Learning to Climb in a Climbing Mecca: 5 Resources in the Bow Valley

Do you climb? 

The list of outdoor activities that draw people to the Bow Valley is as long as the Bow River. Ascending its way to the top of that list is rock climbing, an outdoor pursuit that anchors, and sometimes dominates, the social and recreation time for local residents.

What if you are currently a non-climber and would like to join your friends in sport climbing? How do you learn the basics of climbing when it seems that everyone else in town is already sending 5.11s? Thankfully, there are numerous opportunities in the Bow Valley for new climbers (locals and visitors alike) to learn the skills and gain the confidence to climb.

1. Sally Borden Centre. You can drop by the Sally Borden Building (SBB) at the Banff Centre and work with an instructor to learn the basics of how to belay and climb on an indoor climbing wall. The SBB also regularly runs a number of weekend and evening sessions to learn how to both top rope and lead climb. You can also refine your skills with the three-week Indoor Climbing Series or the six-week Performance Training program. The SBB is open 2pm-10pm in the spring/summer. Learn more here.

Image from banffcentre.ca/sbb/climbing/.

2. Alpine Club of Canada. The Rocky Mountain Section of the Alpine Club of Canada runs an introductory course each spring called the Rock Program. An indoor introductory session is followed up with an evening of knot work. The program then takes climbers outside to practice their skills. The program is open to club members and the program’’s goal is to prepare participants to join in on Club climbing trips. Check out their courses here.

3. BanffLIFE. If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 you can participate in the Town of Banff’’s BanffLIFE Program. This program helps teach mountain skills to those working and living in the Bow Valley. Learn the basics with other young climbers under the direction of a mountain guide. Bonus: the program runs at a deep discount for participants! Check out their mountain adventure programs.

4. Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. There are numerous guiding companies and independent guides working in the valley. Hire a guide to show you how it is done and learn one-on-one with a professional. Find a guide here.

5. Make friends/Date a climber. This has worked for many climbers. Your friend/partner is motivated to help you learn and have fun. Clear communication of both expectations and comfort are key.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/photos/clogozm/.

Ready to learn more than just the basics?

Once you’’ve mastered the basic techniques you can refine your skills with the above groups as well. All offer continuing programs to refine your skills and gain the confidence needed to join in on the climbing fun.

Remember that all climbers started off as beginners and enjoy the process of learning a new sport. Some day you may be the one showing others the ropes!

Note: If you’re a Canmore climber you may have noticed that a climbing wall in Canmore is sorely missing from this list! The much anticipated wall at the Multiplex (Elevation Place), scheduled to open in  2012, hopes to fill the gap left by the closing of the Vsion Climbing Gym in spring 2012.

Your turn: What local resources do you suggest for new climbers in the Bow Valley?

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Sara Eve Alarie

The natural world and working with young children fill Sara with wonderment and awe. She has been fortunate to teach Grade 1 in Canmore since 2005.

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