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Climbing
Trad climbing, Sport climbing
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Class II
Elevation Gain
70.00 m (229.66 ft)
Distance
0.65 km (0.40 mi)
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Back of the Lake is Banff National Park's premier rock climbing destination. Ultra classic routes are spread across a Quartzite Band on the opposite end of Lake Louise. It is a quick walk to get there, and the crag offers something for everyone. Get here early though, because the parking lot fills up quickly. If you arrive after 9 a.m., just save yourself the hassle and park at the overflow lot outside of town.

Bow Valley Sport and Banff Rock are the best guidebooks for the area. Select Climbs of Western Canada is acceptable, though it is pretty out of date by now. While many folks leave their trad racks at home, it's worth bringing it along as it gets very busy and often it's a good way to get climbing while you wait for your favorite sport line to clear. 

If you haven't climbed on quartzite, it's a lot of crimps and rounded horizontal cracks. Get ready for plenty of steep pumpy moves, even in the 5.6 range. The crag is notoriously sandbagged compared to the other crags in the area. Especially beginner routes tend to feel harder. 

There are a whole host of classic routes. Main attractions would be Air Voyage and Wicked Gravity (5.11a), but further on you'll find Chocolate Bunnies from Hell (5.11b), DEW Line (5.11c), Jason Lives (5.13a) and Bloodsport (5.11b), Mister Rogers (5.11b), Duck of Death (5.11b) and Liquid Sky (5.11c). Sonnie Trotter's incredible route, The Path (5.14), continues on past Wicked Gravity and is worth just looking at. 

The crag is set up starting from the closest to the hotel as follows; 

  • Louise Falls: Often wet, but there are a few beginner mixed routes for those looking to learn trad climbing. Normally quiet. 
  • Hillside Wall: 5.8 - 5.10c. Great for low-intermediate climbers. 
  • Trailside: Good cracks. Prepare to be asked, "Isn't that dangerous?" several times. Mostly 5.10s and 5.11s.
  • Outhouse Wall: Huge mix. The upper section has the easy routes with intermediates and the ultra classic Wicked Gravity. Very busy.
  • Air Voyage Wall: Lots of super steep routes as you head toward the Amphitheatre. 
  • Amphitheatre: A couple of moderates and a few fun 5.8 trade climbs. 
  • Liquid Sky: Superb steep cracks.
  • Pond Hill: Mostly hard to access routes that are vegetated and meandering. A few descent ones, but getting to them is very annoying due to the water. 
  • Blob Rock: Superb routes that are normally super busy, and there are lots of viewers from the trail. 
  • Duckland: A couple of solid moderate to hard routes.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Flat approach. Many classic routes. Solid rock. Incredible vistas while you climb.

Cons

A lot of tourists. Very busy.

Pets allowed

Yes, with restrictions

Trailhead Elevation

5,741.47 ft (1,750.00 m)

Highest point

5,971.13 ft (1,820.00 m)

Address

Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
AB T0L
Canada

Features

Vault toilet
Glacier
Historically significant
Waterfalls
Bird watching
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Geologically significant

Access

Hike-in

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

East facing

Class / Rating

5.4 - 5.14

Site characteristics: Drinking water

Unfrozen water

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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