Canadian Rockies / Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise or Icefields Parkway-based
Waterfall Ice Climbing Courses for Novices, small group sizes and flexible dates.
Ice Climbing Intro Courses Highlights
- Best ice climbing in North America
- Most reliable ice conditions
- Few crowds
- Many climbs with short approaches
- Excellent beginner/practise climbs
The Canadian Rockies and especially the area around Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise may well be the best place on earth for ice climbing on frozen waterfalls: A staggering amount of ice climbing routes and training areas with easy access, reliably cold winters and the beauty of Banff National Park…..we can’t think of a better place.
For our scheduled introduction to ice climbing courses, we base ourselves in either Banff or Canmore. A short drive and a walk anywhere from ten to 40 minutes opens up a wealth of terrain – from easy top ropes for beginner ice climbers to the multi pitch ice climbing classics! For custom ice climbing courses and private ice guiding, we can also base ourselves in Lake Louise (about 50 minutes drive from Canmore in the heart of Banff National Park), in Field, BC or Golden, BC or in Rampart Creek Hostel (1.45 hrs from Canmore towards Jasper). This gives us even quicker access to some of the ice climbs in Banff and Yoho National Park around Lake Louise or the Icefield Parkway.
We are a small guide service and we pride ourselves of providing a very personalized service since 1995! Our scheduled ice climbing courses are small (maximum of 5 participants) but usually most departures run with only 3 or 4 guest.
We gladly also gladly assist you with trip logistics and lodging needs in the Canadian Rockies. For our ice climbing introductory courses we include the rental of technical gear. Should be short of some clothing items, we gladly help you with our rental inventory at very reasonable rates.
The itineraries of our custom trips are flexible and depend on the participant’s ability level, personal preferences, avalanche and ice conditions. Expect lots of ice climbing! Following are some of the most popular ice climbing venues and routes in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks plus the Alberta Provincial Parks surrounding Canmore and Banff, namely the Ghost River Wilderness and Kananaskis Country
Driving Distance from Canmore (CM) / Banff (BF) and Lake Louise(LL)
Practice and top rope Ice Climbing Areas (WI1 – WI5)
Canmore Junkyards (CM:5 min, WI2-3, 60m)
Grotto Canyon (CM:10 min, WI3-4+, 60m)
Johnston Canyon (CM: 25 min, WI2-5, 40m)
Haffner Creek (CM: 35 min, WI3-5 /mixed, 25m)
King Creek (CM 35 min, WI 2 – 4, 40m)
Easy and Moderate Multi Pitch Ice Climbing Routes(WI 3-4)
Professor Falls (CM: 15 min, WI4, 280m)
Cascade (CM: 10 min, WI3, 300m)
Trans Can Iceway (CM: 5 min, WI4+, 200m)
Moonlight, Chantilly (CM: 40 min, WI2-4, 110m)
Massey’s (LL: 20 min, WI 3-4, 140m)
Guiness Gully (LL: 20 min, WI4, 250m)
Bow Falls (LL: 20min, WI3-4, 100m)
Weeping Wall Left (LL: 40 min, WI 4, 160m)
- Knots, principles of waterfall ice climbing, safety and site management,
– ice bouldering, belays, anchors, climbing techniques,
- lots of top roping
- top rope and pre-protected lead climbing (i.e. “mock-leads”)
- ice & avalanche hazard evaluation
- multi-pitch as a follower.
Detail and Logistics
Meet in Banff or Canmore, Alberta around 8am depending on the climb organized. If you require rental gear you can arrange for a pick up at our office in Canmore the previous day. We gladly assist you in arranging lodging and airport transfers from and to Calgary International (1 hour, 25 minutes).
Climate, Weather, Temperatures
Ice climbing requires cold weather. Be prepared and equipped for temps down to -20 C or -7F.
Services Included in the Total Price
Guiding/instruction by an UIAGM and/or ACMG certified mountain, alpine or assistant alpine guide.
Rates quoted are for average ice climbing days in the vicinity of Canmore or Banff up to grade WI 4. Premiums apply for harder or longer routes as well as destinations that require more than 1 hr of driving time from Canmore.
Technical equipment (Ice Axe, harness, carabineer, rope, boot crampons)
Lodging, food, drinks, rental fees for boots ($10 extra if we have your size). Guide driving expenses: Best avoided by providing transport from Canmore or Banff to the ice climbing locations for both you and the guide.
Please enquire directly with us for a quote should you require transport in the guides’ car or prefer to meet the guide at the ice climbing site or trailhead.
Can I Do It?
All our courses are aimed at equipping you with all the skills necessary to eventually lead ice climbs on your own. Come prepared to walk to the climbs–anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Especially later in the season, we might need snow shoes or skis to approach some of the ice climbs.
Why book with us?
For our custom guiding days, we can accommodate you any time! We enjoy optimal flexibility!
Equipment use / Boot rental available at an additional cost
No hassle to get to the rental store in the morning before your Ice Climbing day.
From the minute you inquire about a trip with us, you communicate with the owner, who does most of the guiding himself. We walk the extra mile to help you with planning your entire vacation in the Canadian Rockies, including insider advice, accommodation and airport shuttles.
We can usually arrange for you to catch a ride with the guide to get to the climbs at cost.
Winter Ice Climbing
It is essential that you do a careful job in selecting and preparing your equipment for this course.
Temperatures are typically in the teens but can easily drop to -10F to -20F and be
accompanied by high winds and blowing snow. These conditions, in combination with the long periods of inactivity required to belay a climber on a difficult pitch, can easily lead to problems of hypothermia or frostbite.
We can teach climbing in difficult conditions, but we cannot teach hypothermic students. For your own safety and that of the group, please take this list seriously and come in good condition. If you have any questions about choosing your gear, feel free to call and ask for advice.
1. Technical Equipment
• Leather or plastic mountaineering boots* (Plastic boots are recommended, leather
boots can be used if warm enough and designed for waterfall ice climbing)
• Climbing helmet**
• Two technical ice tools with leashes**
• Technical Crampons suited for front pointing that fit your boots or can be easily
• 1 Climbing Harness, big enough to fit over bulky clothing**
• 1 Belay Device (ATC, Reverso…..)**
• 2 Locking Carabiners**
• Backpack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch, flask and gear)
All items marked ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.
All items marked ‘**’ can be provided by OnTop.
Please bring your own equipment if you have it.
We suggest using the ‘layer system’: Light technical clothing that doesn’t take much space in your backpack and dries quickly if sweaty or wet.
Layers can be put on and taken off fast if weather conditions change during the day.
• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants with side zippers (Gore Tex or similar)
• Mountaineering pants (Schoeller or similar fabric)
• Down jacket or vest (optional for belaying)
• Fleece or heavy jacket
• 2nd layer: Medium weight fleece sweater
• 2nd layer: Very light fleece pants or expedition weight long underwear
• Long underwear or running tights (e.g. Capilene or polypro)
• Undershirt – preferably long sleeves (e.g. Capilene or polypro)
• Warm socks for mountaineering boots (wool/synthetic outers)
• Lighter socks (thin liner for mountaineering boots)
• Warm hat, covering your ears and fitting under helmet
• Lightweight gloves (fleece)
• Warm, waterproof pair of gloves, preferable two pairs
• Gaiters (preferably knee length)
• Neck tube (optional)
3. Other Items
• Sun glasses with high quality UV protection
• Sun screen and lip protection
• Water bottle, preferably insulated, minimum volume: 1 liter
• Thermos (optional) – hot tea, cocoa or soup
• Head lamp with spare batteries and bulb for long climbs that require early starts
• Blister kit (optional)
• Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.) High energy food is needed!
• Personal items (prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance
equipment, extra pair of prescription glasses, etc.)
• Pocket knife or leatherman (optional)
• Zip-lock bag for wallet and other documents to keep them dry (recommended)
• Camera, spare films, batteries (optional)
• Compass, maps and GPS optional
Ice Climbing Intro Courses
Novice or minimal previous experience
Ice Climbing Intro Courses
At a minimum of 3 participants we can open courses at your preferred dates
Intro Ice Course:
– Nov 26 – 27*
– Dec 10 – 11*
– Dec 17 – 18*
– Dec 26 – 27
– Dec 28 – 29
– Dec 30 – 31
– Jan 2 – 3
– Jan 5 – 6**
– Jan 14 – 15*,**
– Jan 16 – 17
– Jan 22 – 23
– Feb 1 – 2
– Feb 4 – 5*
– Feb 8 – 9
– Feb 11 – 12*
– Feb 19 – 20
– Feb 22 – 23
– Mar 1 – 2
– Mar 4 – 5*
– Mar 11 – 12*
– Mar 18 – 19*
– Apr 1 – 2*
– Apr 8 – 9*
* = weekend
** = can be combined with advanced course
Ice Climbing Intro Courses
CA $340 + GST
On request, we can quote you in your preferred currency
Includes: 2 days Guide & technical equipment.
Extras: Boot rental ($10 / day if we have your size!), guide driving expenses (quoted separately), lodging & Food.