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ice climbing

Between a Rock and a Cold Place — Ottawa’s Rock & Ice Climbing

By Sam Chilton

Who says this time of year is just about hibernation or hitting the slopes? Rock climbing is a great way to stay active and have a blast in the colder months. The region is home to three comprehensive indoor rock-climbing gyms and a wealth of frozen cliffs for every level of climber. Whether you wish to harness the wild in wilderness, or tackle standing puzzles safe from sub-zero temperatures, Ottawa-Gatineau can rock your world.

Photo and featured photo: Kristina Corre

Coyote Rock Gym

Coyote is Ottawa’s oldest climbing gym and a go-to for beginners and advanced climbers alike. Housing an impressive array of climbing walls and programs for adults and youth, it also has five areas dedicated to bouldering — short, artificial rock walls where one can focus on technique without the aid of ropes or harnesses. 1737-B St. Laurent Blvd., coyoterockgym.ca

Vertical Reality

Vertical Reality’s walls tower 54 feet high, and features climbable edges, ceilings, and a number of overhangs. This gym focuses on intermediate to advanced top rope and lead climbing, but there are plenty of options for beginners. Hone your chops on the “Moonboard,” a universal training wall set at a 40-degree angle, with an accompanying app and website that allows users from all over the world to climb and train on the same problems. 161 Middle St., Victoria Island, verticalreal.com

Photo: Marc Fowler – Metropolis Studio

Altitude Gym

This gym operates two locations, each with themed climbing routes, a day camp for kids, and an emphasis on family fun. The Gatineau location has something for everyone: 100 different climbing routes up to 45 feet high and 2,000 square feet of bouldering. It sports Willy Wonka-inspired walls, ladders, ropes, and aerial installments for soaring across and above the gym, Tarzan-style.

Altitude’s Kanata location is a brand new bouldering oasis with a stretch of walls specifically designed with kids and beginners in mind, and one for advanced climbers running parallel. “Ninja Warrior,” a parkour-style obstacle course, features foam fixtures, nets, monkey bars, and swinging platforms. 35 Saint-Raymond Blvd., Gatineau &  501 Palladium Dr., Kanata, altitudegym.ca

Photo: iStock-Slmonker

Ice Climbing

For true thrill-seekers, the Ottawa region also offers a number of breathtaking destinations for ice climbing. Just north of Ottawa are 64 spots across the Eardley Escarpment, forming the south-western boundary line of Gatineau Park. This includes the 100-metre stretch of Luskville Falls, which is transformed into a dense, climbable expanse come winter. South-west of Ottawa, Calabogie possesses a handful of favourites — cliffs boasting ice consistently two to three meters thick, and a swathe dubbed “The Green Fang,” the steepest and most dependable ice in the area.

Access to many of these areas is limited due to the dangerous nature of the sport. It goes without saying (or it should) that this is incredibly weather dependent. Knowledgeable guides curate training opportunities and weekend excursions from the Ottawa chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada. alpineclubottawa.ca

6 Reasons to Love Jasper’s Outdoor Playground

Feb. 4, 2016
By Afton Aikens & John Strugnell

Jasper National Park with its vast wilderness is a winter enthusiast’s paradise.

Snowshoeing-2

Tourism Jasper

1. Explore by Snowshoe
Five Jasper trails are newly designated for snowshoeing and fat tire biking. “Snowshoeing is an affordable sport that allows trail users of all abilities to connect to the park,” says Joseph Zebrowski of Parks Canada. Find maps at the Information Centre; rental shops and tours are listed in our activities directory.

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4 Top Alpine Club Backcountry Huts

Dec. 14, 2015
By Afton Aikens

If you want to step outside the comfort zone of a hotel but aren’t keen on winter camping, an Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) backcountry hut may be an ideal choice—and a great base for skiing or snowshoeing. The huts vary from century-old log cabins in meadows to bunker-looking dwellings above treeline.

“The Alpine Club has put a lot of resources into them, so they’re well kept,” says the ACC’s Keith Haberl. “The great thing about (staying at a hut) is you don’t have to carry a tent or a stove, and the sleeping pads are there; just bring a sleeping bag and food,” he adds. “Huts open the door to a lot more terrain for a lot more people.”

Hut accommodation is dormitory-style; sleeping quarters, common areas and kitchens are shared with other guests. Huts can be booked up to 30 days in advance (or six months in advance for ACC members—and anyone can become a member). “There’s a high likelihood of meeting like-minded people who have some recreational objective that’s similar,” Haberl says.

Popular huts in winter include:

Photo by Tanya Koob

Photo by Tanya Koob

  • Elk Lakes Cabin, Elk Lakes Park, BC: This is the ACC’s closest hut to Calgary, accessed from
    Peter Lougheed Park in Kananaskis. The trailhead is 62 km south of Hwy 1 on Hwy 40, and it’s
    a 9-km (three to four hours) cross-country ski to the hut; the trail is track set in Peter Lougheed
    Park. Elk Lakes Cabin is a family favourite, with ski touring ranging from easy to advanced.

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Big Mountain Adventure

Local pros suggest exhilarating winter excursions

Dec. 7, 2015
By Afton Aikens

Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain, John Price, Travel Alberta

Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain, John Price, Travel Alberta

Massive. Rugged. Incredible. Whatever your interpretation, there’s no denying that the Canadian Rockies leave an impression.

In winter, peaks and valleys draped in snow and ice create a magical outdoor playground that entices adventurers into its wilderness.

For professional climber, paraglider and kayaker Will Gadd, growing up here shaped his identity and sparked a lifetime of legendary exploits.

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