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my travels Scotland 2018

Scotland Day 3 – Buachaille Etive Mòr Mountain, Return home

Buachaille Etive Mòr Mountain near Glencoe was the place we chosen to climb on yesterday. Standing just over 1000m tall it provides climbing and walking  routes for all.
After very exhausting previous  day on the Ben we have decided to pick an easier option of Curved Ridge (II/III 3) that gave a pleasant experience in truly amazing setting.
40min drive from Fort William, roadside parking and easy approach on a much calmer, but still cold day made both of us happy.
Our objective ahead of us
On the approach we have met 2other parties, which always makes it easier in terms of route finding by using their steps (albeit you can’t just blindly follow others!).
Our route – nr 14
The route itself was rather easy,  started by couple hundred of snow gullies climbing (with one easy ice pitch) and then one mixed move onto a rocky ridge. We soloed all of it and when we roped up we realized that we were actually past the Crux already.
At the ‘crux’
Another couple hundred meters of easy snow climbing and we were at the windy top.
Victory photo
The descent is rather tricky to find. Generally it was meant to be an easy walk around.
To the descent gully (on the right).
We opted however to follow our companions and go down a massive gully through a  break in the cornice.
The local Scottish guys paving the road down.
5hours  car to car for 700m elevation gain was pretty good time. We were home by 3pm.
Long but pleasant walk to the car. The ridge seen above is how we got down.
Unfortunately today marks end of our short trip. Pity, as the weather just gotten very good. There is zero clouds and full on sun today. If not for the fact that I’m pretty busy at work and can’t really afford extending this stay I’d definitely would be up for few more days.
One of the stop overs on the way to the ferry. Clear skies are so rare in the highlands.

Since our ferry wasn’t until 3.30pm we decided to stop few times on the drive back. First stop was by Buachaille and took couple of aerial shots of the mountain and it’s surroundings, results of which you can  see below. I have more interesting shots, just dont have time to put them together yet. I’ll come up with some nicer, more refined cut soon.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaDORY5Y-cQ[/embedyt]

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my travels Scotland 2018

Scotland day 2 – Ben Nevis Green Gully

The most famous, the most sought after, the most bad ass, the most scarry and allso the highest mountain in all of Great Britain. Here we come! All of the bellow happened yesterday, on Paddy’s day 2018. A tradition by now, when on this day we go out and climb some ice.

After the  previous days fail, we decided to use all of the energy and enthusiasm we have for a proper alpine day out on the Ben.

I actually don’t have that much experience in tackling massive objectives like that, particularly not in the winter setting, so I was quite excited to be able to go out on an adventure with much more experience Del.

We got up just after 4am and by 5 we leftthe B&B we are staying at in Fort William.

It’s only a short drive, so by 5.15 am we were at the trail towards the CIC hut. For those lucky enough that get a bed there (people book it as far as 6months ahead), it’s a major win. The rest of us have to walk… And it’s a long a terrible walk. Especially when the conditions are not great (so almost always).

The CIC hut

The walk itself is long. And steep. And on this particular morning it was super windy, with gusts going as fast as 100km/h. It took us over 2.5h to get to the hut  (it’s only a short stop to gear up, non guests aren’t alloeed inside).

It was so windy that when I put my bag down it immediately tumbled away. 13kg….

The wind chill made the -7C feel like -15C. Taking the glowed off to tie down the crampons wasn’t an option.

It was actually difficult to decide if we should set off at all. The forecast had it wind and cold, but it was meant to calm down as the say progressed. It did not.

Either way, as all of the parties around us (there’d be total of around 15 or more teams of climbers on the Ben that day) we set off with intention of getting to the base of our climb and assessing the situation  further.

Del looking at the guidebook

It took another hour of steep snow slopes uphill battle,  with winds that put both of us at our knees more than  once when I had enough.

We looked up at the gullies ahead of us, and I totally lost all willingness to climb.

I’ve learned that day that perhaps I’m not cut out for this winter Scottish mountaineering thing. People warned me that it’s hard. It’s not enjoyable and mostly suffering. Now I know.

Del knew  that conditions were in were  poor,  and was ready to retreat if I wasn’t ready to go. After all we are a team. I looked up last one time, found some weird force inside me that pushed me forward though. ‘Let’s go’  I said and we pressed on. It’s not that I’d be super dangerous to climb. Technical difficulty is well within my range. I’ve climbed much harder routes. It was the general high wind and cold,  as well epic walk in that drained my tank that made me want to quit.

Anyway, we picked Green Gully ( IV, 3) route in the Scottish grading system, which was a fitting name for a route to be climbed on Irish National Holiday. It’s around 200m long.

We were already at 900m when we ropped up (so already had some 500m elevation gain that day)  and Del grabbed what we considered first pitch. Just a 50m snow slope with one ice screw and one nut. Belay was constructed on two weeds of grass and a Snickers bar wrapper, which is a standard Scottish practice.

I quickly followed and led up P2. It was as blank as they get. I think I’ve put half an ice screw in the whole 45m. Despite the wind it was easy and we should have soloed.

Me on p2

I run it out to  good patch of ice. This is where the ice climbing ad I know it started. A patch of ice that actually made you use your crampons front points.

Del grabbed the gear and moved on. The thing is that in scotland you climb until you can find something  to belay on, and if you run  out of rope, then your partner just moves with you. Luckily Del found a nice steep section he could put two ice screws in. And they went all the way!

P2 belay

The cold wouldn’t give up, the wind was as bad as it gets, but we were powering though. The most annoying part was that it was impossible to take more pictures. Neither of us wanted to take already cold  hands from the gloves…

I grabbed the next pitch, which was nice and solid 15m of proper ice climbing (wi3+ if I had to guess, with another possible more direct  line of wi4)  , followed by another big snow slope, with  massive cornice finishing the climb. I went as far as I could and constructed a belay with a dubious screw and two lollipops.

Del followed and immediately attacked the cornice. Unfortunately no photos as there is no way to grab the camera….

The finishing moves were on Del now and it wasn’t easy. There was no obvious break visible  in the cornice, so he had to get under it (which is super dangerous as those things are massive and can be unstable), traverse left as far as he could to find a ‘weak’ spot to hack through to the top plateau. It was around 40m effort protected by half a screw somewhere along the way.

When he topped out and disappeared behind the lip I knew my turn was comming. I also knew there will be no proper belay. Just him sitting down and pushing with his feet – a think called bucket seat. Totally legit.

I moved up under the cornice and now had to traverse. No gear ahead of me meant that if the fragile snow under my feet went I was facing  a big swing. The fact that Del didn’t see me and was pulling on the rope making me unstable didn’t help either.  But that’s how it is.

Luckily I kept my cool and topped out like I should.

Me immediately after topping out.

We quickly  unropped and wanted to get off. As we were packing we noticed our fellow Irish Mountaineering Club members Niall Hed and Aidan Roe topping out adjecent Comb gully (which was our original objective, changed in last minute to the green gully). No cornice on Comb, Niall said, and they quickly descended via no1 gully to the CIC hut. Lucky them.

Winds were still strong but at least the visibility was OK, so finding the descent route wasn’t  a problem. The problem was a long walk down to the carpark though.  Cold and tired, these 2.5h seemed like forever.

Overall, this 12h car to car day was pretty epic outing. I got the full on Scottish  experience. I’m definitely not going back here, until obviously I do.  Next year. Hopefuly by then Peter will be able to join us.

Categories
my travels Scotland 2018

Due North. Day 1.

I’ll start where we left of yesterday. We left the ferry around 10.30pm and drove for 1.5h to Kilmarnock. Had a hotel booked there for a quick rest,   before we hit the road again in the morning. The idea was to make it before morning Glasgow traffic rush and make it to Orchy Bridge around 10am and find some climbing.

In the mean time we got some intel from our trusted base camp adviser, PG on possible crags and routes in that area. Good guide book pictures etc.

 

We decided on Beinn Udlaigh black wall. Strong enough winds from the beginning… Welcome to Scotland, said Derek…

Steep enough walk, but nothing serious. Took just over an hour to get to the crag.

Guidebook description is accurate. Get to the farm, park outside and go through the farm up the trail. Can’t miss it.

 

It was pretty wet all along with rain from every direction  and wet ground.  When we finally arrived and  stood there near the base looking at the routes,  avalanche came down on either ice screw or quartzvein scoop routes (difficult to say as visibility was very poor, and with all the snow we weren’t 100% sure which one was which.

These are the ones we were planning o doing. After short discussion we  decided to turn back… It just wasnt worth risking getting swiped out. Scotland 1. Ireland 0.

We went back then to the car and drove to Fort William (1h or so).

It’s a nice mountain town. Kind of reminds me of Banff or Canmore.

We checked in to the B&B we have booked 3nights at and went do some supplies run.

Food is kind of important. So are ski goggles. Both Del and I picked up a new pair each.

 

They most definetly will come in handy tomorrow, on a big and windy trail to Ben Nevis. Start at 4am…

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Uncategorized

The land of the corries. Day 0

  1. A a lot of things happened since the last time I wrote here.

First bad news… My friend and main climbing partner Peter, got himself seriously injured and is out for the season (or at least first part of it).

I don’t want to get into the details but let’s say he won’t be doing any jamming anytime soon.

This unfortunate event really puts things in perspective. It’s not more than a month when we were cruising on sunny rock of Costa Blanca, and now we have to redefine the plans for the first part of the upcoming summer season.

But before summer comes there is some winter business to be had. Derek, my oldest climbing partner suggested we take advantage of recent cold spell and check out the north facing crags and mountains of Scotland.

Since we’ll be driving we have packed a lot of gear, including camping equipment. All options are on the table.

We are actually on the ferry from Belfast as I write these words, on the way to our next adventure.

The plan is to get to Scotland tonight. Get to Kilmarnock (1.5h drive) and spend the night there. Next day we want to keep driving north and perhaps find a climb (Salamander Gully (III/4) at this crag looks like a promising, 1/2 day option) on the way to Fort William.

Then we will have 2 days to climb more, and obviously everything depends on the conditions we find.

 

Monday is a return home day, with a ferry back to Belfast at 3.30pm

As usual, I’ll try to write daily blogs.

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Ecrins 2018

Ecrins ice climbing DAY 1

We arrived to village of Vallouise yesterday. Obviously not without troubles. A lot of snow fell over last while, which made driving from Turin quite challenging. Luckily we had snow chains and made it safely. Unfortunately the conditions for ice climbing are pretty poor right now. A lot of snow fall made the climbs prone to avalanches.

It was recommended by our host, Jerry Gore of alpbase.com that we should try some of the local excellent ski slopes.

No climbing today, but we were busy either way 🙂

Since my companions (Peter, Ronan and Sarah) are seasoned skiers, and I myself know how not to kill myself by going down too fast (plow style Ftw) we headed out to the nearby Puy St Vincent. We are in the Alps after all!

Since today is Sunday, the place was quite busy, especially there was a lot of children around. I’m always amazed seeing these little rascals going fearlessly downhill… I bet some of them ski better than walk!

Sarah looking ahead.

We spent good 6 hours trying different routes. Obviously the guys went on the advanced priests, while I explored all the green ones and some blues (easy ones that is).

This was my 3rd time on the skis and the fact that I now know how to turn made me very happy.

It’s steeper than it looks…

Evening was spent planning climbing routes for tomorrow. We will try some of the classics of Ceillic, but more about it tomorrow, after we actually do some climbing.

I also introduced the teamto my other hobby – board games.

Sarah planning her next move.

I brought K2 – the board game. Thematically fitting enjoyment to fill in the nights.

The game took just over an hour and I’m sure we’ll ll get to play it few more times during this trip. Now it’s time to pack the bag.

Again the forecast isn’t amazing, but we’ll give it a go.

Categories
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 😉

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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!

 

Categories
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.

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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.

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Avalanche across Louise Falls climb, just before we arrived. Credit: rockies-ice.com

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

Categories
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.

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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.

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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.
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The climb as seen from the bottom of the canyon.
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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Categories
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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Lar running it out.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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Backing up the abseil station.

That was good enough to take us to the ground.

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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.

 

 

 

Categories
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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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P2 top-out. Note the missing ice. To access P3 , we had traverse back to the climber’s left.
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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.

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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).

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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.

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