Bear Spirit is a classic beginner's crag in the Canadian Rockies due to its easy access to top roping. With fun ice and sustained top rope lines, it's a fantastic crag to learn basic ice climbing technique in a safe environment. With few alternatives in the Canadian Rockies, among them Johnston Canyon, Bear Spirit is an attractive ice climbing destination for anyone learning the ropes.
While it draws inexperienced climbers—exercise caution—the approach also serves to dissuade many. Head North from Banff along the Trans-Canada Highway and take the turnoff for the Bow Valley Parkway. Take an immediate right-hand turn to a closed road. Park here. Follow the road to a washed out creek. Follow the creek 1.46 kilometers to a big log with obvious crampon marks in it. Head immediately to your left. Sometimes this trail is covered in ice, so the log serves as an excellent spot to pop on crampons. There should be a trail with plenty of crampon marks heading straight up.
At 1,650 meters, arrive at a cliff with a shoot of ice popping through. It's about a 10-meter step up to a tree that serves as an excellent anchor. Ideally, don't climb this unless you are already fairly experienced, as accidents of over-confidence are common here. The tree at the top serves as a solid belay anchor and rappel point for the descent. Follow the ice upward to the broad bowl of Bear Spirit Crag.
There are two to three large pillars that form generally at WI4 in the centre bowl. To the right of them are the mixed lines and an easier short WI3 line that makes for a good first lead. If you keep heading right, you will find a path that wraps around to the trees that serve as anchors for the climbs. You will need to rappel down and set a directional anchor for the best line.
To the left, there is a sheltered spot to hang out between climbs. Be careful moving about as it's challenging to avoid icefall, and you cannot expect climbers to wait for you to cross. Be intentional and always watch above to ensure there is nothing coming down. There is always a lot of ice spread across the ground, so it is absolutely imperative that everyone have climbing crampons.