Frozen waterfalls more than 30 metres high and dozens of epic climbs, with some yet to be formally discovered. This is the David Thompson Corridor, home to some of the best ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies yet without the crowds of the National Parks.
Located between Jasper and Banff and accessible from the Highway 93 and Highway 11 intersection, the David Thompson Corridor is overflowing with outstanding ice climbs. Along the 200 kilometres of highway that stretches east to Rocky Mountain House, you'll find well over 30 waterfalls. Throw in another 30 to 40 frozen creek and river hikes, many that have several small three-metre ice climbs along the way, and you've got a true winter wonderland.
Compared to the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country, not as many people venture out to the Nordegg area, which means there's little risk of climbs getting overrun or having to wait for others to finish before you can start climbing.
Intrigued? Here are a few recommended climbs for varying ability levels:
Two O'Clock Falls (120m, WI 2/3): Located off Highway 11 at the flank of Elliot Peak and the Cline River Canyon, this climb is a great introduction to multi-pitch climbing. The falls are easily visible directly behind the Cavalcade campground in the Kootenay Plains area.
SARS On Ice (130m, WI 4): From Whirlpool Point on the David Thompson Highway (22.5 km from Highway 93), a series of ice seepages can be seen high on the ridge to the North. Park at the large clearing just east of Whirlpool Point. A nice hike through open forest gets you to the base of SARS on Ice, the lowest seepage. The walk down the ridge above offers outstanding views of the surrounding peaks.
Elliot's Left Hand (200m, WI 4): A classic multi-pitch climb in a great box canyon setting, 36 kilometres east of Highway 93 on Highway 11. The route is in the leftmost of three prominent gullies on Elliot Peak and is two gullies left of Kitty Hawk.
Kitty Hawk (200m, WI 5): This beautiful line snakes its way up a vertical canyon on the flanks of Mt. Elliot. The climbing gets progressively harder as you ascend and culminates in a very steep curtain, often covered in ice mushrooms.
Cline River Gallery (50m, WI 2-5): This series of curtains, pillars and seeps is more like a dozen short climbs spread along the south side of the Cline River Canyon. Difficulty varies tremendously depending upon which line you choose to take. Follow the Pinto Lake trail from the parking lot, hiking west up the hill and through the trees. As you reach a large grove of poplar trees on your left, the trail slowly begins to drop towards the river. A large canyon with a river at the bottom of it should be obvious to your right.
Want to learn how to ice climb? Sign up for an introduction to ice climbing trip with The Centre for Outdoor Education. They also provide guides for intermediate and advanced climbers to improve their skills.
Image credit: Ross McEwen