Taming The Rockies

Looking for a new challenge? Consider a mountaineering course in the Canadian Rockies and experience the thrill of standing atop a picturesque peak.

From June to September, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, located in Canmore, Alberta, offers an intensive six-day Introduction to Mountaineering course, perfect for anyone with an adventurous spirit.

While no experience is necessary, if your pre-climb fitness routine already includes aerobic exercise and general strength training, you are off to a great start.

Yamnuska provides all the technical mountain-eering equipment you’ll need, but you will also be provided with a gear list to ensure you bring other required items. Most of it you may already own, particularly if you are involved in other outdoor activities, such as running or camping. You will need a sleeping bag, backpack, and mountaineering boots. A small daypack is an optional and preferred alternative to using your full-size pack to carry food, water, clothing, and gear during training and ascents. All of these items can be rented from Yamnuska.

The key is to pack light. Clothing on the list is kept to a minimum and selected for its layering ability, which lets you adapt easily to changing weather conditions.

Your adventure begins at Yamnuska’s head office where you will join your instructor and six other novice climbers for orientation and gear check before your trek up the mountain begins.

Accommodation is located at Bow Hut, perched 2,350 meters above the tree line adjacent to the Bow Glacier. Bow Hut is the largest and best equipped of the four Alpine Club of Canada huts in the area, sleeping up to 30 people in dorm-style bunk beds.

While at the hut, everyone participates in cooking and clean up, as well as collecting water from a nearby glacier-fed stream for boiling. Drinking plenty of water to stay well hydrated during activity at altitude, is strongly advised.

Training for mountaineering includes a lesson about the characteristics of glaciers. For example; learning to distinguish variations in the color and types of snow, can help you evaluate the contours of the mountain and how to use your axe as a probe for hidden crevasses. You will also learn to build rock-solid snow and ice anchors and how to use your axe to arrest your fall. Crevasse rescue is also taught through a thrilling exercise that begins with your instructor dropping over a ledge, simulating a fallen climber. Your team will be expected to build a secure anchor to transfer the load and free yourself and your team to carry out the rescue using only your basic gear.

Your first “real mountaineering” experience begins after you strap on your crampons, tie on to the rope, and with ice axe in hand, follow your guide as he leads you up Bow glacier.

At the end of the course, you will be amazed at the mountaineering skills you have mastered and be rewarded by breathtaking panoramas and a well earned sense of achievement. And so you should—you’ve earned it. To register for an adventure of your own, please visit www.yamnuska.com.

Story and Photos: David Topping

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