Back on the rock!

When Diarmuid messaged me up yesterday to see what I was up to for the weekend I immediately knew there is an adventure on the horizon! He isn’t a type of person that wasts words on chit-chats.

With weather shaping up to be in mid teens both Sat & Sun it was just matter of picking a destination. He suggested a small trad crag in Wicklow called Barnbawn. According to the guidebook  it is “Sheltered, sun-catching, quick-drying and low-lying, this crag has routes ranging from Diff. to E1. All this and only 15 minutes from the road. Not being a mountain crag a visit at any time of the year is feasible”. I actually never been there before, so it was an easy call.

We showed up relatively late (to make sure the sun is high up on the sky) and started the short approach.


After some 20 mins walk in a nice sunny weather we showed up at the bottom of the rock. It’s not impressive by any means, but good enough for 1/2 day climbing.

Quick look into the guidebook and we identified our picks. The goal was to at least do * marked ones in VS range.


I marked them on the picture above. Diarmuid picked the first, warmup one, marked yellow, right side of the picture.

  •  SWING LOWE *     12m     HS    (4b)
    “Start at the foot of the chimney. Struggle up the chimney to where it widens below the overhang. Move left up a slab and pull around the overhang at its left edge. Climb up the slab to a belay.” – description says ‘struggle up the chimney’ – it really IS awkward!

    D getting into the chimney of Swing Lowe.

After that I led the other 3 routes (not without little struggles) in following order:

  •   LINEKER *     13m     VS    (4b) – Yellow, most left of the picture.
    “This climb take the slightly overhanging crack running up the righthand side of the nose. Climb directly to the start of the crack, which is climbed, with a move left to finish.” – It is really a 1 move wonder, although a very interesting one, pulling up on very overhanging bit right of the nose.
  • BONSAI *    16m     VS    (4c) – Green, middle right.
    “Start at the foot of the right-hand edge of the wall, just down from Saw Doctors. Climb the edge of the steep wall on good holds and gain the upper slab near its lowest point (a runner here will protect the second from a possible big swing). From the slab follow the narrow crack, passing the tree with care.” – The crux is definitely getting to the tree – the holds are there, but one have to really commit to get to them.
  • THE SAW DOCTORS *    15m     VS    (4c) – Red, middle left. 
    “Start as for An Grianán. Climb the first 3m of the corner to the top of the block, below a sloping ledge on the wall. Pull up onto the ledge and then make awkward moves straight up to a higher ledge. From here continue up the steep wall above, finishing at the highest point of the wall. Small wires useful for protection.” – probably the best climb of the day. I have a feeling i might have gone a bit more than 3m of the corner. Still good moves on small gear.

    Looking up The Saw Doctors – probably the best route of the day.

Unfortunately for the blog, Diarmuid isn’t really a camera carrying type, so there aren’t many more shots (also with a team of 2 it’s rather difficult to take good shots from proper angles).

Looks like the weather will hold up tomorrow through entire Leinster province, hence we are planning a trip to Ballykeefe Quarry in Kilkenny.  A very rare occasion of outdoors bolt clipping in Ireland!

Canada 2017

Bonus climbing day: At the zoo

When we were wondering yesterday what to do on Sunday (today, the penultimate day of our trip) I suggested we should go for a hike. One thing lead to another and we were packing our climbing bags yet again 😉

Rule Number 1 – the bag needs to be packed the night before!

We weren’t supposed to be climbing anymore, but the draw to the mountains was stronger than us. Except for the mountains at the moment are still out of bounds… The avalanche danger is still High/High/Considerable.

I’ve looked around the guidebooks for some avy safe cragging area – and we agreed on Johnston’s Canyon.
It’s pretty popular spot just 40min drive from Canmore (first exist, past Banff, going from Canmore. It’s on the old Lake Louise Road 1a – can’t miss it. ) and to quote the guide book: “it is as close to an area of “sporting ice” as the Canadian Rockies offer”. Good enough for us! Just setup that TR and do goodbye laps on steep ice.

Since Lar’s knee is still healing (it’s much better now, but he didn’t want to risk more serious injury), he stayed behind and PG and I left before 9am.

The walking to the crag is exceptionally pretty. It’s a 3km trail that goes via the Canyon itself, ending at the Upper Falls. It is VERY popular among tourists (more about it later) – apparently visited annually by 1mln tourists.


When we arrived around 9.30 am there were maybe 3 or 4 other cars and a parking lot that was a big as if it was in front of a supermarket. By the time we were leaving, it was nearly full!

End of the path at Upper Falls.

This place really draws tourists in. The path ends where the Upper Falls are. We were climbing there for few hours, and during that time the viewing platform was always full.

It felt like wild animals in a zoo. There were 4 or 5 other climbing pairs, and at least 25 onlookers at any given time. They don’t bother me to much, as long as they stay in the designated areas.

The climbing zone itself (below the catwalk ) isn’t the safest one. The recent hot temperatures melted a lot of ice, exposing the river. It’s not difficult to slip and fall in. There is plenty ice falling from above (as it normally does when one climbs) – obviously none of these non-climbers wore helmets or crampons. It is not easy for an accident… And once one happen it is usually us, the climbers who suffer the access restriction consequences…

Tourists are pouring in through the fences.

Going back to climbing and the crag itself – there are 2 main walls/sections – on the climbers left – really tall (need 70 or 80m rope if you want to abseil in 1 go) icicles – some of them connected, creating big pillars, some free hanging, some already broken off. Lines there go to WI5 difficulty.

Left hand side – Need long ropes.

Since we only taken Lar’s 60m Volta rope, we confined ourselves to the right hand side area – that also offered nice climbing lines. I’d say up to WI4 in difficulty (but also plenty of WI3 and 2 options – the more right you went, the easier it got).

Right hand side. 60m single rope will suffice. Some random people runnig laps.

We setup a TR on the left side pillar and climbed it in every way possible (up and down, many times) – trying to avoid the hooked out middle. The climbing line itself is around 22m, and ends with tree belays.

The left pillar is steeper than it looks and it gave a nice workout. It felt like and outdoors sport crag indeed!

It was a worthy bonus day. Risk free excursion to swing some axes on a sunny day. Can’t complain!

While conditions didn’t really allowed to explore some more interesting areas (Weeping Wall, The Ghost), bearing in mind the limited leading resources we had on that trip (we missed you Del!) the trip was a success. Everyone seems to achieve the goals they had in mind  (some had to lower their expectations given the circumstances) and most importantly, we are still talking to one another 😉

Tomorrow we are flying back to Dublin and while there won’t be more climb descriptions from this particular area, I’ll keep writing  for some weeks to come about some other interesting aspects of a 2 weeks ice climbing trip (some gear reviews, some video material I haven’t had time to process yet).

In the mean time the rock climbing season will roll in, so new adventures time!


Canada 2017 climbing my travels

Carnage on the slopes.

Since our climbing have come to an end (avalanche is still high/high/high), but we still have few days to spare, we decided to give skiing a try.

The last time I had skies on must have been 2011, so by no means I know how to ski. I did get few hours of lessons back then I learned how to stop (plow FTW) and maybe turn. It’s been a while though. Lar is in similar situation, doing only few days of it in his life. PG is at least intermediate skier, having done it for up to few months at time during his time in the Alps.

Upon doing some research we opted up for Norquay ski area in Banff.

Norquay map

It is close by and reasonably priced (working out for total of  ~70euro for 1/2 day pass [12 to 4pm) incl gear rental.

I must say that facility is pretty well organized. Staff is professional, well informed and very friendly. It took no more than 30 mins to equip us with gear and we were ready to hit that lift in our fashionable climbing clothing & helmets.

Going up the lift.

And it was a mistake… Should have started with baby slope area and make sure that I actually remembered the necessary skills (most importantly how to stop).

The first 30 minutes were a real eye opener.  I fell at least 3 times on first 30 meters. So have Lar. The difference was I was actually able to get up and continue, while he twisted his knee in such a way that he couldn’t really continue (he’s ok, just  a bit sore).

I must say that I initially definitely overestimated my ability to be in control, but it only got better with time. As I acquainted myself with the ground few more times trying to remember what I was doing, PG went to explore the area a bit more, while Lar confined himself to the ‘magic carpet’ practice area.


PG & Piste 18 in the background, with the lift to the right.

After a while though I was back into my old skill-set of being in control and could enjoy doing laps. It was never more than going quite slowly in full plow stance, occasionally turning, but I enjoyed it.

Enjoying the ski time!

We actually shot few short videos, so when I got more time I’ll stitch them into some sort of comprehensible video. Watch this space.

Canada 2017 my travels

Broken promises.

According to all weather forecasts it was supposed to be mild, but not to warm (for Canadian standards) today. We conceived a plan to follow Icefield Parkway up north, all the way down to Weeping Wall and see what’s up there. It’a long drive (for our standards), almost 200 km one way, so we packed enough supplies in case we decided to stay overnight.

Unfortunately we woke up to 20 cm of fresh snow… They all lied. Damn you weather people!  That pretty much guaranteed that the road will be un-accessible. We decided to go as far as Lake Louise and decide then.

The HW1 just before Banff.

The moment we joined the highway it was clear that it will be a Lake Louise only drive. We pulled over for a quick cup of coffee and voted to stay and do the Lake Louise Falls again. The route we have already done last week (at -15C then) was in quite heavily snowed in condition, but definitely by far the safest one around. It was also much warmer this time round, with temp around 0C.

There were 2 main concerns regarding climbing it today – some snow accumulation on the trees above, that potentially could swipe a leader out, and the descent gully, that was definitely out of bounds today.

The mountain across the lake is very avalanche prone, but as long as u keep to the right hand side of the lake (away from the danger zone, as the signage suggests),  you should be ok.

As a matter of fact the avalanche came down there just before we arrived. One of the guides from Rockies Ice and Alpine Specialists Inc. who was on the climb before us managed to capture the glimpse of it on video. You can check it out here. For reference he was in the ‘cave’ (pitch 3) when shooting  the video. What you see is the snow& derbies ‘bouncing ‘off the lake and going back up towards him.

Avalanche across Louise Falls climb, just before we arrived. Credit:

Anyhow by the time we arrived to the base it was all settled and I quickly racked up and claimed pitch 1. Since we’ve already done the middle line (5 days ago) as well as right line (last year) – I choose the left one. As I already mentioned it was pretty snowed in (the base of it had knees deep snow, with loads of snow on the route itself), but it was still a lot of fun!

Me on P1

I ran it some 30m to tree belay on the left. The boys followed.

Lar grabbed the 2nd, even more snow covered pitch. Not much fun when you don’t know what you are climbing on. He disappeared  behind the rock feature pretty quickly and took a while to find some decent ice to setup a belay. As it turned out later there was another tree belay just 5m above. Can’t blame him though – it was covered in snow. The other option was to run it out to the left hand side cave entrance, but I guess after we gave out to him last time for running out a pitch he wasn’t going to go through that again.

Lar on P2.

We quickly caught up as soon as the ropes went tight. Quick swap-over and I was on the sharp end again getting us to the cave (left hand side entrance).

It was there where the game really started. The crux pitch. Steep as they get. PG wasn’t overly excited, but he delivered, as usual a stellar performance all the way to the top tree belay.

PG on P4

By that time it was heavily snowing again. I went out first and Lar followed shortly after. I must say though that the traverse out on steep ice in low visibility is quite intimidating (and I was on a TR!).

We all made it ok to the top and 2 quick abseils got us to the base. Normally climbers walk off to the climber’s right via a snow gully, but as I said before,  there was so much snow that i would have been unsafe.

Lar on the way down.

Unfortunately the forecast are still not favorable, with most climbs we wanted to do not accessible,  with either closed roads or high avalanche danger. This pretty much means our ice climbing adventure has come to and end prematurely (with 3 days to spare, we are flying back to Dublin on Monday, 20th).

Looks like we will try go skiing tomorrow, which for me, personally is much more dangerous and terrifying than what we normally do…

Canada 2017 my travels

The crux is to leave the car…

…especially on a day like today. +5C and Irish rain. Weather that guarantees that no climb would be fun. Kind of a bummer, especially that yesterday we took a day off climbing.

Let me start from yesterday then. We drove to neighboring Banff to walk around town, do some shopping and visit Banff Hot Springs.


It’a place that we’ve already visited last year, but it’s always nice to come back. Lar never been to any hot springs before, so that’s added bonus for him. 8 CAD also sounds inviting. It’s a pity it was pretty warm (+5C), as it is much better to sit at 39C water when air temp.

After that we did a round in Banff’s climbing/gear stores, where PG picked up 2 very important things – a new, blue, Del style baseball cap, and the rarest find of them all Sean Isaac’s Mixed Climbing book. These go for 200+ dollars on amazon, PG was lucky to find one of few remaining copies for mere 25 CAD. I don’t think the store knew what they were selling. Needles to say I’ve never seen PG that happy.

Happy Puppy!

Today’s plan wasn’t complex – get up and try to find something with easy access and reasonably sheltered from the rain.

The choice was simple: Tokkum Pole in Marble Canyon. A 35m tall, WI5/5+ piece of ice. A real treat for adventure enthusiasts. Some of it’s interesting features:

  • Grade – Always in minimum WI5 condition
  • Access – short walking, abseil to the bottom of the Canyon to start (good anchors)
  • Mixed finish – last 5-6 meters is at M4 over rock (no ice).
  • Some years it doesn’t touch the ground (it have this year), so M5-6 start!
  • Very claustrophobic and intimidating, as there isn’t much space at the bottom.
  • Committing – there is no easy way out – you either climb the rope or the ice.
The climb as seen from the bottom of the canyon.
The climb from the top (with PG abseiling)

We’ve setup a single rope abseil, to make sure it reaches the ground (60m rope would be to short) and opted to belay from the top. It’s more complicated to rig, but worked better with the gear we had.

PG went down first -It was quite clear that we won’t come out of there dry – not only it was pouring rain all the time, but the climb itself was quite wet (especially on it’s right hand side line).

Relaxed PG, with me getting ready to abseil.

At this point Lar was sure he was going to take a different, equally important role, that of a photographer. He didn’t really feel like going down, and I can’t blame him. With the sound of avalanches coming down from the mountain behind our backs, the place was quite terrifying. Fun, but scary (100% safe imho, but that is something everyone have to asses on their own).

Me by the end of the steep part shaking it off.

In those rainy conditions we knew we wouldn’t lead it today. As a matter of fact I had enough after only one lap (most people run multiple, and I’m sure if it wasn’t raining we would as well). It’s a great workout and there are multiple lines to take (PG actually went twice, once on the left, once on the right).

I got to say I really enjoyed it. Especially the mixed finish – I never stuck my tools in anything else than ice or snow before.

Mixing it up!

To summarize: even though we didn’t do that much climbing it was fairly lightweight day. Definitely an adventure to remember!

Tomorrow we are planning on going ‘far’ north (some 200km, towards Ramparts Creek) in search of colder weather, good ice and avalanche conditions better than here.



Canada 2017 my travels

David Thompson Highway – 2 o’clock falls

Today we left Lake Louise. We decided to take advantage of recent thaw and try getting a bit more north.

We got up exceptionally early, packed everything up, had a quick breakfast at local eatery and hit Icefields Pkwy (Route 91) north and then turn east onto David Thompson Highway (Highway 11), to get to “2 o’clock falls”, a rather easy multipitch WI3 fall. The whole journey took no more than 90 minutes, mainly due to the fact that the road was much better condition than yesterday.

The road is named after David Thompson, a famous fur trader and explorer. I recommend reading about him more here.

The whole David Thompson Area is amazing. A really stunning views, just the road and the mountains. No houses, no people, no nothing. Pure nature.


The ice climb itself was perfect for what we need, nice and quick,  as once we were done with it, it was a long drive back to Canmore.

The approach to the climb is pretty straight forward:

Park at the “Siffleur Falls Trail Staging Area” (some 25km from Icefields Pkw turnoff) parking lot on the east side of the highway.  From there cross the road. The waterfall is visible from there already. Go along the road for few hundred meters until you see the gate. Follow the path until you get into the woods. The path leads uphill to the base of the climb. The walk shouldn’t take more than 40minutes.

There is a gated road that you will walk up. The land on the West side of the highway is a traditional Native People Area, so be sure to be respectful. These are seen as color cloth market wooden mini structures. Kind of difficult to describe, but you know them once you see them.

Native structure on the right. You can see plenty of these. Better left alone.

The climb itself is pretty straight forward. There are at least 4 lines, in 3 distinctive curtains of ice, around 30m each. The easiest seems to be to climber’s left. There was a clear sound of a lot of running water coming from the steeper, right hand side, so we used it as an excuse to stay away from it.

Lar getting ready to lead P1

Lar, as it seems to be a norm recently run out the P1 for 60m (essentially combining P1&2). He seems to be so excited when leading, that he just forgets to stop 😉 Can’t blame him though. We all go much better at it after 10 days!

Lar running it out.


When we caught up, I lead a very mediocre last part…

Me going at it yet again.

Some 15m of easy terrain, followed by some 20m more of rambling steps to a tree belay at the top.

Lar and PG waiting at the top for me to finish the 1st abseil.

We quickly setup an abseil of said tree, and I went down first to build another one (the tree at the level where Lar belay from had only single piece of webbing with no ring). The guys followed down.

Backing up the abseil station.

That was good enough to take us to the ground.

The scenery as seen from the climb’s entrance point.

We quickly packed up, walked back to the car and drove off towards Canmore. Due to +7c temperature, roads were black and we were able to complete the journey in only 2 hours.

Tomorrow day off. Got to do some shopping and rest properly as on Wed we’ll attempt to visit Ghost Wilderness Area.




Canada 2017 my travels

Due North, but actually West.

After rather late start today (aided by the time change last night, the clock went an hour forward) we followed the plan setup yesterday and got on Route 93, up north, towards Jasper, and to take, after some 100km, David Thompson Hwy. Along that route, some 25km from the turn there supposed to be some nice climbing.

Long tough drive on its own. However, after just few km it was clear that we won’t be able to travel efficiently there. The road was in terrible condition, covered with snow and ice. Seems like it wasn’t plowed in a while.

Without chains we’d risk getting stuck (unfortunately car rental place didn’t have an option to add chains. Our attempts to acquire them in Canmore last week were also unsuccessful. Even our extra expensive road side assistance would be no good here, as that far north there is barely any mobile coverage.

After few km we decided to execute plan B – go back and turn west back to Kicking Horse Canyon. There was another piece of ice just few hundred meters down from where we were yesterday. Upon closer research yesterday we’ve discovered that it must be the Riverview (making our yesterday’s climb on Pretty Nuts wall).

This was mostly because today’s climbing access description matched what we’ve seen – Park on the side of the motorway some 1.5h past Kicking Horse Rest Area, walk down under the bridge and follow the railway tracks for some 200m. Then walk up 50m snow slope to the base of the climb.

Lar looking up the climb. Bridge walk off and the tracks in the background.

PG actually dropped us of just at the bridge walk off and went to park the car. That allowed us to get head start and make up some time.


Just a note on access – technically it is illegal to access that climb, since walking along the tracks is considered trespassing on Rail Canada property. Fortunately there is unwritten understanding between two parties and so far everyone has been happy. Just be careful not to trigger avalanche triggers Rail Canada has setup in that area, and obviously don’t get run over by a train!

Lar on P1

By the time PG joined us Lar was 1/3rd up of pitch one. He chose the middle lane, not the easiest by any means. Definitely a solid WI4 grade.  On top of that it turned out to be 60m long (although in my opinion, since he was belaying of screws anyway,  it was perfectly fine to belay at 40m, where communication was still possible). PG and I promptly followed. Since I was on leader’s right rope I got to undo all (but 1) screws on the way up. So hard work with many stops.

Me following P1.

I must say that when we arrived to the belay station,  despite only 2 layers of clothing on, I was wet from sweat. Temperatures on this south facing climb was definitely around 0C.

P2 was my time to lead. Fun aspects of swapping leads I guess!

Lead swap for P2, and off I go!

It was definitely much easier (WI3), but not much shorter line with fun start, but pretty rotten top part.

Me on the sharp end of the rope up on P2.

By the time I run some 35m there were few options to take. I could go around melted pillar to a tree belay on the right, some 10-12m to the right, or belay of screws to the left. Since I got only 1 left I decided to go for fixed belay on the right. It actually required some sketchy traversing over rocks and ground, since the entire right side was gone. At the time I thought that to be the best option, however it didn’t really turned out that way. More about it later.

Once I established tree belay (that doubled for abseil station) PG and Lar followed.


On the way up PG noticed that left hand side is actually in a pretty good shape and could make nice 3rd pitch.

That meant we’d have to traverse some 20m on very dodgy looking terrain.

P2 top-out. Note the missing ice. To access P3 , we had traverse back to the climber’s left.
PG finishing the traverse. Highway and rail tracks in the background.

P3 was definitely the steepest of all, but a bit shorter. PG took the rope for that and lead to a tree belay at the top. Unfortunately there is no picture of the ice itself, just Lar and I topping it out.

Lar and I topping out P3.

Going down was a bit of a chore, as the 60m from the top would take us to end of P1, which doesn’t really feature abseiling station. There is a tree to climber’s left, but it’s immediately over sharp rock – not ideal for 8.1mm ropes.

We’ve decided to build double, equalized Abalakov’s, backed up with an ice-screw, which I went off of first (as the heaviest of the bunch).


Lar went second and PG 3rd (without a backup) – after all he built it 😉

Quick walk back to the car and we were ready to fire up the old JETBOIL! Ah yeah, nothing better than a fresh brew at the end of the day.

Unfortunately PG noticed that one of his (or maybe it was Del’s?)  ice tools head became loose. A bummer, but apparently a common occurrence. Not to worry though, he already found a new, better use for it.


Canada 2017 my travels

Due West – Kicking Horse Canyon Ice Climbing

Since we are in Lake Louise it makes sense for us to explore areas that are normally difficult to access (long drive) from Canmore.

Today we’ve chosen to go towards couple of climbs near Golden, BC. It is a very small village west of Lake Louise, but is offering some fine lines.

The morning welcomed us with a standard -14C, but as the day progressed, and we kept moving the temperature raised significantly. It must have been near 0C when we started climbing.

We made a quick pit stop at Visitor Centre in Golden and moved towards the climbs from there.


It was a new area for us (never been there before), hence it was quite disorientating which climb is which. We ended up (as correctly suspected) on a wall with a series of lines called Kicking Horse Canyon, offering climbs in 3 to 4+ range.


This is a road side climb, making it one of the easiest accessible climbs in the entire Rockies. Park some 1km past the climb, on the left hand side of the motorway (there is a clear pull out), and walk back, passing massive avalanche control concrete wall. Cross the road (be careful, loads of cars!), ascend small snow slope and you are there.

Walking towards the climb. Car is park some 700m behind me. Big avy control wall to the left.

I initially picked the line left of the dirty ice in the middle, but after climbing a short while on it’s steeper part I realized my ropes were twisted, backed off a little, fixed the ropes, and opted for what seems easier (still in WI3 range) line to the left.

Me on P1.

The whole thing was 65m long to a tree belay (I didn’t know that at the time), and when I was up some 30m, and down to 4 screws I’ve decided to build a hanging belay and bring the boys up.

By the time I brought them, the sun was roasting us (and the ice!), so PG took over and rushed to a more solid, tree belay 35m above us. We promptly followed side by side.

Pitch 3 was a massive, steep pillar. PG territory. From what I’ve seen it was quite tricky to protect, but it has never been problem before to our strongest team member.

He lead it with grace, leaving dust and flying ice chunks behind.

PG on P3

There is a short, less steep section above the pillar, leading to another tree belay at the top. Some 40m altogether.

I followed second, with Lar going 3rd. No side by side this time.

Me following P3.

I must say that sometimes I more enjoy seconding technically harder, physically more challenging vertical climbs, than leading on my own on relatively easier terrain. I guess that’s just how the head game works…

Victory photo at the top.

Two quick tree abseils will take you to the base. Be careful on the second, as two 60m ropes take you there with 0m spares. The knots barely touch the ground (so make sure you have them!)

Lar on 2nd abseil

Tomorrow we will explore some more new areas, but more about it, tomorrow 😉


I’m sorry for low resolution photos today. The wifi is pretty poor here in Lake Louise, so uploading HI-Res either fails, or just takes forever.

Canada 2017 my travels

Jeez Louise!

This year we’ve decided to skip the long drives north and have relocated (at least for few days) to HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre in Lake Louise. Since we didn’t want to waste a day just for relocation, we decided to pack everything the night before, drive directly to Lake Louise Falls, climb it and then check in to our new place of stay.

It was yet another super cold morning, at -20C at 9am and no sign of warming up. I got to say that cold weather can take a lot out of a man.

Anyway – the drive from Canmore to LL is around an hour, but in those bad conditions it took as a bit longer.

Driving up in cold. It would remain around -20C all day…

The climb itself is a local mega-classic, and can be done in many different configurations. The crux would be the pitch out of the cave, touching on WI5. Other than that it is between WI3 and 4 on lower pitches, depending on chosen line.

Again, it would be a 2nd time for PG and myself, so we knew exactly what to expect:

Looking up at Lake Louise Falls.

When we arrived to the bottom of the slope, Lar and I decided to start walking up to the base of the ice, rack up and just start climbing.

When we got there, there was already one team on the easiest, most left line, and another pair getting ready to start on 2nd easiest – most right route. I decided to lead the first pitch and  go middle right. A solid WI3+ (in my opinion) pitch.

Me on P1.

I have finished it with ice screw belay just left of the rock feature, leaving what would be pitch 2 leading to the steep ice under the cave to Lar.

To be honest this is where the game began, and PG stepped in taking us to the cave on a short, but tricky lead, that required some interesting technique.


The cave via its main hole is a must do for us at this point (you can also enter from the side, but is not as exciting).

From the cave there are 2 options – you either run it out in one 50m pitch to the tree belay at the top, or break it down in 30+20 (where the 30 takes u to the ledge above the cave, as we’ve done it last year). PG didn’t take any prisoners on this one, and run it out to the top on mere 4 screws.

PG leaving the cave.

This year the cave is so fat that it is very difficult to get a good photo of anything from the inside, but the exposure is just unreal. Fair play to PG for that lead. This definitely was touching WI5 shape.

In the cave.

I left the cave 2nd and clipped the bolts above the tree belay few minutes later. Lar finished the climb with a serious case of hot aches, of which I have hilarious video, which I’ll release at later date.

Taking the middle or right line makes it quite straight forward to get down, as instead of abseiling you can walk off on the gully to climbers right.

It was a good day out, even though it was super cold all day. By the time we got to the car it was still -14C. But as usual, it was worth it.

Quick drive from the climb car park took us to the hostel, where we promptly checked in. We still are undecided how long we want to stay in Lake Louise (initially booked in for 3 nights). I guess it will all clear up in coming day or 2.

Canada 2017 my travels

Day off. So let’s talk about The Professor Falls!

This is another of series of Rockies classic ice climbs. A must do for all that come here. It was the second time for us, having done it on last year’s trip. But as it very often is with ice climbs, it doesn’t mean it will climb the same. As a matter of fact most of the pitches were in very different condition comparing to 2016. But more about it later.

We got up early (not quite alpine style, but good enough for PG’s standards ;)) and hit the road towards Banff almost straight away.

The climb itself has quite a long approach (by the Norway standards we got used to in Rjukan) – over 7km with 12kg in our backpaks and almost -20C outside isn’t easiest of the days.

metrics captured by Strava app via gps in my phone.

It might not look at it, but I must say though that despite the cold I actually enjoyed the walk.

Yours truly on the 2nd km of the approach to the climb

Around 1/3 of it is via well maintained road, the rest via trail in the woods (to the base of the climb)


It did make the climbing difficult – Ice at -20C is not the best medium. Not only the ice is super hard, but everything freezes instantly. The biggest problem being frozen ice inside the screws almost impossible to get it out.

Add hot aches in the hands, and it can really take out much out of you. I experienced it first hand (no pun intended) at the end of first pitch. For those few minutes I really felt bad. No words can describe it. You have experience it yourself to understand.

The climb itself is around 250m and can be dived to  between 5 to 7 pitches, with some walking between them (no hanging belays). Some of the section are often climbed together (joined), hence the different configurations.

The Professor Falls from the bottom of the drainage path. Up above the rest of Mount Rundle.


PG led  the first two pitches. They’d be in prime WI4 shape.

PG on the first, WI4 pitch…


… and 2nd pitch. Also WI4

After that there was a small WI3 step, that normally is run a part of previous pitch, but we decided to pitch it separately. Lar grabbed the rope for this one.


That leads to what we call the ‘tunnel pitch’. Last year it has a huge free hanging icicle on it’s left hand side, making you to climb under it, in a tunnel of a sort. This year that feature wasn’t formed, and it was just a normal WI4, that PG very much enjoyed.

The unofficial ‘tunnel pitch’

Next it was my turn to grab the sharp end of the rope. It was bit easier than previous long parts, so within my capabilities of leading ice (up to 3+).



While Lar and I swapped leads for another section, which was of similar difficulty, PG enjoyed coffee and cigarettes.

Lar leading his personal crux pitch.
PG’s personal coffee/belay station.

I don’t remember the second last pitch being there last year, but since it was, I grabbed the lead again. At this point, we still haven’t seen the top, crux pitch, and having known potential avalanche danger above it we still didn’t know if we wanted to do it.


But once I got over that short section and seen the majestic, almost untouched piece of ice some 200m ahead of me, there was no turning back!


It was in much better condition than last year. PG run it like there was no tomorrow, with Lar and I following side by side – just like we have done for all the other pitches. I must say that with a team of 3, this is a major boost to efficiency. There is no way you can be efficient without utilizing side-by-side seconding.

Once a the top we didn’t waste time and run series of abseil to the base.


It was obvious we will be walking back in dark, but with the almost full moon behind our back that only gave me an extra boost.

It was a very long, tiring and above most cold day. Totally worth it though! 5/5

Today we are taking a break. We got to re-supply, dry the gear (absolutely everything we brought home was frozen solid) and get ready to relocate to Lake Louise tomorrow (where we’ll be staying for the weekend).