The Ice Evolution technical ice climbing course mirrors development for the average person in the sport of ice climbing over a period of five days. First we instruct and coach you on ice climbing movement skills. You will make full use of modern ice climbing equipment in this course and get instruction on current ice climbing standards. Quickly improving, you’ll find yourself climbing steeper and steeper ice as the course progresses. You will also experience the excitement of climbing a classic multi-pitch ice climbing route on the 3rd day. Ultimately you will finish the course where the sport is now – mixed climbing on rock and ice. From our office in Canmore, Alberta Canada we utilize waterfall ice pitches in Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis for our instruction and course curriculum. Our instructors are top Canmore ice climbing guides certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides.
This innovative and modern ice climbing development course is taught in the Canadian Rockies by instructors who are on the cutting edge of modern climbing. It is suitable for physically fit beginner climbers and is also a great transition program for rock climbers. Five days of focused instruction is designed to accelerate your ice climbing experience and ability.
Ice Evolution Course Agenda
Note: There is considerable flexibility built into the delivery of this course, no course is exactly the same. Ice and weather conditions as well as participant ability will dictate the order of presentation to some degree. Key topics will be constantly revisited during the program.
Day 1: 7:30 am At the Yamnuska Office in Canmore, Alberta Canada
- Welcome, introductions, goals and program agenda.
- Issue and check gear, adjust crampons.
- Discussion of safety procedures, hazard awareness and basic rope techniques.
- Discussion of knots and harnesses.
- Basic ice movements – use and placement of crampons and ice tools; this is crucial to climbing success. All too often ice climbers waste precious time and energy in failed attempts to properly place crampons and tools in the ice. It’s not about strength but technique.
- Top rope belays and climbing communication.
- Movement skills on short top-roped climbs. How to ice climb efficiently and use correct body positioning to save energy and time. A lot of the time on this program will devoted to coaching participants in movement skills and techniques. Rock climbers will enjoy applying their existing movement skills to this new medium.
- Lowering skills.
- Consolidation of technical belaying and communication skills.
- Site hazard awareness.
- Climbing warm up.
- Introduction to steep ice climbing techniques.
- Lots of climbing with coaching on steeper climbs.
- Introduction to placing and removing ice screws.
- Introduction to basic ice anchor construction.
- Multi-pitch climbing. Split into small teams of 2 students per instructor you will use your new skills on one of the longer multi-pitch ice climbs for which the Canadian Rockies are famous. Your instructor will choose a climb that is designed to challenge and test you but still be appropriate for you to learn and develop multi-pitch climbing systems.
- Discussion of emergency preparedness.
- Top rope anchor construction using bolts, ice screws and V-threads.
- Rappelling with a bottom belay.
- Rope coiling and care.
- More climbing with coaching on steeper ice.
- Basic trip planning (review weather, avalanche conditions and topos).
- Student lead hazard evaluation of the site.
- Route selection.
- Student led route set up.
- Using ice screws and bolts as directionals.
- Route cleaning (getting your gear back)
- If time permits we may explore dry tooling techniques for mixed climbing on rock and ice.
- The course ends at approximately 5:00 pm.
Note: Depending on the training areas, we may require that our guides and guests carry avalanche equipment. If this is required we will provide the avalanche equipment at no cost to you. If you are not familiar with avalanche companion rescue techniques we will do a basic introduction.
More climbing: Yamnuska Ice Climbing Guides and Instructors are also available for private climbs after the program.
The course is based in Canmore, Alberta but expect to be traveling to different climbing areas of the Canadian Rockies in Kananaskis, Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise. We may also access the excellent ice climbing area near Field, BC or Kootenay National Park.
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins at the Yamnuska office in Canmore at 7:30 am on the first day. The Yamnuska office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore. See this map for location.
Instructors and Group Size
The “Yam Ice Team” includes most of the best ice climbing guides and instructors anywhere! Enthusiastic and extremely talented, they hold climbing certification from the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and from other International Federation of Mountain Guide Association (IFMGA) countries. Your safety and enjoyment are paramount to them. There will be a maximum of 12 students, a minimum of 4. Instructor/student ratios range down from 1:6 on initial days to 1:2 on the multi-pitch day.
The “Yam Ice Team” includes Jason Billing, Barry Blanchard, Pat Delaney, Carl Johnston, Nick Sharpe, Jesse De Montigny, Grant Meekins, James Madden, James Blench, Merrie-Beth Board, Jean Gamilovski, and Matt Mueller.
To keep prices down participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore and during the program. Canmore is a 1hour (100km) drive west from Calgary.
If you are flying from afar for the program we suggest that you rent a car for your visit. In addition to getting you to the climbing locations it will allow you to explore our region a bit after the program hours. For example you can visit Banff and enjoy the hot pools and sample the numerous restaurants.
Accommodation & Meals
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Food is not supplied. You will need lunch and something to drink each day. Each day bring plenty to drink plus lots of energy snacks. We particularly suggest bringing a Thermos and hot drink.
Yamnuska provides the following personal technical gear. Please feel free to bring your own items if desired.
- Boots (must be crampon compatible)
- Climbing harness
- Climbing helmet
- Ice tools
- Belay device, carabiners, slings
We recommend you bring:
- Daypack* (30-45 litres)
- Lunch, snacks
- Thermos flask and/or water bottle (1-2 litres combined volume)
*These items are available for rent. Please advise us in advance.
There can be prolonged periods of inactivity in very cold temperatures throughout the course. Don’t be afraid to bring too much! We recommend bringing clothing that can be layered to achieve comfort as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. Cotton clothing is not appropriate as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
We recommend you bring:
- Long underwear top and bottoms (heavyweight synthetic or wool)
- Socks (synthetic/wool blend)
- Softshell pants and jacket
- Midweight synthetic or down jacket
- Waterproof hardshell jacket with hood
- Waterproof hardshell pants (should have a full length side zip so they can be put on without taking off boots and crampons)
- Heavyweight parka (big enough to fit over all your other layers)
- Gaiters (big enough to fit over large boots)
- Waterproof mountaineering or ice climbing gloves (at least two pairs)
- Warm hat that fits under a helmet
Additional gear info:
Boots: A good pair of boots is essential. They need to be warm and crampon compatible. You are welcome to try the Scarpa Mont Blanc boots that Yamuska provides.
Crampons: A good waterfall ice crampon will have vertically oriented front points and some have the option to switch to a single point for mixed climbing. We use the Petzl Lynx for our ice and mixed climbing programs.
Climbing harness: A winter climbing harness should be sized to fit over your winter clothing. It is recommended to have a harness with a dedicated spot for an Ice Clipper or Caritool.
Ice tools: It is important to have a tool with a curved hand grip at the bottom. For thin ice and mixed climbing it is much safer to have a hammer or nothing at all attached to the head of the tool, instead of an adze. For all around ice and mixed climbing, Yamnuska uses the Petzl Quark. For steep ice and advanced mixed climbing, Yamnuska uses the Petzl Nomic.
Belay device: Many options exist for belay devices. Ensure that your device has two slots for ropes, to facilitate rappelling. We provide the Petzl Verso or Petzl Reverso on our multi pitch instructional programs.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require a 35% deposit including tax at the time of booking. Final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
We ask that you familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however costs such as air or ground transportation, long term care and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure’s trip.
$995 CDN covers instruction and use of technical gear including boots (may be subject to availability). Accommodation and meals are not included but low cost, easy options exist which we can tell you about. GST is extra. Gratuities not included.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
This course is suitable for total beginners, rock climbers and general mountaineers. Ice climbing can be a strenuous activity but our instruction will emphasize development of technique to reduce the need for brute strength. The climbing will be tailored towards your ability and strength as much as possible. A high level of fitness will contribute to enjoyment and achievement. You need NO previous experience.