Vancouver Island Climbing - ice climbing
Vancouver Island isn’t known as a great waterfall ice climbing destination. In fact rumour has it that Victoria, BC has the world’s largest collection of under-utilized ice climbing equipment!
It is a rare winter indeed when freezing temperatures drop low and long enough for any significant road-accessible ice to form. The last really significant freeze to do this was in February 1989 when Upper Campbell Lake froze completely and ice draped just about every crag and hillside. Most recently the early season conditions through December 2013 came very close to repeating that and Island climbers enjoyed some of the best ice conditions for many years.
Although infrequent when the deep freezes do arrive the quality of the ice produced is second to none. Mild West Coast temperatures and repeating cycles of freeze and thaw along with heavy wet snowfalls can mature Island ice into a sublime plastic névé or ‘snice’.
When temperatures drop some of the areas to look for good low elevation ice include: Comox Lake, Upper Campbell Lake, Buttle Lake, the White Ridge and Highway 28 right to the head of Muchalet Inlet. There are plenty of other places but these areas have good access.
In a more typical winter you will have to look at least as high as 3,000 ft (1,200m) to find any ice in condition. The best all round locations for Island ice climbing are at: Mt Cokely and Mt. Arrowsmith along Pass Main, Boston Lake below Mt. Becher, Mt Washington, and at Tennent Lake below Mt Myra.
While these areas can offer good waterfall climbing in most years, the most reliable winter climbing conditions on Vancouver Island ice is usually found higher up on the north faces of the mountains.
If you are looking for winter climbing of a less committing nature but full-on potential try Mt Arrowsmith, Mt Albert Edward, King’s Peak and Mt Cain. Each of these peaks are readily accessible throughout the winter and have some classic gully climbs and face routes of just a few hundred metres giving a great taste of Vancouver Island’s winter alpine climbing.