Lac des Arcs.
Southern Alberta's major climbing area. Centered around the town of Canmore, the Bow Valley has a sport crag in every drainage, and long multi-pitch trad routes on most of the big walls that tower over the valley.
For the trad, as the Bugs are so close, most true alpinists will spend some time there. The trad lines in the rockies tend to be chossy and scary at times but the use of modern bolting has made it quite safe on most rock types. The crown jewel of trad climbing, Yamnuska, is a venue where you can try old-school hard-man routes or new gen 'modern' routes that are complete with many bolts on the blank limestone sections. Other worthy Alpine routes will sure include Mt. Lockheed, the Ship's Prow, Mt. Temple (Banff), the Rundle Traverse (Some in Banff), The Fold and Joy (Kananaskis), to name a couple.
You may have heard that there are giant sport climbing routes, too. Among them, Sisyphus Summits 10d 500m is the biggest to date and was established with some controversy. It resides on Ha Ling, the prominence attached to Mt Lawrence Grassi. There is also 200m-400m+ lines on EEOR, Guides Rock (Cory, in Banff), Nanny Goat, Kid Goat, Canmore Wall and Bourgeau (Banff).
If you are looking to pull down without the risk of rockfall and prefer short routes, look no further to the array of sport climbing found in most drainages, cliff bands or canyons. Cougar Canyon, Heart Canyon, Barrier Bluffs, Grassi Lakes and Grotto Canyon all host a good mix of hard and easy routes for those who are starting or getting better.
Acephale, Planet X (Cougar), Echo and Bataan all have a harder mix of climbing that requires at least 10a climbing to have fun (11+ at Acephale) but all host incredible stone. You can also find a number of less travelled areas such as Carrot Creek or Raven's Crag which both have excellent climbing and provide some relief in the busy months.
The rock season is short (April-October) in most years, but fortunately the Bow Valley also has world-class ice climbing in the winter. Some ice climbs begin forming as early as October and the ice season can last well into April if the temperature is cool up high (more so in the parks). For a more detailed look at conditions, consult Will Gadd's website: Grav Sports Ice Forum
There are many guidebooks on any type of adventure, be it alpine, trad, sport or ice/mixed, you can find what you desire in each book (see guidebook section).
Getting There and Lodging
Canmore is the epicenter of the climbing in the Bow Valley and where most of the climbers in the area reside (other than Calgary) as it is a short drive to most of the crags.
There are a few ways, other than driving, to get to Canmore if you decide to take that route. Generally, however, the climbing will require some amount of driving so be prepared to make plans if you come unassisted.
You can easily fly into the Calgary international airport and take a bus to Canmore that drops you off in downtown. From there, taxi services will take you anywhere in town and the town is quite small. Accommodations can be found in the large hotel chains on Bow Valley trail (the north side road in relation to the tracks).
Another option for lodging is to stay at the Alpine Club hut
which is open to the public at $36 for non members or $25 for members per night. There is a kitchen and rooms and it is very cozy. Plus, there are a ton of historical things and guidebooks if you have a day off and want to browse the library.
Most camping can be found online
and most of it is about $26 a night. There is a selection depending on which objectives you would want to do (think: sport climbing vs. alpine).
The ghost used to have free camping options but now that has changed. Make sure to do research before camping there and take a car that can take abuse and has a winch.
As the van life seems to be pretty abundant in Canmore, it seems that as long as you don't have a brand new RV you can get by with parking on roads that get low usage to sleep. Which roads exactly I won't say as there aren't any that are 'car camping' approved by our city but generally those which have a lot of parking, businesses that aren't chains and don't need parking lots (not car garages for example) and don't stick out like sore thumbs. Ask other climbers (you can meet them at Elevation place on rainy days or Beamers'/Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. in the mornings). Do not park where it says no overnight parking!
Why? That means they know people like to park there overnight. Ipso Facto, they patrol.
Guidebooks for the area
Here are the main guidebooks which are in print. You may not want to buy them all so I'll describe them to you in detail (I own almost all of them and there are no 'bad' guidebooks in this area, thankfully).
All these guidebooks are available online, at MEC, Valhalla, Vertical Addiction, Cafe books (great book store) and some other small store.
Bow Valley Sport
Incredible amount of hard and easy sport climbs documented in full color pictures, no hand drawn topos and great directions. Tick list galore and very well done. Comes highly recommended. Can be bought online or even in online version through the author.
As low as $10 (online version) for all the sport climbing you will need all season!
Canmore Sport Climbs
Another good guidebook, albeit no photos. The hand drawn topos are really good and this is a inexpensive guide to Grassi Lakes, EEOR and Ha ling. Currently the only book that has has the sport climbs on EEOR and Ha Ling in print. Buy this guide if you've only got 2 days in the valley and want to try some awesome sport multipitch. Currently $3.03 on google play!
Bouldering Canadian Rockies
Like bouldering? Living in a choss pile? You can still boulder out here, even though all the alpine climbers will look down on you. Literally. But who cares, they don't pull V10. This is a great guidebook for lots of good bouldering. Lots more to be developed still (obviously) but this is a good start.
The Yam is a beautiful and scary place. There are some good, classic and loose routes all over this jewel and people climb here all the time. Go climb there, and do yourself a favour and get this book.
Sport Climbing in the Canadian Rockies
Sonnie Trotter on the cover? Who can resist! Dude is a beast and he was pulling down when I was still a punk. This guidebook has an insane amount of routes. Some are rarely climbed! But that shouldn't dissuade you as it contains tons of quality areas. My first guide for the rockies and for sure a classic.
An incredible guidebook to everything inside the park
. I don't think anything is more than 2h driving but some is quite obscure. Very good book and great author (who develops) makes for a very informative guidebook. The price is fair and it is full color with mostly photos, some hand drawn topos.
Your guide to a hundred or so, four star, beastly waterfalls and drainages that ice up ever year. A beautiful guidebook that is at home on any coffee table or in any pack.
Consult this list of great websites for the valley:
The tabvar site is your organization for bolting, safety, partnership and rock climbing culture. They are the ones who pay for the bolts you clip. Yes, they pay for them. Send them some love, donate or be kind.
A project by Greg Cornell which is documenting lots of cool lines in the rockies. Keep it up Greg!
Banff Rock old guidebook
Chris Perry's personal website hosts his old guidebook and lots of beautiful routes that you may consider doing (lots of unrepeated and alpine ones too)
Grav sports ice
Will Gadd's personal forum. read the rules and find what you want to climb this weekend. Great sharing site.
Check this to make sure you don't get destroyed by an avy this weekend as you are often under huge bowls of snow (think: cascade falls, for example)
Generally a good place to get more beta/info on climbs due to the fact that Dow W. is very active on this website and has climb most of the classic routes in the Valley
Weather station 12.9 miles from here
577 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',90],['3 Stars',181],['2 Stars',240],['1 Star',25],['Bomb',1]
Classic Climbing Routes in Bow Valley
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Bow Valley
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Bow Valley:
Featured Route For Bow Valley
Grillmair's Chimneys 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
PG13 North America
: ... : 5. Bottleneck
This classic route was the first route put up on Yamnuska. The first ascent was done by 'accident' using a nylon utility rope and a couple of pins. The first assencionists started scrambling just to see how high they could get, and before they knew it they were roping up for the crux pitch.Do not do this route until Yam is free of snow, or else you'll regret it!This is a great introductory route on Yam, the route finding is relatively straight forward, and the rock on the difficult sections is f...[more] Browse More Classics in International
That's a nice rock. EEOR. Thanks Ron Keller for ...
From Chinaman's. That's a nice rock. EEOR. Than...
True Grit on EEOR A. Larose climbing
From: Vancouver, BC
Mar 19, 2007
The Rock season in portions of the Bow Valley, especially on south facing cliffs such as Yamnuska is more like March to October.