Banff National Park Climbing
Nearby Canmore is a hub for climbers, but the Bow Valley as far north as Jasper National Park is surrounded by towering peaks of limestone; routes to challenge all levels of ability can be found throughout the region. Experienced climbers should gather as much information as possible before attempting any unfamiliar routes; quiz locals, hang out at climbing stores, and contact park information centers. For the inexperienced, Banff National Park is the perfect place to learn to climb. Climbers and mountaineers can’t live on past accomplishments alone, so to finance their lifestyle, some turn to teaching others the skills of their sport. Canmore is home to many qualified mountain guides who operate both in and out of Banff National Park. One of these—and one of North America’s most respected climbing schools—is Yamnuska (403/678-4164, www.yamnuska.com), which uses rock faces at the back of Lake Louise for many of its courses. Learn basic climbing skills over an Outdoor Rock Intro weekend ($345 per person), with the option to make a full climb (an extra $245). The school also offers guided climbs of peaks throughout the Canadian Rockies, wilderness first-aid classes, and ice-climbing instruction.
Banff National Park holds many peaks that can be reached without ropes or climbing skills, provided you have a good level of fitness and, more important, common sense. Obviously, this type of activity has more inherent dangers than hiking, but these can be minimized by planning ahead. Check weather forecasts; take food, water, and warm clothing; and be aware of the terrain. Routes to the top of the most popular peaks are flagged with tape or marked with rock cairns showing the way, but you should always check with information centers or locals before attempting any ascent. The Bow Valley offers a good selection of well-traveled scrambles. These include Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. Scrambling can be a risky pursuit for inexperienced climbers. Check in with local visitor centers and check the weather forecast before heading out, and always travel in a group of at least two people.