Grotto Canyon is a narrow gorge cutting into Grotto Mountain, just a few kilometers northeast from Canmore. It is a popular local area for a quick fix on three short ice climbs: "His" and "Hers", two 12-meter tall WI4 pillar, and "Grotto Falls", a slightly longer (55 meters) but much lower angle line (WI3) located in a side canyon, about 50 meters further right.

We had hiked into the canyon a few days before but had found thin ice and dripping water. On November 20, we went back. The avalanche hazard is very low here, so we weren't worried about the 40 cm of new snow that had just fallen. It was a very cold day (-15C). We started quite late, leaving Canmore around 11AM. It is a short (20-30 minutes) and pleasant approach up the canyon to the climbs. We found both "His" and "Hers" in very good shape this time (cold ice, no water), although quite broken already from previous climbers.

We started with "His", which is short (12m) but surprisingly physical because of its steepness. Solid WI4 despite the short length. There's a good bolted anchor at the top of the pillar. We used it for a top rope, and played on different lines up the pillar as well as the fun mixed climb to the right. Leashless tools were really coming into their own on that climb; virtually every move required a hand-match and tool-switch approach.

After that, we waited for quite some time for a group of four to get off "Hers". This is a much easier lead (lower angle, more rests) to another bolted anchor (just 1 bolt though, the other hanger was missing). After leading it, we played on harder variations on top-rope again.

"Grotto Falls" starts near the top of a short side canyon 50 meters to the right of the other two climbs. It also looked very good, but was busy with climbers all the time. I'm sure we'll be back for it. It looks like a short step of WI3 leading to a long WI2 pitch in a groove.

Grotto Canyon Climbs, Canmore, AB

November 20, 2003
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"His", a short WI4 pillar.
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"Hers" (WI4).

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Eric leading "Hers".
(high res. images are about 300KB)