Ice climbing in BS Canyon (Canadian Rockies)

Titch suggested BS Canyon as a good place for me to try out my new ice climbing gear. I was exited to try something new while also exploring another canyon.

I drove out along Maligne Lake Road but was stopped at the Hostel by a gate across the road. Beyond this point the road was covered in about 30cms of snow. Half of it had already been ploughed away but for now I couldn’t go any further. What to do? It was still about 5kms to the canyon. I could climb in Malaigne, but then I’d have to go back into town to get my rope and other gear. I ended up deciding to hike the road.

About halfway along a truck stopped and over the roar of the engine the driver eventually conveyed to me that there was a snow plough coming my way. Only later did I think that I should have asked for a ride!

Soon the road crossed the canyon. Peering down into the constriction my excitement grew.

I was surprised at how deep the snow was. I guess with the road closed, I was the first person to venture here since last fall.

Not long after I arrived at my first short climb.

Continuing up, happy with my first short victory, I admired the ice formations growing from the cracks in the overhung limestone walls.

The canyon opened up into a small amphitheatre with several ice flows. I felt a little daunted by the next climb: it was quite a long way up.

I wasn’t about to turn around without giving it a crack, so after I had built up some courage up I pressed on, treading carefully and checking each placement before committing.

The ice was quite brittle and there was water flowing close beneath the surface. Occasionally I would tap into this with my tool and ice would come spurting out while I was looking for my next placement. (Note to self: bring extra pairs of gloves for long ice climbs, as wet gloves equal cold hands!)

Seeing as I was by myself, I also had to down-climb each drop to retrieve my camera. I found it hard to get good purchase with my crampons.

Looking at my climbing stance in the photos, Titch commented on the X-stance I was using. This is not recommended for a couple reasons. Firstly, it is more dangerous because ice tends to fail in horizontal lines, so if it was to fail, inline arms/tools increase the chance you will fall. Secondly, it encourages you to muscle your way up. Like climbing rock, you should rely more on your feet.

I should be using a Y or T stance (think of the letter upside down) instead, where your feet are spread and your tools are in line, one on top of the other.

Watching the recordings I made, I also noticed that I was kicking my front points down. I should be kicking them more upwards so the points are entering the ice perpendicular. Something else to work on.

After another short climb the canyon opened a little and was again quite snow covered, forcing me to clean the routes a little so I could see what I was striking. I was starting to be able to listen to the sound the tool made to determine whether it was a good placement or not.

I noticed an escape point / entrance on the left, and it was clear people had entered the canyon here some time in the past.

I kept it in mind as I continued up, knowing it would probably be easier to follow their trail out than break my own one. Plus I’d get to do part of the canyon again!

Continuing up, the canyon entered another narrow section before suddenly ending.

I walked up the river for some time, but as it was getting late and I was tired (trudging through the snow wasn’t helping), I decided to turn back. I wasn’t sure how far I’d have to go to find something interesting.

I was pretty happy with the day. My hands were pretty wet, but it hadn’t been that cold (maybe -15C). My finger was a bit sore — I’d injured my A2 pulley bouldering a week or so ago — but mostly I was just looking forward to getting back onto the ice!

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