Thinking of Trying Outdoor Rock Climbing in the Rockies? This Guiding Company Can Help

Cloud Nine Guides offers rock climbing courses and guided tours in the Canmore area.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

From its inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, to cultural touchstones like the adrenaline-pumping Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, the sport of rock climbing is more popular than ever.

Calgarians are fortunate to be in proximity to world-class climbing in the Rockies, particularly in the Bow Valley. But, climbing is an inherently dangerous sport that requires a lot of training and preparation. Thankfully, there are plenty of guiding companies that will help you on your way.

“[Outdoor rock climbing] is a bit of a break from city life, and a way to connect with a natural space,” says Mike Trehearne, founder and director of operations at Cloud Nine Guides in Canmore, a company that offers rock climbing courses and guided tours in the Canmore area.

For a beginner with little experience, the entry point is top-rope climbing — a style where the rope is anchored from above, while the belayer (the person holding the rope from below) takes the slack as you climb upwards, so there are few, if any, big falls. After that comes lead climbing, where you secure the rope on pre-bolted points as you climb higher — a style that can result in longer falls.

For new climbers Cloud Nine offers guided tours, where guides take care of the logistical and technical stuff, like gear, finding routes, and setting ropes and anchors. You just show up and climb with a gorgeous view.

The next step is to learn the technical stuff yourself. Trehearne says rock climbing is fairly low-risk with proper training, but he always suggests taking a course with an accredited guide. “One of the things I often see is friends teaching friends with the best intentions, but they’re not always up to date with best practices,” he says.

Cloud Nine offers two-day courses where you learn the basics indoors at Calgary Climbing Centre Rocky Mountain, then head to the crag on the second day with an instructor. Guided tours start at $275 for a full day, while two-day lead climbing courses start at $225.

Another must? Helmets. Rockfall comes with the territory, especially at a busy crag with potentially dozens of climbers above. Once you’ve mastered the technical stuff, Trehearne has a few suggestions for climbing spots. Wasootch Slabs in Kananaskis Country is an excellent place to start close to Calgary. Sunshine Slabs in Banff National Park is another option.

And websites like are excellent resources for finding more climbing routes, complete with pictures, guides and grades of difficulty.


Rise Above

Hiking up to a viewpoint is all well and good, but if you want to go above and beyond, take a heli-tour! Heli-tours are generally short (around half an hour) and showcase alpine areas few people have ever seen.


Rockies Heli Canada

Taking off from Abraham Lake, Rockies Heli Canada has several options including a tour of Six Glaciers.

Banff Adventures

Banff Adventures offers heli-tours of the Banff National Park area, including Mount Assiniboine, and has the option of a “helicopter in, hike out” tour.

Jasper-Hinton Air

Take a tour of Mount Robson, try your hand (and feet) at heli-snowshoeing, or land in the mountains and try some secluded heli-yoga.

Want more suggestions for the best things to do in Calgary? Sign up for our Weekender Newsletter.

This article appears in the May 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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