It’s rock climbing season in the Bow Valley, which means it’s time to hang up the ice tools and pack the belay glasses. Some Canmore and Banff-area rock that makes for great spring climbing, are Grotto Canyon, Echo Canyon, Sleeping Buffalo (Tunnel Mountain), Yamnuska, and Grassi Lakes once the snow’s gone. If you’re looking to get into rock climbing this year, be sure to reach out to a local guide, there are countless in the valley who are trained to teach you to not die in the mountains.
Ticks are little bugs that love to hide at the base of warm crags. They like to crawl on you, find somewhere warm and bury their head. Tick bites can lead to health problems like Rocky Mountain Fever and Lyme Disease. While it’s not quite tick season yet, climbers have found them in B.C., so don’t be surprised if the start popping up some. Do a thorough tick check every day until tick season is over. South-facing slopes will be full of ticks from March until around June.
Also, remember that it’s bear season and most of our climbs are in bear habitat. Educate yourself about where you’re climbing and take the necessary precautions such as bear spray and groups of four. Most of us have been climbing indoors for that past six months. Don’t let the excitement of being outside cloud your judgement. Good communication with your belayer is key. Know your calls, from “On belay” to “Secure.”
Remember that protection bolts and anchors are not permanent. Someone was nice enough to put them there, but that doesn’t mean that someone else didn’t take them or the weather didn’t loosen them. Be safe and carry a wrench that can tighten loose nuts on bolts and anchors. Bring a hammer to be sure fixed pitons are secure on those old-school climbs.
It’s spring so be prepared for sudden rain storms and cold weather depending on where you are. Wear appropriate clothing when you climb. Also, keep the local search and rescue phone numbers in your phone. If you’re heading somewhere without reception consider bringing something like a SPOT or InReach.
Climbers die and get seriously injured every spring. Most of us in the valley have friends who made decisions that led to their death. It’s the time of year when the freeze/thaw process that was set into motion by cold temperatures can wreak havoc. Water freezing in the rock’s crack is one of the main contributors to loosening rock from the earth.
It’s especially dangerous on vertical rock faces. If you’re climbing a notoriously loose route, check every hold with a little tap before trusting it. Wear a helmet and beware of loose rock. If you find one, shout to everyone that you are dropping it, or to be aware as you carry it down. Yell “Rock!” if you knock one off the wall. Rockfall is real, can lead to unexpected falls and can kill you, so heads up.