Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Blue (Ice) Canadian Rockies Part 2

On our fourth day in a row we needed something a little bit more moderate. Guinness Gully is a great long WI4 that we had both done before, but neither of us had climbed Guinness Stout WI4+ which stands above the Gully. Chad led pitches 1 and 3, the ones he hadn't done before, and I led the 2nd pitch and the Stout, ones I hadn't climbed before. Chad leading the thin first pitch.

Day 5 was a needed rest day.

On Andy and Jared's last day we headed out with them to climb in the Ghost River Valley. A 4x4 truck is mandatory to get in here so Chad and I laid in the canopy on the bumpy ride in. Andy and Jared went to climb Hydrophobia WI5+ and Chad and myself went for the ultra-classic, The Sorcerer WI5. Can you find the line?

The Sorcerer is simply the best ice climb I've ever been on. Better than Kitty Hawk, better than Polar Circus, better than the Weeping Wall. The two pitches consecutive vertical pitches lead to some amazing exposure. The ice was very "airy" and you could find hooks all the way up. Here's me following the last pitch.

We took one more rest day and reloaded for our final climb: Carlsberg Column WI5. It was actually the first time we had seen anyone the entire trip. We didn't have to wait to climb but we did end up taking a much harder and steeper line because they claimed the easy one. It might have been the fatigue at the end of a long trip, but it felt like the most difficult lead I'd ever done. Lots of ice mushrooms and chandeliers and a long steep finish.

Our line was one the right side of the long central column feature, up through the bulges and mushrooms.

Given that I'll be getting one week off in March for the next couple years. This is going to be a yearly trip. It's the best time of year for climbing and its right when you're at the peak of your fitness and abilities.

The Blue (Ice) Canadian Rockies Part 1

Spring is really the best time to go ice climbing in Banff. There is more daylight than the winter months, warmer temperatures, and very few people. In fact we climbed nothing but classics and saw only one other party the entire trip, never put on a belay jacket, or turned on headlamps. It was perfect.

After getting a good avalanche forecast for the Icefields Parkway, we decided to climb Kitty Hawk, a classic WI5, to start things off.

The climb went down in two pitches. Typically there is a WI3 pitch at the bottom which we climbed solo. Also, there is a final WI3 pitch at the top which we skipped. The final crux pitch starts out on ice mushrooms which aren't normally part of a WI5's repertoire but are standard ground on harder climbs. The ice was great and the mushrooms were stable, but it made the climb seem much steeper. Here Chad finishes off the first pitch.

After driving 5 hours to-and-from Kitty Hawk we needed a closer objective. Spray River Falls fit the bill. We knew there was a boot-track in place. However, the snow was completely baseless and it was a miserable approach. The climb is avalanche threatened so we were paying close attention to the conditions. A snow squall came in and we rapped off the climb. Then the snow squall left and we went back up, just to end up bailing before the final curtain. Its a great climb, but best done before snow falls so you can approach easily.

After two hard days with lots of driving and approaching we needed a real low commitment day. Haffner Creek is a ten minute walk in and the climbs are all one pitch so you can bail very easily. Here's Kyle tackling one of the hardest climbs in Lower Haffner.

Me on not the hardest climb in Lower Haffner.