Early Season Ice Routes

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Every Autumn, a ritual takes place which is of great importance to the collective psyche of the ice climbing community. It usually starts with getting snowed on while rock climbing sometime in September, this fosters the initial feeling that summer is over. Soon, snow begins to stick to streaks of wet rock high on the North faces, and almost fools us into thinking it’s ice. By early October, ice tools (axes, not climbers!) begin touring the Rockies in cars & backpacks but rarely get the chance to unleash their pent up energy. This phase tends to involve excessive amounts of coffee, beer, whining, and walking. And then suddenly it all begins, someone goes online & posts pictures of a barely formed route in K-country, and the next morning the parking lot overflows with overzealous ice bashers. At this point it is usually safe to say there will be another month until “taking the gear for a walk” season ends, but at least a few routes will be climbable.

So, for those new to this tradition, here are some of the places you can go look for ice every October & early November. Just be sure to report back on what you find!

Early season ice on Mt. Murchison
Early season ice dribbles in the Canadian Rockies. Some unformed routes can make good mixed climbs!

For more info on specific routes, see Joe Josephson’s excellent “Waterfall Ice Climbs in the Canadian Rockies”, 4th edition, published by Rocky Mountain Books. (currently out of print)

Bow Valley

  • Twisted Sister
  • Southern Wind
  • Hurly Bird
  • Little Bobby On-Sight
  • Shut Up & Walk
  • The Tease

Kananaskis

  • R & D, Chalice & The Blade, Lone Ranger
  • Trick or Treat
  • Moyen Monster
  • Amadeaus
  • French Creek routes
  • Marshal Arts
  • First Blood

Radium Highway

  • Ice Cannibal
  • Gentlemans Day Out
  • Sinus Gully
  • Nemesis (a bit later)

Field area to Golden

  • Ross Lake

Icefields Parkway South & North

David Thompson Highway

  • C’est La Vie
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