The Drive-In, Drytooling in the Canadian Rockies, PeakStratagem

Drytooling in the Canadian Rockies at The Drive-In

The Drive-In
Bow Valley’s EASY ACCESS Drytooling Crag


Updated Public Notice: Due to Phase II of the flood mitigation construction being conducted by the MD of Bighorn at Jura Creek, it is recommended to park in front of the Exshaw Legion in the Prospector Trail MTB parking and walk around on the shoulder of Exshaw Mountain to The Drive-In, minimizing our footprint in the construction site and maximizing our potential to retain access throughout. Happy climbs!

Where is The Drive-In?

The Drive-In is located on the left side of Jura Creek before the canyon. This is the first drainage east of Exshaw. Instead of driving through the access site, we are strongly encouraging climbers going to The Drive-In to use the Prospector MTB trail parking at the Exshaw Legion. From here, start by taking Heart Mountain Drive east to the berm at the end of the road. Follow the trail on the berm to the traverse trail under the hydro line. Take the trail east around the base of Exshaw Mountain skirting north of the active construction to the base of the crag.

Here is the .kml file for the access trail. Be advised that this trail crosses private land and is used by local hikers, bikers, and dirt bikers. Please travel responsibly.

How did we find The Drive-In?

Most of the drytooling crags in the Bow Valley (around Canmore, Alberta) are quite a hike. The most popular crag, The Playground, is about 45 min to an hour of continuous uphill travel for a fit climber. The Playground is also north facing in a large grotto which means no sun. This can be appealing for the summer diehard drytooler. However, it would be nice to have a south facing crag for those cold winter days where a bit of sun can make the difference for the screaming barfies!

About the same time last year as Rafal Andronowski was scoping out new crags, I took a drive up Jura Creek and spotted this scruffy limestone crag. It wasn’t unknown to locals. Jay Mills had put up a rock climb here about 5 years ago when he first moved to Exshaw. The rock was dirty, loose, and would have required a lot of work; he focused his route development elsewhere. With Jay’s blessing, Raf and I simultaneously came to the conclusion that The Drive-In could be the perfect moderate drytooling crag.

The Drive-In, drytooling, Exshaw, Bow Valley, Canmore, Banff, ice climbing, mixed climbing, Canadian Rockies, IceLines, PeakStratagem

Paul Taylor, Dirty Dancing, The Drive-In, Photo by Mikey Stevenson
Paul entering the final squeeze crack that gains the anchors on Dirty Dancing D6, The Drive-In.

What routes are currently here?

As of 17 October 2016, there are 6 routes at The Drive-In. The first route that you come to starts in up a broken wall to a left facing corner just beyond where the approach trail reaches the cliff. The routes are described from left to right:

Happy Feet D5+ Climb broken ledges to the first bolt. Follow the corner system up to a small roof. The route traverses left. 15m  FA: Liam O’Sullivan, Rob Fulton

True Romance D5- Pull a bulge (bolt) to a ledge and a broken face (2 bolts). Traverse left above a small roof to gain a left facing corner that leads up to the anchor. 15m FA: Amanda Bischke

Deception D5 Pull a bulge (bolt) to a ledge. Face climbing leads to a right facing corner. Holds right of the corner make the route easier! Traverse left at a horizontal crack to gain the anchor above. 15m FA: Joel Faubert

Tropic Thunder D6 Climb a right facing corner to a ledge. Face climbing gains an arête. Step left before clipping the last bolt. 15m FA: Alex Lawson

Dirty Dancing D6 Climb the broken face to a large left facing corner. Awkward moves up the offwidth crack gain the anchor. 15m FA: Paul Taylor

Batman Begins D7- A crack system leads through the buttress to the right of Dirty Dancing. 15m FA: Mark Bramble, Paul Taylor

Joe Versus the Volcano D7- Climb the slab just right of Batman Begins. Climb a left facing crack. Trend right than back left entering left facing corner in which a far right side pull allows gain to exit to slab. 15m FA: Mark Bramble

Groundhog Day D6 Climb the slab right of Joe Versus the Volcano. Gain the face with a good side pull out right that allows you to access a weakness left to the upper slab following a good seam with thin feet. The first bolt is a bit high because of hollow rock. 15m FA: Mark Bramble

Jackie Brown D6+ Climb the broken face up right to a left facing corner. FA: Mark Bramble

Demolition Man D7 Climb the face under the large roof. Traverse right under the roof to the break and pull. FA: Mark Bramble

Crag notes:

The Drive-In is a new crag. There is a TON of loose rock ready to get removed. Be aware as you drytool.  Routes have been cleaned, but there will be more rock to remove. Communicate with your belayer. If top-roping, leave your belayer mobile (top-rope belayers shouldn’t be tied in to the belay bolts while belaying).

Routes at The Drive-In climb off a fairly narrow ledge above a 15-20m embankment. Several single belay bolts have been placed to protect the lead belayer. There’s just enough space on the ledge to pass a climbing party, but not a lot of space to accommodate pets without having difficulty avoiding stepping on their paws with crampons…

All the routes to date have sport anchors with a fixed steel lower off carabiner. If you are going to top rope the routes, please lift your rope or build a conventional anchor while top roping to preserve the steel as long as possible.

Lifted Anchor
Lift the rope with a locking carabiner on the top anchor point.

How was the crag developed?

The routes at The Drive-In have typically been cleaned on rappel, then climbed on top rope to determine climbability and the nature of the route. Ice axes and crampons are notoriously damaging to limestone. Holds have been enhanced to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the routes. Effort has been made to create routes that are not just “pull-up” routes, emulating the puzzling nature of limestone drytooling.


Send us feedback about the grades, the bolting, and the climbing movement! If you feel that holds are broken or that the route isn’t climbing like it was built, please refrain from taking your drill and arbitrarily changing the route. The crag building team wants these routes to climb well, for them to be fun and safe. We don’t want this to be just another pulldown site!  Amanda has tested most of the routes. She’s 5’1″.

What is Drytooling and Mixed Climbing?

Drytooling is climbing rock with ice tools and crampons. It is a growing sport, supported by both the UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Competition circuit and mixed climbing. Mixed climbing involves climbing rock to gain waterfall ice.


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