It is mind-blowing to think that the rocks of Banff National Park’s rugged mountains were once submerged by the ocean. Today, the mountains loom up 3,000 metres (9,842 feet) overhead, bursting from the ground all around you in dramatically rugged peaks. It is difficult to ignore the overwhelming desire to get out and immerse yourself in this awe-inspiring terrain.
There are many ways to explore climbing in Banff and Lake Louise, regardless of your level of experience. Build your confidence at the indoor climbing wall at the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre or on the exhilarating Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay. For more confident thrill-seekers, join a guide and try sport (rock) climbing during the summer or ice climbing on a frozen waterfall during the winter.
When you have proper training and equipment, climbing is very safe, fun, and accessible to most. Give it a go!
Italian for the ‘iron-way’, Via Ferrata is a great option for enthusiastic adventurers that want to try climbing in a safe but exciting environment. Via Ferrata uses a fixed anchoring system of cables and ladders to help you climb the mountain. No climbing experience is necessary - if you can climb a ladder, you can take on the Via Ferrata! Mt Norquay offers 2.5, 4 and 6 hour tours during the summer.
If you’re a newcomer to the sport of climbing, there is no better way to begin than by learning and refining your skills in the safe and controlled environment of an indoor climbing gym. Open to the public daily, the climbing gym at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre offers self-directed climbing as well as lessons. You can try bouldering, climbing with the auto-belay (perfect if you don’t have a partner to belay you but want to try climbing), and top rope and lead climbing.
Equipment is available to rent.
During the summer, Banff National Park is a popular rock climbing destination. First time and inexperienced climbers should join a guide with Alpine Air Adventures or Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, to learn the ropes in a safe environment. You’ll be shown how to use the equipment, belaying and abseiling techniques, and climbing with a top rope. It’s an exhilarating experience.
More experienced climbers can choose between a great selection of sport and trad climbing routes. Popular areas for sport climbing include Tunnel Mountain and the back of Lake Louise. They feature bolted routes on easily-accessed cliffs of high quality quartzite and limestone.
Both sport and trad climbers should be aware that the Canadian Rockies consist almost entirely of sedimentary rock. Its characteristics range from the very worst to very good depending on the formations encountered. We recommend hiring a guide that is certified through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Check the Parks Canada website for more information.
In the winter, the ice climbing in Banff National Park is regarded as some of the best in the world. There are long and challenging multi-pitch routes, but also great beginner crags and climbing areas. The ice climbing season in Banff and Lake Louise is from around November through to the end of April, depending on temperatures and elevation.
In ice climbing, ice axes and crampons are used to climb frozen waterfall ice pitches. It might sound intimidating, but with a certified ice climbing guide, people of most ages and physical capabilities can learn how.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, a guiding company in Banff and Lake Louise, will fit you with all the gear, teach you the key techniques, and have you scaling up a frozen waterfall.