Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada - Day 4

Walking through Canmore

Yesterday was actually a good warm up for today, we were heading to the premier mixed climbing venue of the Banff area,Haffner Creek. essentially another canyon but with around 30 - 40 different lines to climb and decent bolts its a must for all mixed climbers!

Remains of the Trees after a devastating fire in the region in 2003

In the lower section there are 4 ice pillars / falls that touch down to the ground, the rest dont even get close and require gymnastic approaches on rock to reach the delicate hanging daggers of ice.

Half n' Half   M7

My first climb of the day was Half n' Half, a 20m mixed climb that really does warrant its name. I led of pulling up on worn axe holes in the rock, the first section being a smooth slab. Once the slab has been negotiated a series of torques see you pulling up and having to reach the final rock hold before launching out onto the ice. The final piece in the puzzle was a stein pull in the roof just below the ice, fully committing on this and a big lock off enables you to swing the axe into bomber ice. A fair bit above the last bolt there is a mantle onto a shelf (the end of the first half :) and clip the last bolt before moving out on the icy headwall.

Four more moves pulling on ice see's you standing on the top of the crag, ab off of 2 bolts and your back down ready for the next one....

Central Ice   WI5

.... The next one being Central Ice, picture tells a thousand words. I'll just add that there were two pretty big cracks right through the ice through guided parties bashing there way up! So a delicate approach was required.

The next climb was hard and scary.

After some lunch Dan decided to try one more route, Shagadelic is a mixed line up a corner which steps out onto a hanging dagger. Unfortunately for Dan he never made the hard mixed rock start and was lowered off. I then decided that i would give it a go but would probably just do the same as Dan.

Jockey TR Shagadelic M6 ish?
So i climbed up the first delicate mixed bit and soon found myself way above the last bolt mantling on to the ledge. So i managed the first bit that in my head i wasnt going to do and was going to lower off and go home, and was then in a position where i 'had' to finish the route. Pumped and scared already the next section looked horrible, a thin dagger had formed and if i was going to climb it i would have to get past this thin 5m dagger and get my first screw in in the thicker stuff above.
So i tentatively stepped out onto the ice and to my surprise it held my weight, 3 more moves and my first screw was in and i could relax. I stayed there for what seemed ages, not wanting to leave the sanctuary of having a screw right next to me, and was getting more pumped the longer i waited. Eventually, and not knowing how, i climbed the rest of the ice completely drained, arms dead.

Time for home.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada - Day 3

After 4 hours of rough sleep after a hefty night out in Canmore myself and Jockey were the only one's still keen to go out and get some climbing done, under the watchful eye of superstar David 'Heavy' Whalley. The walk in was supposed to be a trip out in itself and was just what the doctor ordered to cure the hangover.

The walk in to the chosen crag, Grotto Falls, utilises a frozen river to gain access up the stunning gorge, past indian paintings on the canyon walls and up to the headwall where the water fall flows over in the summer.

Mental Jewlery M7

When we arrived at the headwall we found a pair already climbing Grotto Falls. This area has also been developed as a sport climbing crag and a mixed climbing crag, we took advantage of the latter. 1 week previous to today Dan and Nick Sharpe had climbed here and found good ice on the mixed climbs, but as you can see above the ice had somewhat receded. This made our climb impossible to complete as the section above me in the picture is blank and requires ice for progress. Never the less the crux is pulling over the roof and after this i clipped the in-situ krab and lowered off. Jockey had a bash and by the time we had climbed this a couple of times Grotto Falls was free.

Grotto Falls WI 3+

Grotto Falls itself is a short 25m ice climb and can be made really easy or a bit harder depending on which line you take. We mucked about on this, enjoying an easy warm down after the pumpy mixed session. The climbing here is really pretty cool as the canyon creates a scenic and mellow place to come and climb. Would be a cool place to sport climb aswell!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada - Day 2

Morning views
After waking up in Field with views like the above it was time for a quick drive to what can only be called a mini meca for ice climbing. Climbs such as Pilsner, Guiness Gully, kronemberg and our chosen climb for the day Carlsberg Column are all within a 30min walk of each other. And all are of 3 star quality.
The walk in through deep powder and underneath tall pine trees was a pleasure in itself, after 20mins the first view of Carlsberg became clear through the trees. First thought was, wow thats a massive bit of ice.

First View of Carlsberg!

After gearing up it was Dan who raced up the steepest section of the classic WI5 climb, a full 40m later he arrived at the hanging belay. It was good to see Dan 'Master of Ice' carroll climbing on the ice as it really is a master class. However it was also interesting that after keeping simingly perfect technique (keeping the 'A' shape all the time) that he had to rest on a screw half way up the pitch, be this due to motivation, nerves or strength i dont know, but when he was resting he put on his leashes and flew up the rest of the pitch no problem.

Allways steeper than it looks: Carlsberg WI5     Dan Left - Dave Right
This leads me to my interesting stubborness on my own use of axes and being leashless. Throughout my climbing in Scotland i have allways been leashless, mainly due to the ease of swapping tools and also due to the added sense of freedom and how you aren't tied to the axes. This also went for the ice climbing, although the need for swapping is not as great. The main thing with this is that due to the climbs being so steep for so long its not if you get pumped its when. But due to my stubborness i kept going leashless as it was more pure in my mind and harder, in the sense that it was harder to keep a cool head aswell as physically.

Me and Dan on Carlsberg
So I tried copying Dan's technique and soon joined him at the hanging stance, ready for my pitch. The second pitch was just as steep, very wet but shorter, around 25-30m. I led off and was instantly tired after the monster 1st pitch, the water running down my axes and soaking my gloves made me grip tighter as it felt less secure. The you reach the old age climbing problem of placing gear and getting even more pumped or not placing gear saving energy but gripping harder anyway due to the added seriousness. Catch 22! Another theme that continued throughout the trip :) I reached the belay really happy but my arms were shot, Dan joined me at the belay and we abbed off in search of cake and tea. Fuel for the next day.....

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada

Cant believe that I would have that title on this site. For ages i have been intrigued by Canada, its wild and remote mountains with glacial lakes and postcard pictures everywhere you look. So i allways imagined i would go in the summer just for a look, never an ice climbing adventure!

Flights were booked 3 months in advance and the trip couldnt come soon enough, climbing in Scotland this winter didnt really allow much prep, i.e much ice! So here i was, on my way to Canada, still without leading a proper ice climb in Scotland, or anywhere.

Snowy Calgary

I arrived at 10pm Canadian time, roughly 3am GMT, at Banff. Met up with Dan, Jockey, Ned and Dave in a local Irish bar. Short skirts and beer all around but this wasnt sinking in and all i could think about was getting a kip and waking up to see where i was!!

3 min walk from car - Pretty Nuts WI 4 **

So the first day dawned cold and cloudy, a theme that would repeat itself throughout the trip, a we packed the Dodge Durango 4 x 4 in pursuit of the ice. An hour later we arrived at Kicking Horse Canyon. Our chosen climb for the day a 2 pitch WI4. Jockey led off in the rain (didnt start off with the best of weather, unseasonly warm and wet, basically Scotland all over again. This soon changed though and most days were spectacular) and topped out 50m later onto a tree belay. I followed making the most of the easyish climbing trying to get my head into ice climbing. The next pitch, the crux, was offered to me and the next thing i knew i was at the bottom of my first WI4 lead in Canada. A short 10m pitch of vertical ice was enough to get me in tune with the ice and i loved every move on it. Bit weird hanging off of axes placing ice screws as it was unknown territory for me, and it was something i would have to learn fast due to the sustained nature of ice climbing. Efficiency is the key.

Staying in a cool little place called Fireweed Hostel in Field tonight, then Carlsberg Column tomorrow.