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Good Firday Dalkey Quarry season opening

Kind of… (since Monika and the girls opened the season on Paddy’s Day), however for me that was the first time this year.

It was only us and Magda with  her baby.

We showed up a bit early and I lead, one move wonder Hiatus (HS, 4b).
Monika quickly followed, with Magda arriving shortly after to warm up on it.

The girls didn’t fancy any more leading, and we’ve decided to top rope some harder routes.

I’ve promptly setup another warm-up TR on Stereo Tentacles (HVS, 5a when leading), and then we just moved left towards, the Ghost Slab and top-roped Masochist (E3, 6a).

I’ve TR The Ghost (E2, 5b when leading), with the girls choosing the Poltergeist (E4, 5C when leading) line.

I’ve lead The Ghost last year (picture below), but I guess that was the first and last time I did it. It’s pleasant, not technically difficult, just so exposed, and not protected from half way up, that I don’t think it’s worth the risk of breaking ankles.

It was a good day, surprisingly sunny and luckily rain free.

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Canada 2016 my travels

We are back home now.

We are all back home now. I’m still jet lagged, hopefully it will be gone soon.

The journey back was rather uneventful (other than terrible security experience there – cause fck you, 300  travelers who just traveled for 10h+ – queue here for 1h+ long queue to these 2 out of 10 security points we have opened for you…).

Anyway,
The drive from Canmore to Calgary is rather easy (just over 1 hour). We traditionally made a pit stop by MEC for some more gear shenanigans. (Del had to return his alpine gloves he purchased there – unfortunately they ripped on first use). – must have been unlucky, as I got same pair- and they worked great for me.

We took a quick walk to the ‘city’, searching for some food joint. Found what looked like a pub (was actually very nice inside), got something to eat and drove back to the airport.

Some trip statistics:
Over the 2 weeks in Canmore we:

1. we drove over 2400km in our fantastic RAV4 (medium size SUV, like this one is minimum what you need to have to access some of the routes – it still wouldn’t take us to the North Ghost – think about it if you are serious about accessing some of the more remote areas).
2. climbed 11 waterfalls (at 10 locations):

Polar Circus (just P&D)
Haffner Creek ( 2 climbs)
Super Bock
Proffessor Falls
Carlsberg Column
Guinness Gully
Weathering Heights
Lake Louise Falls
Grotto Canyon Falls
Moonlights

For total of around 35 pitches and 1600m of climbing (more less).

There is so much more to climb in the area (especially if you have proper 4×4 truck for the North Ghost access), as well as some world class climbing further up north (around Icefield Parkway), that it definitely warrants thinking about coming back next year.

We’ll see about that 😉

Special thanks go to Grant and all the staff of the Bear Hostel, Canmore who were very accommodating during our stay. Definitely a good and affordable place to stay in during your conquers of Alberta!

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Canada 2016 my travels

Canada 2016 – They’ve done it! Polar Circus conquered!

So it happened! After enormous effort, 2 days of planning and 13 hours of climbing the biggest ice they’ve ever seen, Padriac and Del conquered the notorious Polar Circus (WI5, Grade V, 700m).

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From Canada2016-LastDay-PolarCircus

As soon as they rest,one of these two gentlemen will write a full report. Stay tuned!

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Canada 2016 my travels

Canada – Day 13 – Haffner Creek

We’ve decided that since we are all tired, and the guys still want to check out Polar Circus  (800m, WI5, Grade V) before we go home on Sunday, we’ll take the next few days very easy, hence the choice of Haffner Creek.

It  is located in Kootenay National Park near Banff. It’s about 45 minutes drive from Canmore. It’s best known for its mixed routes as well as some good single lines pitch in WI3-WI5 range .

The drive was pretty nice, with some amazing scenery. Once we arrived at the car park, near Marble Canyon Campsite (google maps 51.185835, -116.121336), we started our walk.

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It’s worth noting that the best way to approach it is to go straight across the road from the car park (as seen on above picture), there is a fantastic boot pack.

Don’t try to cross the bridge (100m north from car park) and use that trail – it’s at least knees deep snow, and you’ll just add 25mins to your walk…

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Anyway – the guidebook wasn’t very clear on that, and we learned our lesson the hard way. There was so much snow, that the road signs were almost entirely covered.

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Also reminder: this is a bear country, and local rules should be respected:

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There are fresh enough animal footprints everywhere.

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And they are quite too big for squirrel’s.

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After good 25mins of unnecessary fight with deep snow through camping site trail (it closes in Sept and that’s it) …

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… we finally merged with what we would be on, should we just went and check for the trail across the road from the parking:

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Del approves now:

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Almost there:

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There it is!

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Upon arriving to the crag, it was even more obvious that there won’t be much climbing today (which is exactly what we wanted) and since nobody wanted to blunt their axes and crampons on the mixed routes (all bolted, between M5 and M11) we’ve settled on enjoying the ice we found.

We’ve met a group of local climbers who were doing laps on the most left side ice pillar. They must have done it 5 or more times each. Good for them 😉

We’ve also found what looked like bear lair, with bear hair in it and all:

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Luckily its tenant wasn’t around.

The time has come to lead steep ice though (all the previous leads I did, even though long, weren’t near as steep as today’s ice).

Del quickly assumed the role of belayer. He wasn’t in a mood to do much today.

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I racked up and went off. We didn’t find route description in the guidebook, nor I’ve seen anyone climb it before – so I’m glad to say – on-sight ascent!

The local guide told me later this was a WI4 route. Certainly felt like it (although it was a bit picked already).

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After few meters I joined the group of ‘screw droppers’, but we wont be dwelling too much on this:

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The climb must go on:

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Efficient rope management wasn’t Del’s strong skill today:

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Almost there:

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The top out is kind of awkward. There is no belay directly at the top of this climb. Basically after the steep part ends just walk to the left for 5-6m to two bolts.

Del went second. I should mention here, that this was his day-off and the only reason he actually went up on something was to test his brand new pair of Petzl Lynx campons, he purchased the day before.

It’s a good idea to put in directional screw at the top so the ropes are not dragging across. (unfortunately I didn’t do it – mainly due to the fact that I didn’t bring enough with me 😉

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Del didn’t bother to take the gear out – leaving Padriac on what we now call “sport’s ice climbing”.

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I went again after Padriac to clean it, we took a short lunch break and started looking at the route that was previously occupied by the other group. It was so picked, that it was impossible to put any protection. Del went 3m and turned around – mainly because he’s saving himself for Polar Circus.

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P. went at it with style. I don’t know why I even held the rope:

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Belay bolts to the left. I jumped on the rope and completed what would be my final climb of the trip:

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We quickly packed up and followed the boot pack to the car. This time, we are going to use the correct path:

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Which will take us straight to the car… Walk is less than 20 mins…

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Final victory photo:

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To summarize: very Rjukan-like day, short (for Canada) drive, easy walking (if you know where to go) – and no climbing drama. Exactly what you need for and end of the trip day.

As I mentioned before – if ‘the stars will align’ in the right way – we’ll have one more trip report, but more about it on Saturday.

For me though the climbing is over. I’ve achieved all my goals and targets  I had (I might write  about it more in a separate update) and I’m glad that I can relax now for the remaining 2 days – until our big flight home on Sunday evening.

– and since its St. Patrick’s Day – we are planning on few pits in our local pub.

Sláinte!

 

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Canada 2016 my travels

Canada – Day 11&12 – Super Bock and rest day

Super Bock is another of series of climbs named after beers in Field, British Columbia.
It is found on the east end of Mt Stephen and have few options in terms of approach.

One of them is to drive to Field, and walk from there for around 3km on rail tracks (east),
the other option is to park the car on the side road of the HW1, cross the river, walk up, go along the tracks (west) for few hundred meters and go up from there.

After walking over 12km the day before to The Professor Falls, we’ve opted for river crossing.

After leaving Canmore around 7.30am, we arrived to Field, found roadside parking, marked the car and where ready to begin our hike.

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As we were corssing the river (which is roadside) We got warned by local Park Marshals that they will be avalanche bombing Mt Stephen in around 2h – interestingly enough that mountain wasn’t listed on the bulletin we were looking the night before.

Avalanche danger isn’t a joke. Thirteen people have died in avalanches this year in Canada, 12 of them were snowmobilers. Four were killed within 48 hours on March 13 and 14.

We obviously turned around to the car and were let through to Field (the road was completely closed and no vehicles were allowed either direction.

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A this point the cars queue was over 0.5km

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As I mentioned in one of the previous reports – Field is very small settlement, with no services and nothing to do. We found though what we thought was a coffee shop but turned out to be bistro&lodge – http://www.trufflepigs.com/ – somehow (probably thanks to Del’s charm) we got served coffee.

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Well, we got stuck in Fields for couple of hours anyway so we spoke with the reception girl for a while – it turns out that what climbers call peak season (Feb/March) – it’s a low season for them – and this place seems like a great base for ice climbers – the room pricing is affordable (between 100 and 150CAD) and the routes are very accessible – may I remind that for us it was almost 2h drive each direction from Canmore.

After around 1.5h we’ve noticed that the road was opened again so we hit the road.

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We’ve parked on our previous spot and looked at the bomb induced avalanches (they drop explosives from helicopters).

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After the situation settled we begin to cross the river again.

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Deep deep snow on the initial approach:

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Watch out for the train:

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And this is the spot where you turn off the tracks. Note the orange warning sign – is rather obvious. Also it’s a good idea to put on crampons now. It’s still a long and steep walk from here…

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Even though it looks close now, it’s still far away…

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And we already walked for good 30 mins. Car is parked on the crossing on the roads seen here (kind of middle of the photo).

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Before the final straight to Pitch 1, there is a little mini ledge, where we actually stopped to put crampons on, as from now on you are entering ice territory and can’t proceed without front-points.

Home stretch to P1- and yet 150m of WI5 in front of us!

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P1, (WI3-4, 25m) in all its glory – with fantastic rock arch above as led by P.

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There are 2 pegs and a bolt for belay at the top of that pitch… and another couple hundred meters of snow covered, steep walking.

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P2 Wi4, 60m. Del about to lead it.

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but wait – where are my quickdraws?

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It is really a long one:

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There is a 10m slope between P2 and P3. Padriac was quick to gear up and lead it.
P3 – (crux pitch, Wi5 in ice lines book it says 65m, but it’ a good idea to break it in 2. We’ve learned hard way that it’s much more than that to top tree belay).

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This is probably good spot to belay from (off screws), as it’s still around 40m to the trees (top right) from that spot (after already going for 30m!).

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The weather was breaking rapidly, snow and cold were hitting us hard.

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From Canada2016-Day11-Super Bock
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Del went 2nd, I waited till he goes right and followed. At this point lines were pretty wet and frozen.

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It took us a looooong time to finish that pitch…

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We really wanted to get down ASAP. Nobody was in a mood for top out photos – as they say – victory is only when you are safely on the ground.

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End of abseil 1. ALWAYS remember about the knots at the end of the ropes boys and girls.

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The first abseil is awkward as you start from top right and got to finish on the left. Some needed a helping hand (axe) 😉

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2nd abseil gets you just to the bottom of Pitch 2.

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Still long and dangerous walk to top of P1. This is where you can get in some serious avy troubles.

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Last abseil – difficult to miss, but still possible 😉

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Leave your crampons on – the walk is still long.

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You’ll take them off at the rail tracks:

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Beware of the trains. They are quite frequent:

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One more steep walk off, spring is coming though!

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So is waist deep snow:

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And the train!

Amazing view of the CP Train, our route and the moon!

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Del and I were too fat and falling into snow with every step… New way of traveling was invented.

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I don’t give a shit moment.

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Long day it was. Great adventure though! It was around 8.30pm by the time we got back to Canmore.

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The next day (today, 16th March) is a well deserved day off, when we can rest, regroup and plan the remaining few days of this fantastic trip.

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Canada 2016 my travels

I can’t type today.

It was such and epic and long day that I’m exhausted and  can’t really type today.  I’ll do detailed entry about today’s climb tomorrow.

Let me just say that it featured avalanche bombing

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train tracks running

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River crossings

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We are all back on the ground,  with big smiles on our tired faces.

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Detailed report coming in tomorrow.

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Canada 2016 my travels

Canada – Day 10 – Profesor Falls WI4

Today nobody had a problem getting up at 7am. We all knew what was awaiting us –  an amazing 8 pitch,  210m monster climb – Profesor Falls. It’s a Canadians Rockies must do classic.

We quickly drove out to Banff,  as we wanted to get on the climb as early as possible.

The walking is pretty lengthy – over 5.5km, some people actually ride their bicycles there.

professorFalls-hike-climb

 

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As with every ice climb,  the routes can be pitched differently depending on conditions. It’s worth noting that the climb is usually very wet (we got lucky as it was relatively dry) – and also that it can be quite safely climbed by multiple parties – as pitches are split by big ledges (on which debris are usually stopping and don’t follow through).

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We did it in following way. (bolt anchors everywhere.)
Pitch 1 – Wi4,  30m Padraic

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Pitch 2&3 combined – Wi3-4,  50m Del

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Pitch 4 – Wi 3-4,  30m Padriac – It’s worth nothing that this pitch formed amazing and very rare icicle over the rock feature. – Climbing behind it is very interesting experience

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From Canada2016-Day10-ProfessorFalls
From Canada2016-Day10-ProfessorFalls

Between pitch 4 and 5 we walked 50m to the drainage.

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Pitch 5 –  Wi 3-4 35m Del – Some say it was supposed to be lead properly, Del just went at it free solo style without waiting for belay 😉 – No photo as by the time I got there with the camera he was already at belay station of next pitch.

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Pitch 6&7 combined Wi 3, 45m Michal – That actually opened opportunity for me to claim next 2 pitches

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Guys being amazed by my fantastic leading skillz.

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Another short walk up the drainage to the next, final and crux pitch:

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Pitch 8 Wi 4-5 45m Del arrived first,  removed his belay jacket and was ready to go.

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Some say though it was Gibbons turn to lead.

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It was all good though. Plenty more good ice still to climb over next few days!

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Traditional top out victory photo:

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There was a party of 3 climbing behind us, so we wanted to absail ASAP. Some efficient rope management techniques displayed below:

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Yet another abseil:

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And one more. It was total 5 abseils. There are bolts everywhere, so it’s quite straight forward.

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It was an excellent day out and a good example for long multipitch day done efficiently. The whole thing car to car took us just below 8 hours.

The walking can be off-putting, but it’s rather flat terrain and the views compensate the effort:

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Canada 2016 my travels

Canada – Day9 – Carlsberg Column WI5

This WI5 climb can be pitched in different ways (depending on how it’s formed in given year).

We did it in following way:

Derek Aherne - Pitch 1 30m WI4 & Pitch 5, 20m WI5
Michal Samsel - Pitch 2 30m WI2 & Pitch 4 WI3
Padriac Gibbons - Pitch 3 60m WI5

Pitch 3 could have been broken down in 2, but hero Gibbons goes all in if rope is long enough!

But let’s start from beginning.

We arrived to Field (same place where we did Guinness Gully) a bit late , aided with a lost hour due to the summer time change, made it particularity late start.

There were few cars parked on the side of the road – indicating possible queues.
We parked behind one of the cars, marked ours in usual way and moved on.

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The walking is trivial – 100m west of the right hand side parking place, and then up the gully through a well established path.

Even from the bottom the climb looks impressive and it didn’t take us long to ‘claim’ pitches.

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Del started first with a textbook 30m WI4.

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I did the 2nd one, real easy terrain. Some people actually skip 1st and 2nd entirely by walking around it and starting from the 3rd. We decided to the as much as possible in a classic way.

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From Canada2016-Day09-CarlsbergPillar

As I was topping out pitch 2 it was obvious that pitch 3 will be epic. I read in the guidebook that it’s beautiful, but what we’ve seen exceeded our expectations.

Coming up we’ve seen the leader of the party ahead of us topping it out.

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I spoke to him later, when they were abseiling – they are Czech climbers living in Calgary (PS – if you are reading it and are interested in native resolutions photos of you, leave a comment and I’ll make them available).

Del’s ‘wow moment’ seeing Pitch 3 for the first time:

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I didn’t take Padriac long to rope up and go at it. He was very excited – this monstrous of a pitch – 60m, no less, at WI5 grade.

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Off we go!

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1/3rd up:

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Almost there:

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A lot of people skip the last part and just abseils of the bolts to the left of Pitch 3 – we, once again, decided to do the whole thing.
Last part can be done in 1 go, but it’s much better to split it in half (due to the drag that can be generated by the first 20m).

It’s really is made-up-by-conditions pitch, that we graded WI3. Belay of a small tree to the left of the steep ice.

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From Canada2016-Day09-CarlsbergPillar

Del claimed the last pitch. It really is much steeper than it looks.

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He really run it out here. It was actually safer that way. (rather than stopping on steep terrain trying to place dodgy screw).

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Obligatory top out photo:

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First abseil is pretty awkward, be aware of sharp rocks and the fact that you are going diagonally from right to left.

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2nd abseil is from the bolts at the top of Pitch 3 – and goes straight down on the left hand side of the climb – be aware of other parties – as some people climb it that way. We actually met 2 guys from Wisconsin going that line.

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If you have 70m ropes you can abseil from bolts 15m below pitch3 (to the left), but most climbers just walks it off on steep enough path to the right of it.

Be very careful though, most accidents happen on relatively easy ground, like the fatal accident in that very spot in 2004.

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Canada 2016 my travels sport

Canada – Day8 – Rest day, relocation and Banff

Our original plan to move up the valley today changed as we discovered the area more over the week.

Basically the 2 options for accommodation  for ice climbers in the Bow Valley are either Canmore (where we arrived 7 days ago) or Banff – a very touristy Chamonix-like town 25min drive NW on Trans-Canada Highway.

Banff is nice, but more expensive to stay – it’s where all the skiers and tourists go. There is surplus of accommodation – but nightly rates in some establishments would be outside of climbers budgets.  It also doesn’t really suit for a base if you are planning on climbing around Ghost River area (adding extra 25min drive to already lengthy journey ).

Canmore seems to be the place where all the locals live. It might not have the best nightlife or tourist attractions (although the Main Street as well as their local fitness center/pool/indoors climbing wall  called Elevation Place are actually pretty good), but that’s not what we are here for. Driving wise – Canmore is right where you need it – 1.5h drive to Field, 1h drive to Lake Louise, 2h drive to Ghost River, 25min from Banff – all hosting world class ice climbs.

Our current home – The Bear Hostel is pretty well equipped hostel filled with all sorts of people. From a trio of experienced American ice climbers from California, through single traveling Japanese woman in her 60s (who is also an ice climber!), disconcerted young Australian man, serious Swedish guy (who somehow knew who Shamrock Rovers were) and very eccentric blue haired late shift host.

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Facilities wise the place is perfect. Big rooms (bigger than Mancave 1 and 2 in Rjukan) with private bathrooms, fully fitted kitchen with all sorts of dishes, walking distance to liquor store, all sorts of food joints and stores.
It’s also just 10 min walk to the town center, should one require some after hours entertainment. Elevation Place is 3 mins walk – just across the railroad tracks.

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Anyway – we’ve decided to stay in Canmore, but that meant changing the room (as we originally just booked for 1 week). That also coincided with the fact that today will be a rest day – a good idea for a weekend where routes are usually busy.

After some scheduling shenanigans, shifting people here and there to different rooms, we got booked in to  what Del calls ‘Honeymoon Suite’ – a nice little upgrade – for not that much more money. (week in normal 4ppl private room was 410CAD $, ‘Suite’ is around 500CAD $ if you book for 7 nights (better price is given for full week stay).

Honeymoon suite in all its glory – totally worth it:

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Before we moved rooms though, first thing in the morning we wen to check out local breakfast eatery (normally I cooked eggs and beacon in the AM and we don’t eat out – it’s just faster that way).

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Classic toast, eggs & beacon:

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After breakfast Padriac and I went for a little stroll around town, while Del went back to the Mancave.

Local Church:

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But more importantly local gear shops – both pretty well equipped as for a small town:

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From Canada2016-Day08-RestDay-Banff

Unfortunately we didn’t find what we were looking for – replacement crampon parts for Del’s Grivel G14s – he’ll have to live with what he has.

On the way back we encountered one of them massive trains – These are between 90 and 120 carriages long! They quite frequent as well. A real feast for trainspotters.

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After moving to Mancave 3.1 and still having half a day in front of us we made a little trip to Banff in search of the mythical hot springs. Somehow however Del wasn’t so keen and spent the hour at their upstairs coffee shop – probably on the phone to The Queen.

Banff Upper Hotsprings are located slightly outside of town, but are easy enough to find. You park at the bottom of the hill and walk up some 100m. There is a small drop-off zone by their door – but you can’t park there.

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Admission is just short of 10CAD $ and once can rent both towels and swimsuit (including what they call ‘vintage swimsuit’ – arond 2CAD $ each). We had our own.

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Unfortunately it’s out of season for them – and the ‘pool’ is just a clean water heated to 40C. In season it’s all about them minerals.
It’s still nice, outdoor surrounding, albeit a bit crowded (maybe because of the weekend?). Built in jets worked wonders on our tired muscles though.
You won’t spend more than an hour, and if you are in Canmore – Elevations Place’s pool, steam room and jacuzzi give better effects for the same money.

We drove down back to Banff for a quick stroll on it’s main street in search of some burgers.

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Didn’t take too long – as the place is quite small and filled with tourist oriented shops and restaurants.

Once cool thing to note are their pedestrian crossings – it’s an all directional Japanese style type. Love it! They don’t have them in Canmore – must be Banff thing.

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We settled on Eddie Burger + Bar, which lets you make your own. Good place to be if you are into burgers.

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It takes a while to actually get it – but the servers make sure you stay ‘hydrated’ as you wait. Typical business practice I guess 😉

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I’ve settled on Elk, so has P. Del opted for Bison. Interesting choices.

Full bellies meant quick drive home – and more planning for upcoming days.
Climbing wise we have few options – Professor Falls, Carlsberg Column, and of course Polar Circus – to name the few.

The conditions will dictate what will be climbed.

Categories
Canada 2016 my travels sport

Canada – Day7 – Guinness Gully WI4

With:
Derek Aherne - Pitch 1 & 3
Padraic Gibbons - Pitch 2
Michal Samsel - Pitch 4

 

For today we had planned to do of amazing 300m of Cascade Falls WI3, however upon arriving to the base of the climb it turned out it was nearly gone (due to its south facing position).

Our backup plan was Guinness Gully – WI4 – a climb we were hoping to save for Paddy’s Day, but due to the above we’ve decided to just do it today. A not so short drive to not so nearby Field (around 1.5h from Canmore), and a quick navigation around the village (as per Ice Lines book directions description) got us to the road where  where you pull over on to access the climb.

Guinness Gully it’s one of the few climbs in the area. roadside accessible with very short walk-in.

The whole area is avalanche prone, so extreme caution and proper assessment are necessary.

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As usually we marked our car with the destination we were going to climb and moved out.

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On the way up we’ve seen signs of previous avalanches, as well other evidence of the warnings seen before:

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At the base of the climb after somewhat heated discussion regarding avalanche conditions, we’ve decided to do some further assessment. Here’s one of them:

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After discussing the situation a bit more, we’ve decided that it was safe enough to begin the climb.

The whole climb is around 240m in height but is split in 3 (or 4, depending on how to look at it) pitches with total of around 135m of epic water ice climbing.

Derek went to lead the first pitch. A nice 30m of WI4.

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Gibbons and I followed. It was indeed pretty steep – but it was nothing comparing to what was awaiting us (you couldn’t see next parts from the bottom – had to climb a pitch, walk some meters up to the base of another pitch).

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Here’s Del at the Belay point number 1

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Pitch 2 didn’t look ‘that’ bad from the bottom, but it was quite technical and sustained.

Here’s Gibbons getting ready.

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According to the leader the middle part was especially challenging, yet rewarding.

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Another short solo to the base of another pitch (3).

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And what a pitch that was! A solid and lengthy 60m of Wi4. A real gem of a pitch!

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That’s not even half way up yet!

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While Derek has been busting his balls on that pitch, Gibbons found some time for one of his classic selfie moments:

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View down the valley from the base of pitch3

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He made it! (but for some reason instead of using a bolted belay he decided to build his own) 😉

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The last 15m is optional, a relatively straight forward terrain (although a bit tricky to get to the belay if you lead it on its right hand side line):

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Another Gibbons selfie moment. Will someone tell him that’s not how to do selfies?

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Top out victory photo!

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Lengthy abseil and walk off down. It’s actually 3 abseils and some walk offs. Bar avalanche danger it’s relatively straight forward:

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Back in the car:

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As a bonus on the way back we met with IMC’s president Peter Wood, who is here on a skiing trip with his friends (flying back to Dublin tomorrow).

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Safe travels home Peter!

 

Bonus photos (Just because of awesomeness of P3): – Hernzer and Gibbons at its base still figuring out who’ll lead it:

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