Ice Climbing in Banff and Canmore, Canada: The Junkyard, Haffner and The Knucklebashers Ice Festival

Took a roadtrip with my friend Peter, professional photographer extraordinaire who had also been converted into my partner-in-ice-crime, up to Banff and Canmore Canada to get our “climb on” on some ice. Banff is a 10-12 hour drive from Seattle, through one international border, along many mountain passes, by large, glacial fed lakes and surrounded by impressively jagged peaks that reach 11,000 feet.

Our first challenge: make it through the boarder in one piece. You would think this wouldn’t be too hard, we look harmless, right? Wrong. Apparently we looked extra suspicious (was it the fact that we were going ice climbing or were you just bored Officer Friendly?), so they stopped us and interrogated us for a while.

Sumas' border crossing. We were the only people going through so they decided to play with us for a while. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Shhhh, contraband carrots. Guess Officer Friendly wasn't so great at his job after all. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Once in Canada we had another 9/10 hours of driving, deep into the heart of Alberta. It was a land that took my breath away with the just massiveness of the mountains and the rugged beauty of the landscape.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We rolled into our Banff hostel at the wee-hours of 9:30pm (Officer Friendly at the border was aghast that we left Seattle at 8:30am and would arrive in Banff around 9pm, it was SO late! Apparently he wasn’t much of an evening kind of a guy.) We stayed at the HI-Alpine Banff Hostel. It sported a downstairs bar, kitchen, numerous sitting rooms, an internet room, an ice wall, and a plethora of live-in 18 year olds. As Peter and I soon discovered it was more like staying in a Frat than in a hostel. There were drunken cries of “come play poker with us” and trash, beer cans, and chunks of hair strewn all over the halls and squeeling giggles from 18 year old girls that echoed down the halls like nails on the chalkboard. Needless to say there were no rugged, hardcore ice climbers to compare beta on routes with. Note to all: Stay in the Alpine Club’s hostel in Canmore. Great view, mature atmosphere, and outdoor central (this was where we got sent to ask all of our ice climbing questions).

Ice wall at our hostel. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Hi-Alpine Banff Hostel. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Mural in our hostel. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Our first day out climbing was at The Junkyard, just outside Canmore. Finding this spot in itself was an adventure involving asking 2 gear shops in Banff for directions, then being sent to the Alpine Club’s hostel which finally pointed us in the right direction. The ice at The Junkyard ranged from mellow WI2 to vertical WI4. It was easily top-roped by walking on the far side up to the top and then building top-ropes around large, solid trees. We climbed some WI2+ and WI3. It was great fun, but by the end of the day I was chomping on the bit to get on some more challenging WI4.

The Junkyard. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The Junkyard. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The Junkyard. Photo by Peter Carey.

The Junkyard. Photo by Peter Carey.

The Junkyard. Photo by Peter Carey.

Ready to play on more challenging ice, on day two we climbed at Haffner (aka Haffner creek). Haffner has WI4, WI5, and a number of fun mixed climbs.

Drive to Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We climbed some WI4/WI5 ice and then explored the Haffner canyon, it’s a really gorgeous area.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Me climbing some WI4+/WI5 ice. Haffner. Photo by Peter Carey.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Yours Truly. Haffner. Photo by Peter Carey.

Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

A few more Banff scenery shots.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

On our third day in Banff, I took a women’s ice climbing clinic at the Canmore Knucklebashers Ice Festival. We went back to Haffner to climb some WI4/WI5 and some mixed routes. Sarah Hueniken and Zoe Hart were our awesome instructors. We climbed a ton of ice and mixed routes, got to roadtest some BD demo gear (I fell in love with mono crampons and the Fusion ice tool), were kept warm by the OR boys’ hot coco and got to play with some OR gear. It was a pretty rockin’ day!

Climbing at Haffner. Genevieve Hathaway's photo.

Random dude climbing a detached ice pillar. Haffner. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Zoe Hart showing us some great moves on a mixed route. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Zoe Hart showing us some great moves on a mixed route. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Me climbing a mixed route. Genevieve Hathaway's photo.

Me climbing a mixed route. Genevieve Hathaway's photo.

A few parting shots from Banff. I will miss you Banff, thanks for all the great memories and ice, and I WILL be back!!

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Banff, Canada. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

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~ by Genevieve Hathaway on March 15, 2010.

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