Climbing in a place of Heritage and History
Frank Slide is an amazing climbing destination, but it is first and foremost a provincial heritage site and the final resting place for over 70 people who lost their lives when the rock slide occurred on April 29th, 1903. All visitors to the Slide, climber and non-climber, must treat this special place with respect and care.
It is sombre to think about, but it highlights why it is so vital to practice leave no trace principles (see more on that below) and to ensure that climbers engage in sustainable behaviour in the Slide. To learn more about the history of the Slide, make sure to visit the Information Centre!
The vast majority of the Frank Slide is owned and managed by the Government of Alberta, and specifically operated under the umbrella of the department of Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism, and the Status of Women – Heritage Division, Historic Sites and Museums Branch. The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre has been very generous and supportive of climber initiatives in the region, but it is absolutely vital that climbers comply with all directives and leave no trace principles (discussed further below) while in the region in order to keep the area open and accessible to climbing recreation. Conduct yourself appropriately and with respect for the region and the facility.
Frank Slide is located in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, near Blairmore. You can approach from either direction on Hwy 3, and the Slide is near impossible to miss as it is well signed and very visible from the highway.
The best and safest place to park to access climbing in the Slide is at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.
Another advantage of parking at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is that they have full washroom facilities, coffee, garbage bins, and interesting exhibits.
Although there is a pull off on Hwy 3 directly opposite the primary areas of the Slide, SABA discourages climbers from parking there if possible as accessing the Slide from this pulloff involves crossing the highway. Bouldering mats have been carried away by strong winds into traffic, and pedestrians are at risk of being struck by vehicles. One of SABA’s long term goals is to work with local stakeholders to develop multiple parking spots and points of entry to the Slide to improve convenience and access options.
Do not, under any circumstances, cross railway tracks anywhere other than designated railway crossing points. To cross at any other point is illegal and you can be prosecuted. You also could get hit by a train.
Leave No Trace
Frank Slide is home to Alberta’s best bouldering, but the unique nature of the Slide that makes it so amazing to climb there also means that it is especially important to be mindful of human impact on the area.
The Slide is just that: a rock slide. Visitors frequently describe it like “climbing on the moon” because as you get deeper into the Slide all that you see around you are pristine piles of rocks. From a bouldering perspective it seems as though there are endless routes to climb, and there are already well over a thousand problems that have been established.
Elevations in the Crowsnest Pass range from 1,113 metres at the Crowsnest River to 2,804 metres at the highest mountain peak. The region is characterized by a rapid ecological transition from prairie to alpine. The change in environmental conditions between those two landscapes, along with the influence of the Chinook winds, results in a rich diversity of flora and fauna. The vegetation is a mosaic of grasslands and deciduous and conifer woodlands that includes a wide variety of rare plant species.
In order to keep this special character intact, and make sure climber activity is not banned, it is absolutely critical that climbers in the slide follow the tenants of Leave No Trace. There are a few unique considerations of climbing in a rockslide that mean it is extra important to pay attention to properly disposing of human and pet waste, packing out all garbage, and walking on durable surfaces.
Nothing will destroy the climbing experience faster than improper disposal of human and pet waste. Because of the high winds and arid nature of Southern Alberta, our climate is generally hot, dry, and lacking in rain. If waste is left in the slide it is likely that the mark and scent of that waste will last for a long time. Do not, under any circumstances, leave fecal matter (human or dog) or toilet paper in the Slide. Don’t flick it under a rock and hope it goes away, it won’t. Plan ahead and take advantage of the washrooms and garbage bins provided at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Carry a bag and pick up after your dog (or yourself in a worst case scenario). Make sure to plan ahead and use the washrooms before you enter the Slide, and if nature calls while you’re out climbing, take a few minutes and run back to use a proper washroom facility.
Similarly, do no leave any garbage following your climbing visit. This includes fruit and vegetable peels! Banana peels and apple cores are not quick to decompose out here, and if you find any garbage please pack it out. Double check your climbing area before you leave, as water bottles have a habit of falling in the cracks between boulders.
The flora and fauna that does manage to make a go of it living in the slide needs your help to not get trampled. Try to walk on durable rock surfaces or trails, and avoid stepping on vegetation.
Ultimately it is really simple: leave the place better than you found it.