…but need some rest after 12h out on a climb at -17C.
Today we did The Professor falls but i’ll write all about it tomorrow, on our day off. Here it is though: seen in all its glory from the approach path, the whole 260m of ice.
or as PG calls it – a day off.
Indeed it was rather a lazy day. We haven’t left Canmore until almost 11am. Mostly because we had to resolve our rope shortage problem. Lar picked up new Petzl volta 60m dry rope at Vallhalla Pure – the local gear shop.
Haffner Creempis just few km north of Banff – some 1h drive from Canmore. We actually visited it last year so knew what to expectws.It’s pretty straight forward 10m walk from the car park, featuring few 20m pillars and some bolted mixes routes. This makes it very popular place for guided groups as well as dry tooling enthusiasts.
I actually didn’t have a chance yet to copy all the photos together and I might just leave it at that for now. We only did laps on 2 of the pillars for few hours. It was mostly hooked up, steep ice, so it resembled a gym day more than ice climbing outing ;).
I shot couple of videos that give theidea of what the place feels like and perhaps I’ll stich them together on a day off as it is quite a pretty spot.
For now click on the link below photo to see one of those short clips.
Tomorrow we are back to nultipitch fall climbing. A very famous, national classic – 260m WI4 The Professor Falls (also previously climbed by us [last year]). Long day ahead tomorrow…
Today welcomed us with a nice -24C outside, burned scrambled eggs and amazing blue, sunny sky. It was going to be a great day!
The area of choice was our last year’s favorite Evans-Thomas Creek. As a matter of fact today is exactly a year, to a day since we were in that place (with ol’ good Del). It was the very first place visited on last year’s trip. Oh how things have changed though!
Below: “Derek’s lost turn” aka – lost in the woods – aka – TURN HERE!!
For starters this time we didn’t get lost in the woods (as per picture above), the temperatures were much lower (-24C vs -4C or so in 2016) and we actually were so efficient enough to do climbs (6 pitches for total 200m)- Chantilly Falls 100 m II, WI 2 (we actually ran the 2nd pitch twice, with different lines, the hardest one being a solid WI3+/4) (more about it below).
And then of course the main dish – Moonlight 110m III, WI 4 -adventure climb that is made of 3 pitches (but can be run in 2, and it’s how we did it). It also didn’t resembled it’s guidebook description. Again – More about it below.
One thing for sure – walking in in Canadian Rockies are amazing. This was another super special, just over 3.5km to the first climb, via great trail in full sunshine. Despite the freezing temperatures, could have gone out in a t-shirt!
Above & below – the trail in full sun!
Our first target, previously mentioned Chantilly Falls – named for the often lacy appearance of the ice. It’s rather easy and serves as a nice warm-up. Seen here, on the picture below.
I lead the first, quite easy pitch, then Lar did the 2nd part taking the right hand line. We then abseiled some 40m, to do the 2nd pitch again, this time its left hand side, WI3+/4 lead by PG.
Below: Lar on the 2nd pitch. Note that Andy Kirkpatrick-esque solution for flared pants ( duct tape that is.)
Below: PG on the same pitch, but it’s left hand side.
Once we were back on the ground it was only 1.30pm, so we went further down the path to check out Moonlight – it was only 10 minutes more walk up the frozen stream.
We got lucky, as one group just finished it, and another approaching the top. We were clear to go!
It was definitely much thinner than last year. Here it is below in its current condition.
And below picture from exactly 1 year ago (Moonlight is the most left line):
This year not only the cave isn’t fully formed, but also the ice was much thinner. He actually lead both pitches – both for efficiency and the safety reasons – he is just in a different league than us.
Our (Lar and mine that is) goal was to be as efficient as possible, without compromising safety, so we climbed side by side as much as possible, not without some ‘collateral damage’ here and there (ie. flying ice here and there).
PG ran the climb in 2 pitches – Ground to the cave – wafer thin 50m, and then cave out to the top (in 2 pitches lead together, but broken down by snow ledge) to a tree belay (55m).
There was a ‘nice’ surprise for him though past the snow ledge above the cave- the 3rd pitch supposed to be nice and easy WI3/4. This year it somehow formed more resembling WI4+. (see below, photo taken during abseil). That wasn’t looking like I remembered it from 2016.
To get down we abseiled back to the cave (bolted belay), and then to the ground.
It took us only just over 3h down-up-down, which is a very good time – considering the condition the route was in. With big smiles on our faces we head back to the car ready to go back to Bear Hostel we are staying in.
It is actually the same place we stayed in last year, and funnily enough we met one of the climbers that was here same time last year – 68 years old Japanese lady named Mariko, who climbs like there is no tomorrow having just scaled Polar Circus 2 days ago!
She is actually going back to Tokyo in 3 days, having been here in Canada for last 2 weeks. Who knows, maybe next time we see her in Japan on some of their classic lines?
Climbing conditions in many places are still not favorable, and at places straight up dangerous (due to heavy snow), so since we still have plenty of time to go to places of interested that aren’t accessible at this time we have decided to do another cragging day in easy access and safe environment place.
We’ve settled on Bear Spirit, a WI3-4 just north of Banff, it was definitely meant to be a step up from yesterday. It offers some nice WI4 lines, with very accessible TR setups. The approach is very nice, 4.2KM of uphill battle (around 400m elevation gain) along a drainage in a beautiful mountain surroundings.
It was a very cold morning, -16C at 8am, and it wasn’t getting warmer by the time we made it to our destination. Definitely a big change from last year, where it was mild temperatures for almost all of our stay.
We actually arrived pretty late, having hit very heavy traffic (broken bus shutdown entire lane of traffic) just outside Banff, then we missed our exit, had to turn around and go through the traffic again.
Because of very easy access to the top (for setting up top ropes) the place unfortunately suffers from heavy climbing traffic. There can be anywhere from 10 to 30 people climbing on as many as 6 or 7 ropes (I counted 17 today on 5 ropes). That can mean hooked out ice, making it difficult to protect if you choose to lead it.
Below: the main curtain of Bear Spirit:
Lar learned it first hand, having attempted to lead a line on the right hand side of the curtain, and backing off after 3 meters after he realized he won’t be able to place any pro until at least 9 or 10m. It was a good test of character and fair play to him for staying on the safe side.
Below: Lar trying to find screw placement:
After that we’ve decided to take out the good ol’ single rope that Lar brought, setup a TR and do laps ourselves. By the time we got to do it, it got very busy, so there was really only 1 line left on the very left of the curtain.
Below: busy busy busy
After we did a lap each , the rope froze up pretty severely, to a point it was very difficult to belay (technically it was obvious that it will be a problem from the moment the rope touched the ground). It was clear that over the years the rope has lost all of it’s waterproof capabilities. It’s a bit of a problem now, as we are left with 2 ice lines only. Looks like buying a new 60m single is inevitable, if we want to do some other single pitch/cragging/dry tooling later on during that trip.
Luckily to us the owner of the rope next to ours let us it as they were taking a break. I managed to sneak in 2 quick laps on steep ice practicing my still middling technique, before we had to turn it back to them. Below: happy camper after few laps.
In the mean time Lar went back to retrieve what now can only be described as 60 meters, 20mm thick icicle, which now weighed almost 6kg.
Below: well, self-explanatory
It was a decent day, mostly saved by the really nice approach. We didn’t do much climbing, mostly due to ‘technical difficulties’ described above, but then – there is still plenty ahead of us.
It’s been almost a year since I swung axes the last time. It’s been 2 for Lar. It was an easy choice then to pick Grotto Falls as our today’s destination. Trip to a place like that (it essentially is a 2pitch, 50m WI2/3+ cragging area) gave us a chance to refresh some of the essential winter skills, but also test out some new packing and layering sytems
With bags already packed (mostly) the previous night we got up at 7am, rushed to an eggs&bacon place across the street and hit the road.
The forecast had snow for most of the day (which made a decision to go to Grotto Falls even easier (it has no avalanche danger).
These conditions meant slow driving speed but also added a Scottish Winter feel in March. Our last year’s it was definitely more mild, springy feel to it – with higher temperatures and almost no precipitation. This year is all winter.
The walking in was nice and short. The canyon looks really amazing and is a very popular hiking spot for the masses.
At the end of the canyon the first thing you see are ‘majestic’ His(left) & Hers(right) falls – unfortunately upon closer inspections they weren’t in condition anymore. His was only supported by thin, cracked 2m off the ground pillar, Hers was mostly rotten.
We quickly turned right and walked up to the actual climb and just started to do laps.
1st round was me leading 1st pitch from the left, steeper side, with Lar leading the 2nd pitch, shorter pitch.
Below: me going at 1st pitch.
Below: Lar leading 2nd pitch.
After that PG did both 2 pitches in 1 go, but utilized the left wall by the top (it’s the section to Lar’s left on above picture) – definitely the most challenging part on this generally easy ground. Lar and I climbed side by side behind.
Above: PG just before the crux part.
After that I did the whole thing in 1 go ground up – this time going on the super right side. PG and Lar followed.
Below: me going at it again.
At this point more climbers started to show up so we decided to go down, pack and head back to Canmore. Below: PG and Lar by His&Hers.
First point of order – Elk Burger at Hogs Head – a tradition at this point ;).
A bit of faffing around town, visit to local climbing store for some last minute supplies (Lar was short on gloves, PG got another Laser Speed ice screw – I got a book).
I guess today’s day showed us that when it comes to ice climbing there is always room for improvement. One can never be sure that everything will be ok The sport is very rewarding, but also can be quite challenging and is always very serious. A small mistake can have serious consequences. Even the most experience people can get into big trouble, even on (relatively) easy ground.
Personally I was happy that I was able to jump straight in on the sharp end of the rope (even though the climb was uncomfortably easier than was PG normally climbs). Last year it took me a week of following the guys to start leading on easy ground on my own.
That doesn’t mean though that I’ll be jumping on harder routes straight away. As a matter of fact I’m happy with what I do now. We’ll see how it goes.
As for the next few days – it’s been snowing heavily, and a lot of places we wanted to visit are either inaccessible, under heavy avalanche danger or both. Luckily there are other places, and with a bit of research we won’t be pushing our luck.
Not really. The fact that Derek isn’t with us in the Rockies this year changes a lot. for starters we won’t have 2 pairs of climbers.
Anyhow. We arrived to Calgary quite on schedule (via Heathrow). I must say that this is much better connection than Toronto (although flight is over 9h long).
The Dreamliner is a very modern and pleasent aircraft to be in, so the time flew by.
On top of that PG and I turned Derek’s empty seat into entertainment centre and off we went.
Upon arrival we picked up the car. It was meant to be bigger than last year’s RAV4 but im not so sure (Its some sort of GMC).
Before heading to Canmore we visited Calgary’s biggest outdoor store in search for some last bits and pieces.
Somehow they didnt have anything we wanted (tiblocks, petzl screws, maps of The Front Ranges). Although PG managed to pick up nice new Pataguvci soft-shell.
The drive to Canmore (again staying in Beat hostel, although our old friend Grant soesnr work here anymore)just 75mins so we were there before 8pm. Now we are all after dinner and packed for tomorrows first adventure.
As I writr these words its been 24h sincr i got up so time to bed!