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Canadian Classics
by Will Gadd, photos Roger Chayer

Canada ice climbing

Ben Gadd, Will's father, on Weeping Wall, WI5, in 1984

 Technical information

Lodging
If you are climbing in the Banff/Lake Louise/Kananaskis area then consider staying in the small town of Canmore. Prices are reasonable, a hotel room with two beds is about $35 US ($45 CDN). The Alpine Club of Canada clubhouse in Canmore offers hostel-style accommodation and is an excellent place to find partners www.alpineclubofcanada.ca or Phone 1 (403) 678-3200, ext. 1. Most people climbing along the Icefields Parkway should stay at the Rampart Creek Youth Hostel. This is a primitive hostel with wood stoves for heat, gas stoves for camping and outhouses; a toilet seat at -30 can be an experience, but it's a warm, dry place full of climbers. Buy all your food and fill the gas tank before heading up the Parkway, there are basically no services after Lake Louise. Check www.canmore.findalberta.comfor more information on where to stay and
what to do.

Hazards
Avalanches are definitely the biggest hazard in the Canadian Rockies. The cold temperatures and dry snow produce a very unstable snowpack; check www.avalanche.ca for information, or call (for free) 1-800-667-1105. Be prepared for cold weather even on days that start out warm; it's not uncommon to experience plus 5 and -20 in the same day. Always bring a headlamp, matches, and a small first aid kit for facial cuts. If you end up in trouble, get to a phone and dial 9-1-1 toll free. European cell phones don't work anywhere in Canada but you can rent them at the Airport. Cell service is only reliable in the Banff/Canmore area, so self-rescue must be the primary plan. You are climbing in a wilderness area, go easy!


 Who is Will Gadd?
35 years old, resident in Canmore, winner of the first ever Ice World Cup in 2000, the X Games, a myriad of other international competitions, and world record holder in distance paragliding. Gadd has climbed almost all there is to climb in the Canadian Rockies and, in Europe, mixed extremes such as X Files, Empire, Amphibian. Without a doubt one of this sport’s leading players, we decided to find out a bit more…


What makes Canada special?
I could live anywhere in the world, but I chose Canada because there is so much to do. Every season there are a hundred new route possibilities, plus the rock climbing potential is incredible, and the kayaking and paragliding are pretty good, too.

What differences are there between ice climbing in Canada and Europe?
In Canada you have to be totally self-reliant; it's wilderness climbing, and if anything goes wrong, it's up to you to figure it out. I really like doing new routes a day or two into the backcountry, where you are so alone in the mountains. It's a very special feeling to know that there are no people within 30 or 100k of you! We also don't have Red Bull here, so I have to import it...

What does the future hold for ice climbing?
More remote ascents, more beautiful routes than we've ever seen and lots of adventure, no matter what.

And what about competitions?
Competition ice climbing is now as different from normal ice climbing as the F1 is to driving in America. Leashless climbing is fine for competitions, but real climbs demand a higher degree of safety. You should never fall ice climbing, and I’ve seen too many bad accidents from even very short falls. Competition-style leashless climbing isn't any harder, but it is a lot less safe. You could drive in the winter on slick tires to make it more interesting, but perhaps this would be more dangerous...


Canada on ice - related links
www.gravsports.com
www.parkscanada.pch.gc.ca
www.rmbooks.com
www.discovertherockies.com
www.canadianrockies.net
www.whitespider.net
www.gripped.com

Introduction
Rocky Mountains
Technical info
Map
Portfolio
Will Gadd
Raphael Slawinski on Icicle Fairy, M7, Icefields Parkway
Equipment
12 ice screws, twin 60M ropes and an "Abalakov" tool for making ice "V threads." This is the standard method of descent on many routes. BE VERY CAREFUL WITH V THREADS YOU FIND ON ROUTES, THEY MAY NOT BE RELIABLE. Skis may be useful but not critical for most classics.
Will Gadd
Conditions
For current ice conditions check:
www.gravsports.com
www.rockandice.com
www.compusmart.ab.ca
Will Gadd
Ice & Mixed climbing, Gadd's latest adventure.
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