We’re finally at our destination of Banff National Park and we’re happy to stop driving. It was starting to seem like the driving was never going to end. At least until we crossed the border – those kilometers fly by so fast it made us feel like we were making really good time. So far the Canadian Rockies look a lot like – the Colorado Rockies. Beautiful. And not hot. Perfect.
We haven’t suffered any culture shock yet, just mild sticker shock. The weak U.S. dollar makes foreign travel pretty rough. $40 each day for entrance fees and camping is hard to stomach for us budget conscious dirtbaggers who like to hang out for a while in one spot. Good thing we’re not hooked on camp fires, since it’s an extra $8 to have one. OK, we’ll stop whining now. Did we mention how beautiful it is?
Our last U.S. stop was Eureka, MT, where we explored the climbing along a lake that straddles the border: Koocanusa (a fun word to say out loud…try it). This word is created from three parts: Kootenai (the name of the forest it’s in + Canada + USA (the lake crosses the border). Clever, eh? (Just trying to practice our Canadian language)
We were pretty excited about exploring Montana—the climbing in the state is somewhat mysterious but rumored to be excellent. So we dug through guidebooks and picked the brains of local mountaineering shop employees and found…well, not much. Montana climbing consists of a bunch of extremely scattered small crags that all seem to be south facing, ie. scorching hot all day. Yeah, yeah, it’s Montana not Arizona but really, a rock face baking in direct sun is going to be hot whether it’s 90 degrees or 115.
But the climbing at Kookanusa, or Stone Hill as it’s known, has been worthwhile. Plenty of accessible crags and variation from steep, bouldery mixed routes to thin, balancy bolt sport lines. Much of the rock still gets afternoon sun, but if you start early enough you can get a nice day in then go take a dip in the lake.
Shout out to Barrell Mountaineering in Missoula and Rocky Mountain Outfitters in Kallispell for their friendly service.