Reflections at Mount Assiniboine, located at the border between Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Jeffrey Pang,  Shot on 2012-03-14 Photo taken in British Columbia, Canada.(c) Jeffrey Pang, licensed under: CC BY 2.0.
Reflections at Mount Assiniboine, located at the border between Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Jeffrey Pang, Shot on 2012-03-14 Photo taken in British Columbia, Canada.(c) Jeffrey Pang, licensed under: CC BY 2.0.

North-America is after Europe the most explored continent as far as climbing goes. The highest peaks are located on the west coast where several ranges run all the way from Alaska through Canada and United States to Mexico. Alaska, Canadian Rockies, Cascades, Colorado Rockies and Teton range are best known alpine destinations. However, the best known climbing destination of North America is Yosemite valley in Sierra Nevada, arguable the best known climbing destination in the world and mecca for big wall climbing. Besides the aforementioned high mountain areas, there are plenty of other areas having high quality ice and rock climbing, such as deserts, NE USA and Baffib Island to name a few.

About North America

American Cordillera or Pacific Cordillera is a vast mountain system running through Alaska, Western Canada, Western United States, Mexico and Central America. It connects to its South-American counterpart, the Andes. Pacific Cordillera is where all the highest peaks of North America are located. Through Canada and United States American Cordillera system consist of two long north-south chains: Coastal chain with Coast Range, cascades and Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain chain further inland. Between these chains lie high Plateaus with several ranges. Peaks on the eastern part of the continent are significantly lower consisting of Arctic Cordillera and long Appalacchian range.

  • Alaska & Yukon The highest mountains of North America are located in the far north in Alaska and neighboring Yukon territory of Canada. The area is comprised of several mountain ranges. Furthest to the north lie Brooks Range. Aleutian range on the peninsula intruding far to the Bering Sea is notorious of it's horrendous weather, even on the Alaskan standards. Alaska range located in Central part is the highest and most famous of the ranges. Chugach, Wrangel and St.Elias ranges are located to the south and east of Alaska Range. The most popular climbs are found in Alaska range.
  • Pacific Ranges Pacific Ranges run through the western coast of North America all the way from Alaska to Mexico and further to Central America. The chain continues further south through South America where it is known as Andes. The chain consists of multiple ranges that vary great deal in nature. Canadian Coast Mountains is home to wildest and least explored peaks along the Pacific coast, but U.S. cascades and Sierra Nevada are far more accessible and best known climbing targets. The highest peaks on the Pacific ranges are to be found in Mexico, where few volcanoes rise well over 5000m altitude. Aside on high mountains, some of the US Coast ranges have host of well known rock climbing venues. By far the best known climbing destination of Pacific ranges in Yosemite valley in Sierra Nevada.
  • Intermountain West Here Intermountain West covers the area between Canadian and US Pacific ranges (Coast Mountains, Cascades and Sierra Nevada) in the west and Rocky Mountains system in the east. The areas are spread between the the states of British Columbia, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Both Utah and particularly Colorado have several ranges that belong to Rocky Mountains which are excluded from this section. The deserts have some spectacular rock formations. The peaks are generally not as high as those on Pacific Cordillera or Rockies but some desert areas are fairly well known rock climbing destinations.
  • Rocky Mountains The Rocky Mountains, or shorter "Rockies" are a vast mountain system in Western North America, extending from Canada to New Mexico. There are over twenty principle ranges that comprise the Rockies. Best known of them among climbers are Canadian Rockies, Tetons in Wyoming and Front Range of Colorado. The highest peaks of Rockies are located in various ranges of Colorado, particularly in Southern Rockies, with number of peaks well above 4000m culminating at Mount Elbert (4401m). Most of Colorado Rockies are not particularly steep and getting to the top of them them doesn't require any climbing. Canadian Rockies are somewhat lower culminating at Mount Robson (3954m). Differing from their Colorado Rockies, Canadian Rockies in general are far steeper and very alpine in nature. There are several national parks of both sides of the border.
  • Arctic Cordillera Arctic Cordillera covers northeastern flank of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from Ellesmere Island to the northeasternmost part of the Labrador Peninsula. The range is not too far from western Greenland. By far the best known part of the range is Baffin Island and in particular its Auyuittuq National Park. The park has several peaks with huge rock walls of big wall proportions. Here Mount Asgaard (2011m) is likely the best known destination.
  • Northeast US & Canada As far as mountains go, eastern part of North America is nowhere near as interesting as western part. Biggest mountain chain is Appalachian range, which is much lower (highest peaks under 2000m) and much less steep as, say, Rockies. Best known climbing peaks are Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Generally though, Northeast is not known for general mountaineering. That being said there's abundance of technical routes on smaller cliffs, both during the summer and winter. During the summer places like Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges and Cannon Cliff (New Hampshire), Adirondacks and stunning sea cliff routes at Maine's Acadia National Park are probably the most famous rock venues. During the winter many of the same places as well as Mount Washington and Katahdin all feature ice climbing. Most spectacular ice of Northeast is probably found in Quebec though, where 200m+m WI5's and 6's are not vary rare.
  • Mexico & Central America Mexico's volcanoes offer an exciting trip for climbers seeking the challenges of climbing at moderate altitude amidst an interesting cultural backdrop. Volcanic giants aside, Mexico's climate is also well suited for rock climbing. Best known alpine rock climbing is found in El Potrero Chico. Further south the peaks get generally lower.
  • Canada topo. A topographic map of Canada, in polar projection (for 90° W), showing elevations shaded from green to brown (higher), with elevation-legend overlaid at lower left. Nearby countries are shaded darker (compare elevation shades at Canadian borders). By Anchjo at Wikimedia Commons on 2006-04-14.
  • USA topo. Topographic map of the United States. By Mortadelo2005 at Wikimedia Commons on 2006-11-03.
  • Mexico topo. Topographic map of Mexico. By Captain Blood at Wikimedia Commons on 2006-12-16.

Climbing in North America

Together with Europe, North America is home to most visited climbing areas in the world. Areas like Yosemite, Cascades, Tetons, Canadian Rockies and Mount Washington area are certainly some of the most thoroughly explored alpine climbing areas in the world. Therefore information about these areas is not difficult to find and as everything is in English the information is readily accessible to most visiting climbers as well. However, the area is vast and some parts of are extremely remote and very seldom visited. Particularly many areas in Alaska, Canada and ARctic Cordillera fall into this category.

  • Mountaineering and alpine climbing Alaska, Mexican volcanoes Canadian Rockies Cascades Tetons
  • Ski mountaineering Rocky Mountains, Cascades
  • Big Wall climbing Yosemite, Baffin Island
  • Rock climbing Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Red Rocks, Zion, Indian Creek
  • Ice climbing Canadian Rockies, Rocky Mountains, Northeast US
  • Roper, Steve & Steck, Allen: 50 NA Classics. Isbn: 9780871568847. Sierra Club Books, 1996.
  • Kroese, Mark: 50 NA Favorites - The Ultimate North American Tick List, 1st edition. Isbn: 9780898867282. Mountaineers Books, 2001.
  • Bonington, Chris & Salkeld, Audrey: World Mountaineering - The World's Greatest Mountains by the Worlds Greatest Mountaineers. Isbn: 1845331427. Miller's Publications, 2006.
  • Radehose, Eckehard: Traumberge Amerikas. Von Alaska bis Feuerland.. Isbn: 9783763330065. Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, 2002.