Transitioning into lead climbing on ice is a big step. It requires commitment and the right skill set to move safely over the ice in an efficient manner. It’s essential to be able to place solid protection and construct ‘bomb-proof’ anchors while ice climbing in control. The lead ice climbing course is designed to give you the skills to become a confident lead climber on single-pitch ice climbing routes. The lead climber has a lot of responsibility to their climbing partners so safely managing the route for all climbers is an important aspect of the course.
Based out of Canmore we will use the world-class ice climbing venues in the area to give students the exposure and experience to be more confident leading and seconding on ice. The lead ice climbing course is a progressive intermediate step for the experienced climber into more advanced multi-pitch ice climbing.
Day 1: 7:00 am At Yamnuska Office & Local Climbing Area
- Welcome, introduction, goals and agenda
- Check gear and adjust crampons
- Risk and hazard assessments for ice climbing
- Hazard awareness at the climbing area
- Review of top-rope belay techniques, climbing communication, and climbing techniques
- Review movement skills and practice on routes
- Placement and analysis of ice screws
- Anchor construction review (using ice screws, V-threads, and bolts)
- Introduction to lead belaying
Day 2: 7:00 am at the Yamnuska office and local climbing area
- Site risk and hazard assessment
- Placement of screws on steep terrain
- Clipping quickdraws on lead
- Lead tactics for single-pitch ice routes (managing differing ice quality and planning your lead)
- Simulated leads (on top rope)
- Cleaning the anchor (getting your gear back) – review and options
- Rappelling with a prussic backup
- Continued movement skills coaching
- End day by 4:00 pm
Ice Leader ‘Plus Days’
Stay for an extra day after the Ice Leader course and put your new skills into practice on a classic Canadian Rockies multi-pitch climb. On this day, participants will not be leading the climb but will have the opportunity to put other skills to practice and watch a professional lead the pitches. The instructor-to-student ratio is 1:2, we divide into compatible teams, choose a suitable ‘multi-pitch route (several rope lengths in height) and spend the day climbing it. We have a seemingly endless list of multi-pitch ice climbs in the Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis and Lake Louise areas.
$345 plus GST. Every Monday following the Top Rope Leader course. Available to Ice Leader course participants only.
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins at the Yamnuska office in Canmore at 7:00 am on the first day. The Yamnuska office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore, Alberta. See this map for location.
Instructors & Group Size
The “Yam Ice Team” includes some of the best ice climbers and course 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 and a minimum of 4. Instructor/student ratios range down from 1:6. In addition to being expert ice climbers, they are well trained to Yamnuska’s high customer service standards and are highly experienced course instructors.
To keep prices down participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore and during the program. Canmore is a 1 hour (100km) drive west of 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 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 and lunch plus 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.
- Climbing harness
- Climbing helmet
- Ice tools
- Belay device, carabiners, slings
We recommend you bring:
- Boots* (must be crampon compatible)
- Daypack* (30-45 litres)
- Lunch, snacks
- Thermos flask and/or water bottle (1-2 litres combined volume)
- Hand Sanitizer
*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
- Face Mask
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. Our beginner ice climbing courses tend to fill up quickly. We require full payment on booking.
We ask that you make yourself familiar with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. 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 travellers 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.
$425 CDN covers instruction and use of technical gear, including boots. GST not included.
Optional PLUS DAY:
$345 plus GST. Available as a 3rd day of multi-pitch climbing following the ‘Ice Climbing Level 3 – Ice Leader’ program days. Available to Ice Leader participants only.
Cancellation Insurance available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
Learning to Lead on ice is a big step both mentally and physically. You need to have previous ice climbing experience and be comfortable top-roping grade 4 ice. You should be proficient with the use of ice climbing equipment in the top rope setting. This would include fitting all personal equipment, top-rope set-up, the top rope belay system as well as cleaning anchors for lower or rappel. This is an intermediate to an advanced course.