Geneva and a 2 hr coach to Chamonix.

 

Canadian Rockies ice climbing? Priceless.

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I used price line bid on a 4x4, 300$ CAD for 7 days, based out of a scary but clean hotel in deadmans flats for cheap and made it to the ghost easy. Plus climbed ice the day I arrive and left from Calgary airport, lots of roadside stuff nearby DMF. I chose early arrival flights and late departure ones.

 

Husky for breakfast next door to the hotel made a convienent and cheap morning

 

Conversely I always avoid hostels and canmore...

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Hey, what's wrong with Canmore? ;)

 

If you're heading this way, check out http://www.gravsports-ice.com/icethreads/ for the latest ice and road conditions.

 

Depends where you are, but I've made the Vancouver, BC - Canmore drive in 8 hours in the middle of winter before, so it's definitely doable as an overnight. Conversely, it's taken me 15 hours as well, so be prepared for delays and bad weather. If you have multiple drivers you'll probably be able to climb the next day too. And there's always Golden and Stanley Headwall on the way...

 

The biggest issue with driving are the roads:

 

The shortest route is north, via Kamloops & Revelstoke, but it can be closed down for hours / days due to accidents / weather / other random shit. The closest detour is hours away, which can seriously mess up your plans.

 

The southern route (through Canada) is somewhat less problematic but about 4 - 5 hours longer. As with the above road, weather and accidents are common problems, and there is no convenient detour.

 

If flying, Canmore is 1 hour 15 minutes from the Calgary airport. Can be much longer is weather is bad. From here, good, hard climbs are from 30 minutes to 2 hours away (plus approach). Easier stuff starts pretty much in town...

Edited by RafalA

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Good comments. A few additional thoughts.

 

I always laugh at the time frames quoted from Vancouver BC for Seattle climbers. Like Vancouver is 10 minutes away? It is 140 miles, more from SeaTac, less from Bellingham. I still hear all the time it's faster. It's faster from Spokane too :)

 

Hostels? Not many hotels close to the ice fields but when I lived in Canmore we just made day trips...long day trips.

Lake Louise Hostel is more a modern hotel than a Hostel. Rampart Creek...fairly primative but warm.

 

Hard to beat Eisenhauser Junction for the Stanley basin and Hafner, as they are 20min. way. Everything else an hr. plus.

 

But no worries one trip and you'll figure it all out.

 

Nice hotels in Banff with decent prices and good sushi with in walking distance.

 

Forgot this one. Gas prices are bad in WA, great in Idaho, decent in Alberta and down right terrible in BC. Some BC stations will hit your credit card for a $500 authorization on a $75 purchase! I've had it alert my CC company and lock down cards 3 times in the last three years. Radium Hot Springs area is the most common offender. Prices can and generally do vary almost a full buck per gallon! I try to plan accoringly.

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if driving from seattle, the i90 to sandpoint in idaho, then north to the border is the faster option. i don't have a map out but it is fairly obvious if you have one.

 

plus as mentioned earlier, then you got gibralter wall on the way and bring chains and a reliable vehicle.

 

Flying in to calgary won't save you much of anything and will cost a bundle to rent a car.

 

The rampart hostel is getting to be a hotel with all the improvements. My favorite hostel for sure.

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Field is another place to consider as a base, much closer than Banff/Canmore to the stuff up the Parkway, Golden is a short drive and everything in and around Field is at your doorstep.

 

Kicking Horse Lodge is pricey, but good food at the Truffle Pig Restaurant. There's a few B&B's in town, Stephen Creek Guesthouse was one we'd definitely look at next time out there.

 

Downsides:

- cellular service used to be non-existant, that may have changed since the last time I stayed (2 winters ago)

- BC gas prices

- no cheap groceries in town, would need to truck in to Golden or Lake Louise for that

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Cell service at Lake Louise and south to Banff. Zip on the Parkway, which is worth knowing.

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The shortest route is north, via Kamloops & Revelstoke, but it can be closed down for hours / days due to accidents / weather / other random shit. The closest detour is hours away, which can seriously mess up your plans.

 

7 day ice climbing trip from Van: 3 days in revelstoke bowling waiting for highway to open, 1 day in traffic from revelstoke to golden. 1 day ice climbing, 1 day stuck in revelstoke on way home, 1 day to take two ferries and a long drive to get back to van.

 

I have often based in golden finding it cheaper and livelier than field, and 8 hours from van means a quick romp up lady killer in the afternoon

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4 day trip over Thanksgiving: zero climbing due to massive snowfall. Barely missed getting gated in on the Parkway. Think we drove 1500 miles total, tried going back home through Kicking Horse, but they shut the highway and we had to backtrack to Lake Louise. Ended up driving back through Idaho. Epic.

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Chilliwack to Banff: 10 hours

Chilliwack to Jasper: 8 hrs

 

I've become a devotee of the 5 recently, minimal traffic once north of Kamloops and ends up being faster access to everything north of Sask River Crossing, including Weeping Wall area. You can even climb some of the ice in Blue River if you can catch it with no avvy hazard. You can see the pillar on La Vrai Nature du Bernadette from the highway. Most of the other stuff is fairly well hidden from pavement.

 

Sadly though, they closed the Kava Cafe. And in general Valemount and Blue River are full of sledheads and heliskiers in the winter so it's not cheap to stay in either town.

 

Plus you can stop off at Wells Gray on the way up for a couple burns on Spray On if you feel like it.

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Lots of good info in this thread. Here is my .02

 

I think flying doesnt save you much time, and is posibly more expensive if you factor in the rental car. I drive because taking my 4Runner lets me go into the Ghost or taking my Jetta lets me go very fast. From Seattle the southern route over I-90, then North through Sand Point ID through the Columbia Valley to Radium and up over to Castle Junction is the fastest and least stressful drive. It is 630 miles from my house in Seattle to Castle Junction, and if the roads are dry I do it in 10 hours.

 

I used to spend my time in hostels - Rampart used to be 9$ canadian a night - but they have become very expensive lately (Louise is currently over 30$ canadian a night, per person, for a bunk in a crowded room), so unless I am up on the Icefields Parkway at Mosquito or Rampart - really nice around New Years or going for Polar Circus or Murchison - I base out of Canmore. I spent many many seasons at the Akai, but it's degraded so now I stay at Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge. Lot's of peeps swear by the Drake, but I like the Ski Lodge. Either is walking distance to Safeway and coffee shop. I spent one trip at the Canmore bunkhouse but found it overrated.

 

I like the Rockies because there are so many different areas to explore. But there is alot of driving involved. Make sure your vehicle is road worthy. That's one characteristic of the area: alot of driving, if things are not completely fat everywhere. Where you go will depend on your climbing level, mostly. The longer, harder routes and plums are generally found along the Icefields Parkway, and in the Ghost, farther from town. The beginner areas are actually quite close to town.

 

Always check avalanche conditions before you climb. People die every year it seems due to avalanches on route here, you must be exceptionly careful.

 

There are bazillions of classics.

 

The routes that stand out in my memory more than most over the last 15 years are

 

* Murchison/But My Daddy's a Psycho in 5+ conditions.

* Professors with Gene one year maybe 1999 in heavy snow, and Professors again, complete, with my wife many years later

* This House of Sky in the Ghost - easy but super fun!

* Polar Circus - it doesnt matter how far you go, you'll have a good time!

* Bourgeau Right Hand with Gene, great day!

* David Thompson country climbs, for a change of pace from the Parkway, including Elliot Left, Two Oclock Falls, 5-7-0, etc

* Gibraltar Wall

* Hafner is always a good time!

* Stanley Headwall

* Linda Ice Nine

 

Really good mileage days

 

String Pather Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Snivelling Gully together back to back for 7 or 8 pitches of WI3-ish.

Valley of the Birds in the Ghost

Tons of other options

 

Some climbs I don't think are worth it

 

Johnson Canyon climbs

Cascade

Selenium Falls

Louise if its crowded, what a zoo!

Bull River Canyon unless it's been hella cold

 

Last but not least, if the weather is decently cold allow for a several-hours soak in Radium Hot Springs on the way back South. At night, in the cold, it's really super nice.

 

 

Hope that helps.

 

 

 

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yet another option...

 

had great experiences holing up at the David Thompson Resort. although unofficially closed in the winter, they will accomodate the ice climber. they put you up in the the employee lodge, which is not a bad gig at all. you get your own room equipped with clean sheets and baseboard heating, showers, iron chef stadium size kitchen, huge lounge loaded with all the amenities to sastify you enterainment needs, washer/dryer... you get the idea. And while your out hacking away, the resort host is willing to drive into Nordegg to fetch supplies, groceries and your beverage(s) of choice at no charge. At the time (’99,’02,’04), the costs were amazingly low, 15-20 us dollars per person per group of 4.

 

Across the road you have the Cline River Gallery... a day’s worth of ice cragging.

A minute or two up the road you have the classics like Elliot's Left Hand, Nothing But the Breast, Kitty Hawk, Five Seven Zero...

30 miles up the road you have(Saskatchewan River Crossing) Oh Le Tabernac and enivorns.

A couple of miles north of Oh Le you have the Lady Wilson – Polar Circus – Weeping Wall corridor.

A couple of miles south of Oh Le you have Murchison – Bow Falls corridor.

 

so, driving-wise from the resort, its not a bad gig for a week's worth of ice.

 

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