Saturday, March 28, 2009

2 hr driving + 4 hr climbing + 8 hr TV

I've been on the Icefields Parkway probably a dozen times and I've never had as beautiful a day as when we climbed the Weeping Wall. We had perfect bluebird skies, warm temps and no wind. I think all of us were foaming at the mouth for some alpine that day, but the avy activity was pretty intense, 28 degree slopes were sliding!

Chad ice, no, snow, no mashed potato climbing on the Weeping Wall Left. We were pretty happy to be off this one. Note to self: south facing + warm temps + direct sun = climb somewhere else.

Chad opted for an early return after running up Louise Falls with brittle conditions. Marcus, Wesley and I stayed on for two more days of climbing. The continued avalanche hazard sent us back to the lowlands. Marble Canyon has zero avlanche hazard which seeemed just the right amount. What we found was a very unique, awesome setting and steep lines with short mixed steps to climb out of the canyon. This is just across the road from Haffner with a five minute approach. Put this on the list for low motivation days.

Getting hooked on the Tokkum Pole.

As per tradition, on our drive out we stopped at Haffner Creek to get a forearm pump before we atrophy on the long car ride home. A M-line called "Swank" had caught our eye earlier in the week and we decided to give it a go. It ended up being another classic mixed line. The crux involved steep rock, a deep right hand lock off, and a shaft torque high with the left tool... wild. Throw in a couple difficult sloppy mantles and a difficult clip and you have an engaging mixed climb.

At my personal crux the akward mantle/difficult clip.

Wesley yarding up powerful moves off the deck on Swank.

What Happens in Prague Stays in Prague

Spring had arrived in the Canadian Rockies. We were confronted with sunny skies, temperatures a little too warm for ice climbing and a pretty mean avy cycle. Despite this we were able to get good climbs in every day of the trip. In the process we discovered some gems in areas always overlooked.

Day 1: Looking for a warmup we headed to Carlsberg. Avalanche danger was considerable, but it is a protected climb from all but the biggest alpine slides. Once up pitch one we saw a powder blast from a slide down Heineken Hall... time to go. We salvaged the day with an afternoon run up Louise Falls.

Day 2: 50 degree temps predicted, we decided to skip the ice and stick to mixed. Bear Spirit crag fit the billing and we found a fun line "Spoiler" on the walls left side. Powerful moves up a steep corner crack yielded to a stem onto the ice and 20 feet of bolt protected ice hooks. A must do if you ever find yourself at Bear Spirit.

Spoiler works up the obtuse corner behind the tree trending right toward the ice.

Day 3: Whiteman Falls is typically out-of-shape by late March but recent reports indicated otherwise. 8 inches of snow fell overnight but it didn't affect this gem. A couple hours of skiing and hiking brought us up to this wild piece of ice.

Whiteman Falls

The first pitch started on the right side, traversed around to the left working through an ice chimney and through a tunnel into a protected ice cave on the left. The third pitch climbed out the ceiling of the ice cave before pulling onto a long pitch of verticle and overhanging ice. Amazing exposure, an absolute must climb.

Climbing out the ceiling of the ice cave on Whiteman Falls.

We opted for a rest day to refuel and refresh for an attempt on Curtain Call the next day. Curtain Call saw several ascents this season with reports of soft spring ice. Emboldened by our experience on Whiteman Falls we went for it. Unfortunately temperatures dropped 40 degrees over the 24 hours before our attempt. We found extremely fragile chandy ice, not soft spring ice. The lone line that had ice stable enough to be reasonable had multiple contraction fractures thorugh the pillar. In retrospect we would have been better off going a day earlier when it was more plastic. Disappointing to miss our opportunity but definately on the tick list for next year.

Curtain Call