Maligne Canyon and Party Cave (Canadian Rockies)

Party: Quin Burrell, Daniel Schott, Juliane and Felix (photos: Juliane, Daniel and Felix)

When I found out that Daniel and Juliane’s visit to Maligne Canyon hadn’t actually involved walking through the canyon, I knew that a revisit was in order. Quin was also keen to check out the canyon.

I applied with Parks for a permit for some of the caves in the Maligne Karst and a few days later we were off. I only had two pairs of crampons, so Daniel and Juliane went to hire a pair from Gravity Gear, whilst Quin elected to go without.

After some creative driving, we arrived at Bridge 5 and were soon ready to go. Following the trail for a bit, we soon dropped down into the frozen river and through a short section of canyon. Not long after we arrived at the entrance to Party Cave.

We waited for a little while for a Scout group but soon decided to squeeze in. The entrance was a little tight and Juliane decided that this kind of caving wasn’t for her. The cave opened up fairly quickly, the sides lined with lots of greenery brought in by pack rats. The largest chamber was at the end, but the way on was then choked by breakdown.

We spent some time enjoying the absolute darkness and also collected a bag of rubbish left by some of the less mindful visitors.

We ran into a tour group a little further up the canyon. One of the guides was Adam, who I had stayed with when I first arrived in Jasper.

There was a large open section of water here and the ice fall was dripping profusely. Daniel and I braved the drips and chilled out amongst the ice for a while.

We then headed to the upper section of canyon, which involved a short down climb that some found a little daunting. I had visited this part of the canyon some time ago, but couldn’t go too far as the water wasn’t completely frozen.

This time we could go almost all the way to the end. The ice axe I had brought was used several times to cut in steps into the ice. But the last section was quite steep and I’ll have to wait until I have a set of ice tools to go the last little bit.

Our crampons came in very handy while in the canyon. Poor Quin had to keep a careful eye on his cramponless feet.

Quin was getting really cold at this point. I don’t think he realised that it was going to be such a long trip. He elected to jog back to the car while the rest of us visited the lower canyon which involved climbing up and around the open section of water.

It wasn’t long before we were at the Queen’s Wall which arguably has some of the best ice formations of the canyon. I’m looking forward to getting my ice climbing gear!

Maybe because I was still wearing my caving gear, and partly because I figured it would look funny, I squeezed into several more holes in the ice. Daniel and Juliane shared in the fun, but decided the last one was a little too tight!

We headed back to the canyon, hurrying as we had kept Quin waiting for some time. Once in the car, Quin jumped into my sleeping bag to warm up.

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