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chamonix Ice vs Canmore Ice
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Jun 24, 2012
Newbie ice climber here from Australia.

4 of us are headed to canmore via chamonix in January. Planning to do a week's course of ice climbing and was wondering if we should spend more time in canmore or chamonix.

We are thinking of doing the Mountain Skills Academy supercourse. Any comments about this course?

Never been to any of these places, so any comments on canmore vs chamonix or recommended ice courses are greatly appreciated. US and european prices seem like a real bargain compared to what we have to pay to enjoy ice in NZ where its around $8k for 5 days for a group of 4 of us.
Joined Aug 25, 2011
0 points
Jun 24, 2012
As far as waterfall ice goes, Canmore-Banff-Icefields are world class and reliable. Need a car to get around tho.
erik wellborn
From manitou springs
Joined Apr 3, 2008
145 points
Jun 24, 2012
Canada ice is amazing, with lots of ice with pretty easy access. Keep in mind that no matter where you climb, ice climbing is pretty dangerous and adventourous so if you are an ice noob, you most deffinately want to take an extended course.

I have been to Chamonix but not to ice climb. I may be wrong but it seems the approaches could be long and the climbs stiff....... But I really don't know.

Have fun and be safe!!!!
Princess Mia
From Vail
Joined May 22, 2006
30 points
Jun 25, 2012
Since it looks like you're taking the course in Canada, I'd recommend staying around there. Each ice climbing area has its own unique considerations and you're most likely to be prepared for those around Canmore if that's where your class is. Also, you'll be able to tap your guides' knowledge of current, local route conditions, avy danger, access issues etc. You'll also have a leg up on the local geography and how to find various areas since you'll be visiting them as part of the course.

Word of caution though, if you are a complete beginner to ice climbing, it is a bit of a stretch to expect to be able to operate independently after only a week's course. There's not a ton of top-roping up in Canada and leading safely in sometimes remote locations after a week-long course may be a bit ambitious. It might be a bit more reasonable if you are very experienced (including self-rescue, etc.) in rock, alpine and winter snow climbing, but still a stretch. I'd recommend areas like the Canmore Junkyards, Grotto Falls, Johnston Canyon (right side routes), if the The Ghost Valley is accessible, This House of Sky is an awesome beginner route. Chantilly Falls and Snowline in Evan Thomas are also good intro routes (especially the former). I'd stay away from the Icefields Parkway and the David Thompson Highway however since most of the routes there are quite a bit more serious and, although they are "main roads," you are waaaay the heck out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service for a very long way (of course, I guess that's true of The Ghost too).

Good news is there are many many top-notch guides that call that region home and it's almost impossible to find a bad experience with anyone up there.
Kevin Craig
Joined Mar 20, 2002
155 points
Jun 25, 2012
If you are not 100% sold on Canmore, you may consider going about 8 hours south to Hyalite Canyon near Bozeman, Montana. Canada has world class ice, but as someone who is new to ice climbing, Hyalite offers the highest concentration of ice routes in North America that is sure to be in, some of which are easily top-ropeable. I sort of feel like it is best to graduate from the easier routes of Hyalite before having fun on Canadian ice. Hyalite also offers anything from WI2 to WI7, so it won't be too hard or too easy.

I also visited Chamonix, although I didn't have a climbing partner. I found my lack of French problematic when it came to trying to figure out the climbing scene. Depending on your foreign language skills, North America may be a more productive climbing trip.
jack s.
From Kamloops, BC
Joined Jan 11, 2011
0 points
Jun 25, 2012
Without question you should spend more time in Canmore/Banff. You must have a car, but the ice is better and far more of it. Its also cheaper... like 40%. Sam Lightner, Jr.
From Lander, WY
Joined Apr 9, 2006
1,915 points
Jun 25, 2012

thanks for the tips guys. looks like its just 8 hours fiddling my thumbs in geneva, then canmore+ hyalite + ouray it is.

gotta make the most of it as we virtually dont get any ice in Australia.
Joined Aug 25, 2011
0 points
Jul 5, 2012
Having climbed ice in both Canmore (spent 3 winters there) and Cham (and NZ...), I would say go for canmore. HOWEVER - it's easy to get hosed in the Canadian Rockies. A bad avy cycle (almost all of the classics are in avalanche paths) can severely limit what is climbable. Lots of people get hurt every year (often kiwis and aussies who aren't used to cold, or avalanches, or ice...)

Canadian grades are stiffer than french grades - many of the WI5 routes in Cham would be graded WI 4 in the rockies or back east.

If you had some options to go elsewhere...
What about Ouray, CO? It's like a playground for ice climbers, hundreds of routes of all levels, don't need a car, no avy hazard, hot pools...

or Smuggler's Notch, Vermont (fuckin' awesome!)?

Either way, you'll have a blast - kiwi ice sucks!
Graham Johnson
Joined Apr 27, 2006
0 points
Jul 9, 2012
As a local climber in Canmore/Banff, here is some advice:

There is always plenty of climbing to be done within your range as you guys are new. Also lots of top roping areas you guys could go to after your course, with no avy hazard.

I'd reccomend hiring a private guide vs a course as it will be cheaper. Look into Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, C.R.A.G., IceXperts, etc for a guide. All would be great choices, and all have the same certifications. Your course choice looks great, although bear in mind that guide rate is about 400 bucks a day or so here, so you can save some money by going outside of a course.

As for advice on places to go afterwards, there is an easy icefall called Tangle Falls you guys could practice on along the icefields, no Avy hazard and you can walk to set up a top rope.
David Thompson highway - look for Cline River Gallery - many climbs there, all top-ropable. It's seriously possible to spend 5 days there on all the different climbs, all on top rope, all 20 minutes from the car. We bring chairs to belay from. No avy hazard.
Then there are the busy spots close to Canmore/Banff, like Junkyards, Grotto, etc. You will NOT run out of stuff to do, at all.
These are just two spots, I can easily name ten more that would be suitable for you after your course. Your guide will be happy to do the same.
Joined Nov 17, 2009
0 points
Sep 1, 2012
+2 Canmore/banff nuff said ! iceman777
From Colorado Springs
Joined Oct 19, 2007
0 points
Sep 1, 2012
Smuggler's Notch is awesome scott rourke
Joined Oct 2, 2007
15 points
Sep 7, 2012
not really where you're looking at but the Adirondacks are a great place for ice climbing...routes of all levels and all sorts of different things. Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Joined May 4, 2011
350 points
Oct 16, 2012
Not quite on topic for this thread, but am wondering if anyone who's climbed ice in New Zealand and the Canadian Rockies could comment regarding NZ WI grades (same system) compared to Canmore. MIP
Joined Oct 16, 2012
0 points
Oct 19, 2012
I've climbed lots of ice in both NZ and the Canadian Rockies.
NZ ice, well, for lack of any diplomacy, sucks. Yes, the grading system is the same, (WI - WI) but I find things tend to be graded half a grade to a full grade harder in NZ than they would be in the Rockies. example: classic "hard" line at Wye Creek (Wye Not 5/5+) would be about a 4 just about anywhere in north america.

On the mixed front, things are starting to equal out.

Give me a PM if you want to talk more about NZ ice
Graham Johnson
Joined Apr 27, 2006
0 points
Oct 30, 2012

As a fellow Australian who's climbed ice in both? Definitely Canmore!

Cham is great for alpine routes, but there is relatively little water ice in the winter there - the Cremerie and the Argentier bank being the most popular - plus it is only reliable in January. It's really Cogne, on the southern side of the Mont Blanc massif, over from Cham, that is the real WI area there. It is awesome when it is in good nick, but often melts out by mid-Feb, and it gets crowded, esp with Brits.

Can is good Dec-Mar at a minimum, though Jan can be uncomfortably cold. The language is a big plus unless you're fluent in French. Car hire is cheaper, as is accommodation. More importantly the weather is better, with more good climbing days in the Rockies than you'll get in Cham. In CA you need to get up early and drive more than in Cogne, the climbs are not as concentrated as in Cogne (or Rjukan, NOR - another good beginner area) but getting around and seeing the Rockies scenery in winter is part of the attraction.

Re: NZ WI vs CAN WI grading? I have climbed WI at Bush Stream, one of the better NZ areas and I'd say it matches CAN fairly well. Though the amount of climbable ice is not comparable!

Note: French WI grades were originally NOT meant to be the same as North American WI grades. Now people treat them the same, but it was not always the case. Around 15 years ago the Fr WI grade was generally considered to be one gr higher than the CAN grade, so a Fr WI5 would only get a WI4 on the Parkway.
Damien Gildea
Joined Oct 30, 2012
0 points

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