During our stay in Canmore, one of the highlights of our time, also in the entire Banff/Jasper area was spending a day Ice Climbing with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. We got a private guide for ice climbing (Thanks Mom and Dad for the Christmas gift!) and headed to Johnston Canyon within Banff National Park.
You can go to Johnston Canyon on your own, you also can get guided tours, and in our case, hit up some adventurous activities and try some ice climbing. Johnston’s Canyon is off the Bow Valley Pkwy. There is a parking lot across the street from Johnston Canyon Resort. You can park there, and there is a trailhead, with bathroom at the entrance, and a sign showing the distance to Lower Canyon Falls and Upper Canyon Falls. It is 1.5 miles to upper canyon falls, which can get a little icy on the trail in the winter.
Before heading over to Johnston Canyon, we had to arrive to Yamnuska at 7:30AM to go over our equipment and make sure we were fitted with out boots, and then with our guide, drove over to Johnston’s Canyon. You hike in with all your gear and lunch packed for the day. It was really cold in the morning and we definitely had a little scare that we had to be out here all day in about 0 degree F weather within the canyon.
When you arrive to the end of the trail/boardwalk, you arrived at Upper Falls, where there still is some running water, along with a ton of frozen over waterfalls that is really beautiful in the winter. You have to climb over the railing and carefully get down onto the ice and from here we took out all our gear and got prepared to climb.
Our guide Jesse, was an excellent guide, laid back but very instructional and really helped us feel comfortable, answered all the questions we had, and got us prepared to climb. He had to free climb first and get the rope set up for belay and once he was all set up, we then were given some basic training on using our ice crampons and ice axes, gave it some good tries to get comfortable, and then took off on our first climb!
Yana and I both have done indoor rock climbing, just starting this past summer and we were getting into it, but still inexperienced. With that said, we both did a great job and Yana really felt natural at it!
When you are climbing it is really about getting confidence and using your legs and making sure your ice crampons stick into the ice to hold you up and getting comfortable with how to use the ice axe. Once you have it down, it gets much easier. After the 2nd climb, we then moved over to a vertical wall climb which was more challenging, but we both finished and had a lot of fun!
We both had about 4 climbs each, trying two different routes. By the end of the climbing you definitely have more confidence and see your progression through the day get much better on your form and ability to get up the ice wall.
After the climb, we took off our gear and took some nice shots of the Upper Falls in the back corner where there is still running water and the ice waterfall is growing, where they will soon be ice climbing in a couple months.
Thanks Yamnuska Mountain Adventures (www.yamnuska.com) and our amazing guide Jesse for taking us out for the day and teaching us how to ice climb. We loved it and look forward to our next climbing adventure!