Choppers III Weekend, March 8 & 9 2014 – by Alan Dorgan


I tagged along to the ACC SK Section AGM in October 2013 primarily to meet some like minded people and maybe make a few contacts to climb with at Grip It, the local indoor climbing gym. The result of attending this Sunday get-together in Amigos was a lot more than I had ever expected.

From the moment I was told about the 2014 ice climbing trips, it was simple….I WANTED IN!! Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get my name on the list for either of the two trips. This I found out while back at home in Ireland on Christmas vacation, making the holidays a little less “merry”. Thankfully, that all changed shortly after my return to YXE. It seemed there was enough interest for the trip organisers to go ahead with a third weekend trip, yippee!

With about 3 years of rock climbing experience, my only exposure to climbing on ice was some top roping at the temporary ice wall members of the SK Section erected at the Winter Shines Festival at Farmers Market. Ice climbing seemed to be the next likely step and most definitely a cool alternative (pun not intended) to rock. I’m ashamed to say it but this was only my second trip into The Rockies in the 14 months since arriving in Canada. As I set off from Saskatoon, tailing Angela and Audrey (the lovelies), the buzz was already starting to build with thoughts of what might be in store for the weekend ahead. Needless to say, we wouldn’t be let down….

Choppers3_2014-2Word back from weekend trips 1 and 2 was that the weather was particularly chilly. With this in mind, a stop at the MEC store in Calgary was on the cards for this lad to get some comfy technical gloves. From there it was onwards just a little further west to Canmore to collect our rental equipment and to check in at Hostel Bear. This was to be base camp for a few of us for the weekend ahead.

Saturday morning arrived. A meet time of 7am had been arranged for a little cafe, Beamers Coffee, just up the street from the hostel. This would be the first time some of the club members would meet each other. Haffner Creek, just a few kilometres over the BC border, was to be our destination for the day. The 20 min stroll from the cars along the approach to the creek was a great warm up. But the vista within the creek was absolutely breath taking. While the leaders discussed where they were going to set up the ropes for us to get started, the rest of us set about gearing up, chatting, taking a some selfies and shooting a couple of panoramas. From the get go the leaders were full of encouragement and advice. Throughout the day, a number of other parties passed through and with them all came good vibes. Once we all got on the ice a few times, our leaders demoed what climbing a mixed route is like. And then we were offered the chance…..well, it would have been rude to say no! It was a massive thrill and still only day 1. The guidance and tips the leaders provided were super and by the end of the day progress was definitely noticeable. Time to pack the gear, make our way back to base camp for a freshen up and grab dinner. The whole group met at a nearby restaurant, The Iron Goat Pub and Grill, for a mighty feed and a couple of tasty beverages. Then, sleep. ZZZZzzzz

Choppers3_2014-3Sunday, 7am and back to Beamers to meet the crew again. Today’s climbing location would be Kings Creek, just a short drive out of Kananaskis. The hike in was yet another decent warm up, except this time just a little more nerve-wrecking. Weather reports in the area noted avalanche risks and our path was decorated with the debris of a few recent ones. We didn’t delay in moving past any potential danger spots. Needless to say the location the leaders had chosen for us to climb at was super safe and, yet again, a beautiful setting. It was easy to see that some of the routes in here were going to be a longer than those of day 1 but of similar difficulty levels. Everybody in the group were looking forward to getting on the ice and the mixed routes, all encouraging each other to “make the next move”, “almost there”, and “wohoo, awesome” along with a few minor gasps if there was a slip and of course the obligatory giggles to follow. A fall of snow later in the day added to the atmosphere, although I’m sure it put the leaders on a higher level of awareness for when we’d be retracing our steps back to the cars. Until then it was all about the climbing and a few of us gave placing screws and building anchors a go.

All in all I can not recommend it enough for those interested in new adventures to take an opportunity to get on one of these trips. You will not regret it. The fun had and experience gained will stand to me for a long time to come but more importantly it was the people on the trip that made it all of that. I know that I’ve made friends for life as a result of becoming a member of the ACC and going on the trip. It has to be noted that if it wasn’t for leaders giving up their time then this weekend would never have gone ahead so thanks a million all. Special thanks to Audrey for allowing me to use one of her photographs for this report.

It was a pleasure to get to know you all guys and gals and I hope that we’ll share some ice and rock again in the future….maybe even on the Irish side of the Atlantic but I’d never rule out a return to awesome Canada.