Working at a gear shop, one of the most common questions I get from visiting climbers, is “what’s the closest ice to Canmore?”
And that is a bit of a difficult question to answer, especially when dealing with climbers from outside North America, who seem to consider driving two hours a ‘very long trip.’
I consider driving and walking to be similar, in that while driving is physically easy, it often requires acute mental focus, especially when road conditions aren’t ideal (as they rarely are in winter). Walking, on the other hand, is second-nature, and while it is physically demanding, this is an obstacle easily overcome by training (such as more walking) and doesn’t usually require a whole lot of mental energy to perform. I figure the two are therefore about equal in terms of overall energy expended.
I have thus developed something I call ‘The Combined Approach.’
Take your driving time, add in your walking time, and you’ve got ‘the combined approach’ time.
Why, you may ask?
Physically, Little Bobby On-Sight is probably the closest ice route to Canmore (note that I am not counting the Junkyards as a ‘route’ but rather a practice area). So, distance wise, LBOS is perhaps a 15-minute drive, but a rather strenuous 3-hour-ish approach, bushwhacking up the side of a mountain and scrambling up a slide-prone slope. TCA: 3.25 hours.
Now let’s look at, say, the Weeping Wall. A two-hour drive up the Parkway, in decent road conditions, gets you to the base. A further 10-minute walk, and you’re at the base of a 160m-high and 120m-wide wall of ice with at least three lines of varying difficulty. TCA: 2.25 hours.
Thus, if both climbs are in shape, and you have a choice of either, your approach time to the base of the ice is a whole hour less when you drive all the way up to the Weeping Wall, instead of hanging around Canmore.
To get your own TCA formula, just figure out the driving distances from your hometown!