Our original plan to move up the valley today changed as we discovered the area more over the week.
Basically the 2 options for accommodation for ice climbers in the Bow Valley are either Canmore (where we arrived 7 days ago) or Banff – a very touristy Chamonix-like town 25min drive NW on Trans-Canada Highway.
Banff is nice, but more expensive to stay – it’s where all the skiers and tourists go. There is surplus of accommodation – but nightly rates in some establishments would be outside of climbers budgets. It also doesn’t really suit for a base if you are planning on climbing around Ghost River area (adding extra 25min drive to already lengthy journey ).
Canmore seems to be the place where all the locals live. It might not have the best nightlife or tourist attractions (although the Main Street as well as their local fitness center/pool/indoors climbing wall called Elevation Place are actually pretty good), but that’s not what we are here for. Driving wise – Canmore is right where you need it – 1.5h drive to Field, 1h drive to Lake Louise, 2h drive to Ghost River, 25min from Banff – all hosting world class ice climbs.
Our current home – The Bear Hostel is pretty well equipped hostel filled with all sorts of people. From a trio of experienced American ice climbers from California, through single traveling Japanese woman in her 60s (who is also an ice climber!), disconcerted young Australian man, serious Swedish guy (who somehow knew who Shamrock Rovers were) and very eccentric blue haired late shift host.
Facilities wise the place is perfect. Big rooms (bigger than Mancave 1 and 2 in Rjukan) with private bathrooms, fully fitted kitchen with all sorts of dishes, walking distance to liquor store, all sorts of food joints and stores.
It’s also just 10 min walk to the town center, should one require some after hours entertainment. Elevation Place is 3 mins walk – just across the railroad tracks.
Anyway – we’ve decided to stay in Canmore, but that meant changing the room (as we originally just booked for 1 week). That also coincided with the fact that today will be a rest day – a good idea for a weekend where routes are usually busy.
After some scheduling shenanigans, shifting people here and there to different rooms, we got booked in to what Del calls ‘Honeymoon Suite’ – a nice little upgrade – for not that much more money. (week in normal 4ppl private room was 410CAD $, ‘Suite’ is around 500CAD $ if you book for 7 nights (better price is given for full week stay).
Honeymoon suite in all its glory – totally worth it:
Before we moved rooms though, first thing in the morning we wen to check out local breakfast eatery (normally I cooked eggs and beacon in the AM and we don’t eat out – it’s just faster that way).
Classic toast, eggs & beacon:
After breakfast Padriac and I went for a little stroll around town, while Del went back to the Mancave.
But more importantly local gear shops – both pretty well equipped as for a small town:
Unfortunately we didn’t find what we were looking for – replacement crampon parts for Del’s Grivel G14s – he’ll have to live with what he has.
On the way back we encountered one of them massive trains – These are between 90 and 120 carriages long! They quite frequent as well. A real feast for trainspotters.
After moving to Mancave 3.1 and still having half a day in front of us we made a little trip to Banff in search of the mythical hot springs. Somehow however Del wasn’t so keen and spent the hour at their upstairs coffee shop – probably on the phone to The Queen.
Banff Upper Hotsprings are located slightly outside of town, but are easy enough to find. You park at the bottom of the hill and walk up some 100m. There is a small drop-off zone by their door – but you can’t park there.
Admission is just short of 10CAD $ and once can rent both towels and swimsuit (including what they call ‘vintage swimsuit’ – arond 2CAD $ each). We had our own.
Unfortunately it’s out of season for them – and the ‘pool’ is just a clean water heated to 40C. In season it’s all about them minerals.
It’s still nice, outdoor surrounding, albeit a bit crowded (maybe because of the weekend?). Built in jets worked wonders on our tired muscles though.
You won’t spend more than an hour, and if you are in Canmore – Elevations Place’s pool, steam room and jacuzzi give better effects for the same money.
We drove down back to Banff for a quick stroll on it’s main street in search of some burgers.
Didn’t take too long – as the place is quite small and filled with tourist oriented shops and restaurants.
Once cool thing to note are their pedestrian crossings – it’s an all directional Japanese style type. Love it! They don’t have them in Canmore – must be Banff thing.
We settled on Eddie Burger + Bar, which lets you make your own. Good place to be if you are into burgers.
It takes a while to actually get it – but the servers make sure you stay ‘hydrated’ as you wait. Typical business practice I guess 😉
I’ve settled on Elk, so has P. Del opted for Bison. Interesting choices.
Full bellies meant quick drive home – and more planning for upcoming days.
Climbing wise we have few options – Professor Falls, Carlsberg Column, and of course Polar Circus – to name the few.
The conditions will dictate what will be climbed.