Friday, February 26, 2010

Rockies Ice Classics

So I finally got some free time to go and check off some classic ice climbs in the rockies. I have been living in Canada for 5 years now, and have never even come close to ticking off some of the most famous ice climbs in the world. The time was now, with a week for me to escape from the comfort of home at VMT, and my good friend T-Tones Touch aka Tony Richardson having a week to escape from Vancouver and the Olympics hoop la.

Both of us hadn't climbed ice in ages so we decided on a quick warm up in Field, BC with a climb of Guiness Gully and the the Extra Stout finish. 6 pitches of soft, warm, and plastic ice allowed us to get in the groove. An early finish and we were off to the ice fields parkway to stay the night at the Rampart Creek Hostel situated within a few KM of some of the most sought after ice climbs in the world.

Number one on our list was the 'show piece' of the Canadian Rockies, the famous Polar Circus. More of a day alpine route in my mind, the climb is only a short half hour walk from the road, but covers up to 10 pitches of technical ice with all of the standard mountain objective hazards to be dealt with, mostly avalanches. With a benign avalanche forecast and moderate temps, we were psyched and woke up early to make sure we had the route to ourselves. Fast travel in the dark via headlamps got us to the first pitch before the sun even woke up. A quick snack to let the light grow and we were off, getting more and more in to the groove with every pitch. Long rope lengths of steep ice led to great fixed belays and before we knew it we were topping out at noon, with a quick series of rappels bringing us back to the truck by 130pm.

We made the 2 hour commute to my sister-in-law's place in Canmore and made a plan to tackle the Sorcerer, labeled as the 'route to do in the Ghost River area if you only have time for one route.' But before we knew it, a deer changed our plans - poor soul, tried to play chicken with my truck and lost, but so did my grill, bumber and headlight. A quick look in the ditch confirmed she was on to the next adventure - which is good because my big sally vegetarian self was not looking forward to putting the deer out of its misery. As fate would have it we left the tailgate of the truck down and lost T-Tones' helmet some where along the way. So a 180 back to Canmore, a stop in the gear store for a brain bucket, and by noon we were clipping bristlers at Haffner Creek. A short walk, plenty of bolts and our egos were massaged by being able to send pitch after pitch of M7 and M8 off the couch. Good times and sore arms brought us back to Canmore to set up to try the Sorcerer again the next day.

Attempt 2 goes smooth as silk, and we enjoy the steep and dry 4 pitches in a spectacular setting. A quick turnaround had us back to Canmore before the sunset.

Originally we had wanted to cap the trip off with Nemesis on the Stanley Headwall, but alas, tired arms, too many early starts and a broken ski binding had us going to Lake Louise to kick and scratch up the classic Louise Falls. A million parties meant we tried our hand on the classic trad mixed line 'Lowe Impact' just to the right. Steep M8 and shitty rock had me hanging my way up, but it was a fun jaunt in a beautiful spot.

The journey was done, missions accomplished and now it is back to life at VMT...

Enjoy the photos...

T-Tones touching Polar Circus

Turning the Pencil

Sunrise over the Ice Fields

Polar Circus Upper Pitches

Post P-Circus chips and pilsner

The Ghost

Poor Deer, Poor 'Yota

The Sorcerer

P.3 on the Sorcerer

P.4 on the Sorcerer

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