Ice Climbing in Alberta: King’s Canyon

Grade: WI 2+-3+

King's Creek ice climbing area. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
King’s Creek ice climbing area. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

Approach: 1 hour from Canmore, 15 min hike into climbing area

Climbs: 4+ single pitch climbs

Gear notes: Bring a 70m rope if you can, some of these climbs are quite long. At least two of the climbs had bolts and chains, but also bring gear to build a top rope. All climbs must be led. Don’t forget the chocolate, it makes the world go around and everyone happy if it’s a bitterly cold day.

The Climb

On Day Two of my whirlwind Canadian Rockies weekend, Jason and I headed out first to King’s Creek and then Grotto Falls. Starting the day it was a balmy -9 deg C and the air was wetter than the first day with some morning snow. We felt the cold.

King’s Creek is an hour from Canmore. It’s a 15 minute walk from the small car parking area to where the ice is. It’s a great ice climbing crag, with 4 solid ice climbs, a few partial ice climbs and some mixed routes. The climbs range from WI3-3+. Some of these climbs can be quite long, so its good to bring a 70m rope if you have one. None of the climbs are top-ropeable, they all must be initially led.

Ice Climbing at King's Creek. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Ice Climbing at King’s Creek. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

This ice climbing crag is also a great place to mock lead since the grades are pretty mellow. The best practice a climber can get while learning to lead ice is to mock lead up something vertical and then have to downclimb it and pull all the screws. My climbing partner and I practiced this many times. It’s important to feel solid moving in all directions on a grade to be leading it – up, down and side to side. So we practiced movement on ice while at King’s Creek.

The majority of the ice which forms at King’s Creek comes from seeps not water running. As the temperature drops and the water freezes it expands and is forced out of the cracks of the rock as ice. When you look at these photos of fat ice that’s a lot of water being pushed out!


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