Story and photos by Gryphon Black-Wallis.
Drive: 45 min from Calgary
Hike: 45 min from car
Difficulty: V2 – V10
Season: All year
White Buddha is an area near Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country where you can climb nearly all year long. While most areas get incredibly cold or snow capped, White Buddha is situated so that sun hits the south-facing crag with such consistency that it is warm and dry even on cooler days.
White Buddha is located about 15 minutes from Bragg Creek and another 30- 45 minute hike from the car. In the later months, you must park in front of a gate on Powderface Trail near the Elbow Falls parking lot and walk to the Powderface parking lot a little farther up the road.
From there, the trail winds through the valley and is a popular snowshoe location for some. Crossing over the now frozen creek, you must ascend the steep slope on the right for the remaining 15 minutes to access the bouldering area known as White Buddha.
Once at the cliff band high up on the hillside, you are greeted by views of the valley and a series of steep caves that offer bouldering problems ranging from moderate to extreme difficulty.
For those familiar with the V scale, a manner by which problems are graded for difficulty, the crag has a range from V2, low difficulty, and V10, high difficulty, covering the majority of the problems.
Compared to bouldering inside at the gym, taking your talents outdoors always feels like a serious challenge, as grades outside are a cut above those inside.
When it is around 0°C in Bragg Creek, you can expect Buddha to be five to 10 degrees warmer. This combination means that many make the trek up the hill for mid-winter bouldering fun.
On an early Sunday in January, we ran into another few groups looking to set up and climb for the day, who, being friendly folk, were happy to share space and crash pads, creating bigger and safer landings, as well as information and beta on the routes in the area.
A big part of climbing outside is the community and shared responsibility. Not only to pass on information to fellow climbers, but also to share the spirit of the sport and the outdoors.
A swell day was had, with some in the group pushing their grade and climbing routes that they had been aspiring to for some time.
A fresh-faced recruit on his second outside bouldering excursion crushed a V9—a serious accomplishment. Others managed a spicy V4 that took the climbers way off the deck to a lip, high on the rock face above.
The weather was warm against our faces as we walked away from White Buddha relished in the gratification of the climb.