Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rockies Ice 2004/2005

Upper Tiers of Polar Circus.

Weeping Pillar (Raphael Slawinsky Photo).

Weeping Wall, Lower Tier (Raphael Slawinsky Photo).

Upper Weeping Wall, Mare in Winter, Ice-T.

Weeping Wall, Left Side.

Kate Sinclair on the top of the first pitch of Proffesor Falls.

Barry Blanchard on the 2nd pitch on Sea of Vapors.

The new Canmore veterinarian Donald leading the second pitch of Terminator.

Polar Circus, The Pencil (not looking quite as steep as it was due to a wide angle 20mm lens :)

On French Reality (Robert Rogoz photo).

On French Reality (Robert Rogoz photo).

Region Hierarchy: Rockies & Columbia / Banff-Kananaskis / Hector
Park: Banff National Park
December 1, 2004
Calculated Length: 818 km
Maps: 82 J/14, 82 O/03, 82 O/04, 82 O/06, 83 C/02, 082 N/15
Participants: Chris Geisler, Pierre Darbellay, J.D., Kate Sinclair, Barry Blanchard, Matt Mueller, Paul McSorely, Deborah, Stewart, Raphael Slawinski, Leila, and Janez Ales
Equipment: Ice climbing gear and a 4x4!
Difficulty: See summary at the bottom of the description.

Abstract: Ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies.

Leila on the unusually friendly crux pitch of Polar Circus.

I moved to Canmore at the beginning of December 2004 after a decade of coming here on ice climbing trips. The frst month or so climbing was really good. First day of climbing I went out with a new roommate Pierre to Virtual Reality. At some point there were 6 of us living in the house, so climbing partners were in abundance. Next day Sean and co. dragged me to the end of the Stanley Headwall, where I scratched up my third mixed rote. Thriller was thrilling and I nearly gave up on ice climbing in order to pursue a full time career in mixed climbing :) Luckily, I kept my ice cool desires.
My work deadline resulted in about 80 hours of work before I could truly commit to climbing again. Nevertheless, I did manage to get out once with Kate for a day on Professor Falls. The trailhead starts only a stroll from the Banff Springs hotel. From there an hour bike ride on sheer ice or two hours of walking on the same surface deposits you at the base of the famous gulley. We did not have bikes :( This was the only ice route I had to hang on an ice screw back in 1994 when I started playing this cold game. This time around I had more fun. Of course if we forget the fact that 2nd and 3rd pitch were pouring with water from little icicles. Once you touch that it produces an opening for a true shower.

Terminator Wall was fat looking from the road. This time around we had bikes :) I headed up there on a cold day with Barry. It was cold enough that one of his picks broke. Sea of Vapors was great except for a streak of human shit from the last belay :( Views of the party on Terminator were very inviting.

I came back 3 days later with Matt. Two guys from Washington, say Billy and the Kidd, were ready to fight for the trophy when we passed them on the approach. So we decided to climb Sea of Vapors. The quiet plan was to climb Terminator afterwards. The random timing of the arrival of another party was luckily on our side. They turned the little ridge on the approach just as I unclipped from the last rappel. Billy was leading the third pitch of the big T when I started up the first one. Falling ice was not a problem due to the overhanging nature of the route and precisely this feature send some doubts into our heads. Apart from those fears we had a great time on the route I have been waiting for about ten years to climb. Terminator has not completely formed since 1996/1997 season. Well, this season it only lasted until the end of December when a cold snap cracked the pillar on the first pitch!
Stewart, a friend from Vancouver, joined me for new year’s and of course some ice climbing. His second day ever we went to the “famous” Grotto Canyon and later to the Johnson Creek. Driving to this remote area was a great test for me and my truck. Did not get to climb much but we did manage to drive into Waiporous Creek and scout the approaches to various climbs. After the new year’s festivities were over and we survived dodging the bullets at drug infested parties Stewart went back to the Coast.
With a cold front forecasted in 5 days we had some climbing to do before its arrival. So Raphael and I went up to the Icefields Parkway. The road was very icy and due to very slow traveling we only started climbing at 10 am. However, due to cold temps it turned out the timing was perfect. Weeping Wall has just been lit by warm sunrays when we started from the car. Climbing on the Weeping Pillar was great, no belay jackets necessary! The only trouble was that I already started feeling the nausea from my approaching flu. Ice was as soft as one would want but of course very wet. My gloves were soaked and I started having doubts about safety of the leashless game... Well, Raphael dropped his glove on the descent. So we had an incentive to go back up there the next day. We scrapped our plans for the La’Tabernac Bowl and returned for some Ice-T the next day.

There was already a party on the Left Side, Lower Weeping Wall when we arrived the next morning, well at 10 am of course. But the width of the curtain allowed another party on the very left side. It was the only line on the Lower Weeping Wall that I have not done yet. Soft blue ice led to huge cauliflowers with hundreds of white caked hanging icecles.

Initial idea for the top part was to climb Mare in Winter. I started on the left up towards the nice and rounded pillar to the left of the climber in the photo. It looked like a beautifull pillar about 1.5 m in diameter. When on top of the initial cone I noticed a one inch crack running across the whole pillar which is not uncommon with these things. However, there was no inside to the pillar, completely hollow with a 1 inch skin of ice... my second bail in a week! Raph launched on the right side and threaded right towards Ice-T without touching, what turned out to be a hollow and detached piece of ice.

I have quite a few pictures of the upper tiers of Polar Circus that were taken between 1994-2004. All taken with big plans in mind, plans I had to wait 10 years to come through. Waiting paid off...

After a day of rest I returned to the Parkway with Leila. It was her third attempt on Polar Circus. Well for me, this was another route I had been waiting 10 years for. Weather, partners, and avalanche danger all contributed at some time or another to this. As a reward I got to climb the Pencil, which formed after a number of dry years. A "fat crayon" they called it this year, with big mushrooms and a necessary crack near the top.

The sun hit us on top of the Pencil and warmed the whole upper bowl. Climbing on the upper part of Polar Circus was exceptional, soft ice and sunrays to warm us up. The ambience was simply stunning.

Already committed for the next day I got up for a trip to Johnson Creek with Raphael. This was a mistake since my body simply could not warm up after leaving the car. Due to new snow we had to deal with some spidrift which did not help...
I did catch a flu that later turned into bronchitis. So now I am home drinking hot tea and messing around on Ice climbing wise I did not miss much because the low temperatures (-30/-40 C) of the second week of January, that persisted for three weeks, and a warm spell that followed (+12 C) for another three weeks, would have spoiled the fun anyway.
In late February I had a few more skiing and climbing days, Cool Spring and Kronenberg in Field, and one of the best routes I have done his year, French Reality at the start of Stanley Headwall was truly amazing. I did sneak in a ski of the famous Mt. Field's 1300m run, which due to a cold day at -20 C caused the return of my post viral chest infection... :)
A few early season rock climbing days in April and a couple of routes on Yamnuska (Fobidden Corner, Jimmy and the Cruisers (not completed due to cold temps and snow) finished off my season in the rockies :)

French Reality, Stanley Headwall, Bob Rogoz.
Cool Spring, Mt. Stephen, Field, Bob Rogoz.
Mt.Field, 1300m ski descent in good pow snow :)
Kronenberg, Mt. Dennis, Field.
Marion Falls / Caroline Falls (III WI 5, 100m / III WI 5, 50m), Waiporous Creek , Johnson Creek, Raphael Slawinski, 6.1.2005. (082 O/06; N 51:21.7 W 115:15.6; 11 U 621100 5691270) / (082 O/06; N 51:21.7 W 115:15.0; 11 U 621800 5691270)
The Pencil / Polar Circus, (WI 6, 50m / V WI 5 700m), Icefields Parkway, Leila, 5.1.2005. (83 C/02; N 52:07.0 W 116:59.5; 11U 501141 5773797)
Ice T / Left Side, (IV WI 5+ (WI 6), 200m / II WI 4, 180m), Upper / Lower Weeping Wall, Raphael Slawinski, 3.1.2005. (83 C/02; N 52:09.5 W 116:59.5; 11U 500540 5778470)
Weeping Pillar / Central Pillar, Upper / Lower Weeping Wall, (V WI 6, 170m / III WI 5+, 180m), Raphael Slawinski, 2.1.2005. (83 C/02; N 52:09.5 W 116:59.5; 11U 500540 5778470)
GBU - Right side / The Indifferent, (II WI 4+ / II WI 3), 40m, Ghost Valley, Stewart, 30.12.2004. (82 O/06; N 51:19.2 W 115:13.0; 11 U 624230 5686690)
Marion Falls, first pitch only WI 3+, 50m, (III WI 5, 100m), Waiporous Creek, Johnson Creek, Stewart and Matt Mueller, 28.12.2004. (082 O/06; N 51:21.7 W 115:15.6; 11 U 621100 5691270)
Grotto Falls / Mental Jewellery, (II WI 3, 55m / M6+, 12m), Grotto Canyon, Stewart, 27.12.2004. (082 O/03; N 51:04.2 W 115:13.1; 11 U 624880 5658810)
Moonlight / Snowline, (III WI 4, 110m / 100m ), Deborah, 24.12.2004. (82 J/14; N 50:52.0 W 115:06.4; 11 U 633190 5636520)
Chai Master, M7+, 15m, OS, Hafner Creek, Matt Mueller, 21.12.2004. (82 N/01; N 51:10.2 W 116:06.2; 11 U 562690 5668893)
Woody / Hocus Pocus , (M6+, 15m, OS / M7, 15m, OS), Bear Spirit Crag, Paul McSorely, 20.12.2004. (82 O/04; N 51:11.1 W 115:39.7; 11 U 593590 5670960)
Terminator / Sea of Vapours, (V WI 6- (5+ to 6+), 150m; V WI 5+ (5 to7), 165m), Trophy Wall, Mt. Rundle, Rocky Mountains, Matt Mueller, 18.12.2004. (082 O/03; N 51:09.8 W 115:29.6; 11 U 605380 5668810)
Sea of Vapours, V WI 5+ (5 to 7), 165m, Trophy Wall, Mt. Rundle, Rocky Mountains, Barry Blanchard, 13.12.2004. (082 O/03; N 51:09.8 W 115:29.6; 11 U 605380 5668810)
Californication / Half a Gronk, ( M7-, 15m, OS / M6, 15m), OS, Hafner Creek, Rocky Mountains, Kate Sinclair, 12.12.2004. (82 N/01; N 51:10.2 W 116:06.2; 11 U 562690 5668893)
Professor Falls, III WI 4, 280m, Mt. Rundle, Rocky Mountains, Kate Sinclair, 8.12.2004. (082 O/03; N 51:09.8 W 115:29.3; 11 U 605680 5668810)
Thriller, M9- WI5, 40m, RP (second try), Stanley Headwall, Rocky Mountains, J.D., 4.12.2004. (082 N/01; N 51:10.2 W 116:03.2; 11U 566180 5669150)
Virtual Reality, IV WI 6, 160m, Mount Murchison, Icefields Parkway, Rocky Mountains, Pierre Darbellay, 3.12.2004. (082 N/15; N 51:55.7 W 116:40.0; 11U 522910 5753110 )
Amadeus, III WI 4+, 50m, Barrier Mountain, Kananaskis, Rocky Mountains, Chris Geisler, 3.11.2004. (82 O/03; 11 U 636460 5655150; 51:02.0-115:03.2)