Ice axes, with their sharp points, allow climbers to grab purchase above their heads.
CANMORE, AB — Hanging from a sheet of ice on the side of a mountain is a pretty gripping experience. For Marco Delesalle, a Canmore-based member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, it's a regular occurrence and one he likes to share with everyone. For over 12 years, Delesalle has brought people into Canada’s Rocky Mountains for ice climbing.
“Between Canmore and Golden (British Columbia) we have the highest concentration of ice climbing locations on the planet,” says Delesalle.
Delesalle who has guided all over the world, chose Canmore to set up shop simply because of the incredible access to these adventure-filled locations. I was in good hands for a day of climbing on some serious ice.
After a short drive out of town and a gorgeous 25-minute hike into the mountains, we arrived to our site for the day’s adventure – about a 100 meter tall wall of frozen water. With a loaded backpack: two ice axes, a pair of crampons and a trusted harness and a climbing buddy such as Delesalle, who can work belay (the rope you are affixed to, which acts to catch you should you slip and fall), the only other essential element for a day on the ice is great weather. And we had it.
“Ensure that with every step you have a good hold of the ice with your axes, really dig in those tips,” said Delesalle. “Keep your heel down and the front picks of your crampons embedded into the ice.”
Doc Pow (left) watches as climbing instructor, Marco Delesalle shows him how to hook into a harness.
An ice axe is like a big hook – a hook with a razor sharp edge, perfect for helping you pick your way to the top and the crampons with metal spikes, fit to your climbing boots; the front spikes right off the toe, pop out at a 90 degree angle provide the footing and hold required to reach your goal.
As you scamper up a frozen waterfall, you get this really cool sense of peace – with a little added rush – it’s just you and the wilderness; the focus that is required puts you in the moment like few other activities. I found the minute my mind waived onto other things, I received a quick reminder as to why I had to keep the focus. A slip up puts you flat out against the ice, not exactly the place you wanted to be.
The Canadian Rockies Adventure Centre is the place to get yourself sorted out with gear rentals and securing an experiened guide. The Centre also offers a wealth of other winter outdoor adventures, including ice walks, dog sled and snowmobile tours, snowshoeing and even ice fishing. Make sure to visit the website at www.canadianrockies.ca
Delesalle has his own website up at www.greatdividemountaineering.com where you can set up a day’s or a week’s worth of ice.
“With proper instruction, many can pick up some stellar tips on ice climbing within a few days; if you spend a week, by the end of it you might just be able to call yourself a climber.”
By the end of our day, I wouldn’t title myself a climber, however by the end of the climb, it took me to the top of the pitch where I was rewarded with an epic view deep into Kananaskis Country, a view that I earned and couldn’t have secured any other way.
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