With trembling knees, and pounding heart, I recall a tip given to me by an instructor at an indoor climbing wall years ago: remember to breathe. I’m up 1,800 m (5,905 ft), harnessed to a rock face, willing myself to reach for the next anchor. Up ahead my husband, a first-time climber, has just reached the summit. From the look on his face he’s beyond thrilled with the accomplishment.
We’re on Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata course in Banff National Park. Italian for Iron Road, the name is a very literal description of one of the hottest summer sports in the Canadian Rockies. It certainly takes hiking to the next level. Throughout a two-hour climb we’ve navigated towering rock walls guided by a series of cables, anchors, ladders and an epic suspension bridge. One last push and I’ll reach the top. Let’s do this!
Rocky Mountain Views
Your adventure starts with a 15-minute ride on the open-air North American chairlift. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Summer residents include ground squirrels, bighorn sheep, deer and bears. Once at the top, the mountain’s viewing boardwalk and sightseeing platform should definitely be your first stop. Be sure to bring your camera for spectacular panoramas of the town of Banff and Spray and Bow Valleys, with Mt. Rundle’s jagged snow-capped peaks in the background.
First-Time Climbers Welcome
No climbing experience? No problem. If you can climb a ladder, love the outdoors and crave a bit of excitement, then Mt. Norquay’s certified guides will coach you through the rest. First up, an in-depth safety and equipment orientation. Don’t worry about having a memory lapse – your guide will be with you every step of the way. Expect lots of coaching, encouragement and an expert mountaineer’s unique perspective on the natural environment.
Two Route Options
Test-drive the Iron Road with the two-hour Explorer Route. You’ll learn about the sport’s history, get familiar with the equipment, tackle a few pitches and traverse the suspension bridge. If you’re looking for a bigger thrill, book the half-day Via Ferrata experience. As a Ridgewalker you’ll venture up the Norquay cliffs to climb Memorial, Sunrise and Vista buttresses. For both routes light hiking shoes are required, but all safety equipment including helmet is provided.
Afterward, celebrate your achievement and replenish those burned calories with a hearty lunch on the Cliff House Bistro rooftop patio. Take in the spectacular view, share your favourite moments from the climb and plan your next big adventure.