North American Classic Climbs

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Bourgeau Left


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No other area on the North American continent can compete with the combination of number, quality, and accessibility of ice climbs with the wide corridor beginning at the entrance to the Rockies west of Calgary, and ending at the north end of the Icefield Parkway in Jasper Park. The eye is drawn to exquisite frozen waterfalls of all lengths and grades spilling from gullies and seeps in the limestone walls, and the side canyons not visible from the major highways contain almost unimaginable quantities of ice. This is the epicenter of classic waterfall ice climbing in the western hemisphere.

Accessibility helps define the classic nature of the frozen waterfall at the base of Mt. Bourgeau known as Bourgeau Left (yes, there is a Bourgeau Right, and it is excellent, too). It is located just above the Sunshine Ski area parking lot. When in good condition, the climber is rewarded with 4 pitches of aesthetic climbing, with the final pitch providing the biggest challenge. The descent is straightforward via a bolted rappel line. All these factors add up to a climb that attracts substantial traffic.

However, two caveats apply: first, the route has its thin years, when it can be much more serious due to lack of protection on the lower pitches. Second, it is topped by a serious avalanche bowl that is not visible from below. As for many Candian Rockies ice climbs, attempting this route without first considering avalanche conditions would be very foolish. The web sites referenced here are good sources of information, but local inquiry with the Wardens is the best.

The mountain, the creek that forms the falls, a lake, and the route are named for Eugene Bourgeau, a botanist on an early (mid-1800s) scientific and exploration expedition to the Bow Valley.


Snow & Ice (frozen waterfall)




Sunshine Ski Village, 16km west of Banff, Alberta



G16, W24, W30


IV, WI5 (4 pitches, 185m)


Route Descriptions & Maps:

see references

First Ascent:


T. Auger, G. Homer, R. Wood, January 1974
J. Roskelly, J. States.


Trip Reports:

Ponslet 12/03