Monday, March 28, 2016

Canadian Rockies Ice

Big apologies to everyone for being so delinquent with posting on my blog this past winter.  I've been trying to learn something about how to write creative non-fiction.  This has led me to the final twelve months (hopefully) of a five year process of writing a book.  As it gets closer to completion, the amount of time this takes is getting ratcheted up.  This winter I spent most of my non-climbing time working on this project. I have a bit of a reprieve while the publisher, Mountaineers Books, is doing a line edit on the complete manuscript.  This gives me the opportunity to catch up on things like updating my blog. Some of the photos and stories from the winter might be as much as six months old now which, in the age of social media, is ancient history.

I love spending time in he Canadian Rockies in the winter, especially because of the world class ice climbing.  Here are some photos and brief stories of the highlights.

Hydrophobia in the Waiparous Creek area of the front range is one of my favorite ice climbs in the Canadian Rockies.  It's a beautiful three pitch sheet of ice that goes at WI5.

Third pitch of French Reality
The Stanley Headwall boasts some of the most technically challenging ice and mixed climbs in the range and French Reality is one of the classics.  Here we can see Matthias Scherer leading the final pitch.

Unicorn and Kittyhawk
Off the David Thompson Highway are two great lines, a mixed climb on the left called Unicorn and an ice climb on the right called Kittyhawk.  Note Tanja Schmidt high on the last ice curtain of Unicorn.

Heike Schmidt on the lower section of Unicorn

Suffer Machine

Another classic route on the Stanley Headwall is Suffer Machine.  The original start is via the snowy rock cone in the lower right corner of the photo.  That takes you through the roof followed by some airy drytooling left and up onto the ice.

The Sorcerer
Just south of Hydrophobia, The Sorcerer is the other big classic WI5 route in the front range and it is accessed via the North Ghost River drainage.

Russell on Kidd Falls
Kidd Falls is a two pitch route high on Mt Kidd in Kananaskis Provincial Park.  It gets a lot of sun which makes it a good choice on a cold day.

Margo Talbot on Twisted
Twisted has become a popular ice route on Mount Stephen that is easy to access from the Trans Canada highway near Field BC.  This name was originally used for a mixed climb that came in just to the right.  This makes it confusing for those who see the route description in the old mixed guidebook that doesn't match what it looks like now.

Raphael Slawinski on The Day After les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot 
I get out with Raphael once or twice each season and it's usually on something scary.  This year Raphael led the mixed pitches on The Day After les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot.  The first pitch was not that athletic but insecure, and I didn't think the gear was that great.  The second pitch had better gear but was harder. 

At the upper end of the Stanley Headwall is Nemesis, an ice climb that I usually do once or twice every season.  It's another one of those climbs I never get tired of repeating.

Juan Munoz leading the first pitch of Nemesis

John Ohlson
John is even older than me and he came up from Seattle to climb for a week in January.  Here he is on Too Low for Zero in Kananaskis Provincial Park

Rainbow Serpent
Rainbow Serpent is a spectacular ice pillar in the South Ghost River drainage.  This climb is tucked away on the east side of the Recital Hall - an amazing limestone amphitheatre you access by climbing a WI4 pitch called Aquarius.  Our car got stuck in a few snow drifts on the way in and we had to do a lot of digging that day.  But it was worth it.

Chris Wright leading the first pitch of Rainbow Serpent

Alik Berg at the Solarium

It's always nice to go to a new place and neither Alik or I have ever been to the Solarium, a mixed climbing crag up the Icefields Parkway.  Given the snow conditions, we spent seven hours to ski in and out which only allowed us about two hours of climbing.  But the route we did was fun.

Next Up:  A group of us went on a two week ice climbing trip to China in early February.  It will take me a few days, but I will post about that trip up in a few days.