canada climbing general moosling

Cragbaby in training

We headed up to Grassi Lakes yesterday, with a 10 minute drive and 5 minute hike in, woe is us with our inconveniently far away climbing. It was my first time on rock in over two years, and it’s been closer to three years since I’ve climbed regularly outdoors. I remembered how to put my harness on though, and we just stuck to the easy wall. I almost wonder if I would have been better off jumping on something harder, so I could be so distracted by the fiendishly difficult climbing and forget how scary it is re-adjusting to lead climbing again. That plan probably wouldn’t work though, I’d just be exhausted AND terrified.

It was a nice day, apart from the rain. It can’t seem to stop itself from turning up at least once a day to taunt us. And we had to hike through a pile of snow to get down to the crag. There were hoards of chipmunks and golden-mantled ground squirrels though. And it was warm enough on the rock.

Finn ate his first rock, and had fun crawling around in the dirt and playing with my Nalgene bottle. He’ll be a fully qualified cragbaby in no time at this rate.

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the junkyards

One of the handy things about Canmore – if you want to go on a quick ice climb, but still get other things done that day – the Junkyards. A little ice climbing location just on the edge of town, with one huge sheet of ice and a few more sections of ice further up the hill from that. Just a 5 minute drive and a 5 minute walk, and you’re climbing.


Adam climbing at the Junkyards with Ha Ling Peak in the background


Just one of the things I’ve been distracted with recently instead of writing new posts.

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ice-capades on a frozen lake

Looking through the guidebook for an ice climb to do on a windy day with high avalanche risk, we struck upon the climbs down by the edge of Lake Minnewanke.

The guidebook told us that the first ascent team had used iceskates to get to the climbs – but for later in the season recommended bikes. “Ok”, we thought, “bikes it is, that sounds like a great idea”.


Walking the bikes across Lake Minnewanke


Arriving at the lake we had to hunt around for a while to find a good place to get onto the ice – neither of us were keen on heading out across the middle of the lake, but along the southern shore all the ice was buckled creating huge impassable water trenches. So we cycled along the the half-way parking spot, and followed some fishermen out onto the lake. “It’ll be fine”, they reassured us, “at least six inches of ice as far as you can see”.


Ice heaving at the edge of Lake Minnewanke


So we set out across the lake with our bikes – initially there was too much snow to ride. Then suddenly there was no snow at all, and the glossy smooth ice threw had us walking immediately. “That’s ok”, we said, “it looks like it’ll be more rideable near the shore”. So we headed off towards the southern shoreline… and walked … and walked… and shuffled… and it got no closer. The ice was clear, and the water beneath was dark and deep. Huge cracks were running everywhere – deep lake-crossing cracks that looked to be nearly 3 feet deep, and tiny 5cm cat cracks, and everything in-between. The cracks were unsettling but the smooth patches between the cracks were worse, as there was nothing to convince your brain you weren’t just walking on water.

At this point we still didn’t have our crampons on, and so were shuffling across and trying not to fall over. This makes no sense of course, but we didn’t want to anger the lake monsters, and the ice was just so pretty! Our crampons would damage the perfect surface. So the bikes were being caught by the wind, and we’d be blown along bike and all, sliding along the ice.

By the time we reach the shoreline we’d both fallen over at least once and were well and truly over any worries about damaging the ice. Stashing the bikes, we decided to put crampons on, the headed off down lake again.


Reflection in the frozen lake


All the time walking up the lake we had a tailwind behind us – ice skates would have been scary, but maybe a sled with a sail? After walking for an hour, it still felt like we hadn’t covered much distance. That lake really is enormous. There was a stop for lunch, and then we finally reached the ice climb (which I haven’t included a photo of, as it wasn’t particularly exciting).


Sitting on water – Amy adjusts her crampons


Post ice climb we stuffed ourselves with some more food, then trudged off into the headwind. It was about as fun as could be expected. I developed a wind rating system:

Gale Force 1 – Necessitates modification of walking style, although progress can continue.
Gale Force 2 – Must stop walking and brace yourself into wind.
Gale Force 3 – Must stop and crouch to provide smaller surface area to wind.
Gale Force 4 – Must turn around and crouch with back to wind.
Gale Force 5 – Even crouching with your back to the wind you get blown over. Best option is to sit with your back to the wind and lift your crampons – you will get blown along the lake.

We experienced all of those. The only consolation was that it was a sunny day, the mountains were beautiful, and the frozen lake was still pretty amazing. And as we picked up our bikes again and headed for the car, the sun was setting.


Sunset across Lake Minnwanke


canada climbing general

perhaps my ice climbing trips are jinxed this season?

Unfortunately this time the jinx did not take itself out on me, but my hapless climbing partner. We drove to Haffner Creek, changed into boots, loaded ourselves up with climbing gear, hiked in to the climbs, picked a likely looking first climb, climbing partner racked up and started leading.

The ice was quite hard, the climb was very vertical, and climbing partner started to get pumped and shaky, attempting to place an ice screw that just wouldn’t bite. Front bail of one of climbing partner’s crampons popped off, and climbing partner rapidly went from being a few metres up on the ice to being on the ground.

Luckily he was falling onto snow and his legs were fine, but unluckily he nicked himself in the face with his tool on the way down. Meanwhile the other tool was still up in the ice. And a lot of blood.


Kind man bouldering up to retrieve the tool


After the lone tool was rescued we packed up and drove home. A hospital visit and two stitches later and he was as good as new again.


Post-hospital with a couple of stitches under the left eye


So we dashed off to the Junkyards for a couple of hours of laps on a toprope – and ended up getting some climbing in after all.

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early season ice

So, with the Jeep still out of action at the mechanics (and while it’s away we’re secretly looking at every Subaru we see for sale), we ended up cycling to the ice. First we tried to have a look at the Pigeon Mountain Falls near Dead Mans Flats, but the guys at the quarry in front of it weren’t having any of that. So we cycled onward to Heart Creek.




Nothing was looking particularly inspiring – and Heart Falls definitely didn’t sound very frozen, I couldn’t be bothered with the scramble round to confirm one way or the other.


Thoroughly unappealing look at some of the early season ice at Heart Creek


So we ended up playing on the left smear near Bunny Wall (WI2ish) – which was thick enough to take screws if you chose your spot carefully.


The two smears near Bunny Wall at Heart Creek


Of course by the time we left it was already 4.30pm. And there was a headwind. And we were hungry. And it was uphill. And the only way home is along the freeway. And it was 25km of cycling in the dark to get home. Just sometimes, I think a functioning car could be a handy thing.