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colt45

[TR] Canadian Rockies - Various 1/6/2009

Would you climb Louise Falls under the conditions in the photo?  

108 members have voted

  1. 1. Would you climb Louise Falls under the conditions in the photo?

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Trip: Canadian Rockies - Various

 

Date: 1/6/2009

 

Trip Report:

I had a great time on my first trip to the Rockies. I was also fortunate enough to survive, allowing for a possible future trip.

 

During the week we hiked in to climb the uber-classic Louise Falls:

 

IMG_5341.JPG

 

While leading the pitch, I briefly considered belaying at the ledge 30m up, but elected to continue onwards. After traversing to the left about 20 feet, the entire right side of the climb collapsed in a massive roar. I ducked and held on tight as many tons of ice flew past, incredibly not harming me or my belayer. The rope stretching diagonally between us was buried by basketball-sized ice chunks though...

 

IMG_5347.JPG

 

IMG_5356.JPG

 

It is fortunate that I did not cut the pitch short, as both Frank and I would have almost surely been squished by ice at the fixed belay directly below the ice curtain. We decided not to push our luck with the free-standing pillar of the second pitch, so we rappelled off at its base. Louise Falls is an enjoyable climb in an easily accessed, scenic location but I probably would not climb it again if there were free-hanging daggers present.

 

More photos from our trip are here: http://mikes2500.blogspot.com

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I think that is how it looked when I climbed it, but stayed to the left because there is a lot of water flowing from that hanging part.

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too bad that the pillars fall off so frequently. I remember some big debris at the base on one of my trips there. Probably best to stay left on that climb as the guides usually do.

 

good to hear you didn't get squished!

 

 

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Jeez, we climbed under those things earlyer this year. Your lucky.

 

What were the conditions like when it broke? Was it really cold or really warm?

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You are very very lucky. If you'd arrived one hour earlier, or later in the day, you might have been toast. May I ask what date this occurred on? Was there a really cold or warm weather pattern hitting the rockies on that day?

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If you guys read the MCR report you'll see it had been -9 a few days ago and was -20C or so on the day, on its way down to -30...

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Looked at all my photos of this climb, have 2 of them where the right side is mostly touching down and 2 of them with it looking similar to your first pick, but none with the free hanging stuff looking quite as heavy. Also recall seeing chunks at the bottom.

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your lucky day!

such events are rare, but the effects of temperature changes obviously can easily be underestimated.

when marc leclerc and i climbed the little central column on the upper tier of rambles centre last saturday, it had warmed quite a lot during the day, and as he thwacked his tool in halfway up, the entire pillar and the ice plinth underneath it (that i was standing on) gave a great deep 'bong'! no crack appeared, and the pillar didn't fall down, so he carried on, but there was obviously a lot of tension being released internally. and this was not on cold, brittle ice - quite the opposite.

btw, i voted "yes" - my lucky day to have been elsewhere...

cheers,

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Rockies ice climbing isn't what most of us try to deal with on WA ice. In Canada it is generally the deep cold snaps that pop the hangers not the chinooks that come later. Gadd and Issac both note that fact in their technique books. I supect you'll find similar info in both the ice and mixed guides to the area. Same reason most locals don't climb water ice when the temps drop radically or below -10/15.

 

That said Louise is one of the few moderate climbs that most can get on with big hangers above them. Instead of the desperates that are free hangers all on their own.

 

I've climbed Louise dozens of times over the years. All but a couple via the far left side to the upper tier. Climbing on the far left you get a longer climb and are protected from any ice fall and trash kicked off by the others likely on the climb. Keep the temps in mind and at times the upper right hand curtain can make a fun climb. But it also falls off several times each season as they get deep freezes.

 

Take it as a learning experience and just be thankful that you lived. Obviously it could have turned out very differently.

There is nothing "safe" about climbing waterfalls, even the easy ones can bite you if you aren't aware of how conditions effect them.

 

 

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One detail I forgot to mention is the significant amount of debris (partially snow covered) at the base of the climb when we hiked in, possibly indicating a separate collapse earlier in the season. The ice chunks seemed far too large to be due to climber-induced icefall. We totally ignored this warning sign, but fortunately luck was on our side...

 

In addition, I found other reports of Louise Falls partially collapsing in the past:

 

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"A large portion of the hanging pillar on the right had fallen a few days before, causing minor injuries and sudden bowel release to a couple of climbers below it" [link]

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"the next day the pillar collapsed and killed another ice climber." [link]

---------

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Climbing on the far left you get a longer climb and are protected from any ice fall

 

There were free hanging daggers on the far left as well, not nearly as large as the curtain but still big enough to cause some serious damage if they failed. In this photo it looks like there might even be an old fracture line above the left side icicles:

 

IMG_5343.JPG

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No question stuff falls off the left side as well just not generally in the hundreds of tons that you get off the right side on a regular basis. A lot of the left side gets wacked/knocked off over there by climbers getting on the pillar so the amount of ice is generally a lot smaller. Although we climbed up to the last tier on the left last year and did the tier on the right by walking behind it. Pretty common as well 'cuz the left hand exit can be a little spooky hiking out onto the vertical.

 

The right hand curtain had come off the week before on that trip and again -30 temps during the day. Tons and tons of ice covered by the snow along the donkey trail.

 

My point is that on a grand scale Louise Falls is one of the safer ice climbs in Canada. No real avi danger to start with. It is the first place I go when the avi danger goes up. Although in the right conditions you could easily get buried or dumped into a tree on the walk down off to the top. Ice fall is always a danger on any water fall climb.

 

No disrespect but Louise looks awesome any time it is up and is only a death trap if you aren't aware of conditions and how those conditions might effect you. But that is why you call them "traps" You wouldn't go there if you are aware of the danger.

 

Hey, we have all had good scares and get caught if you do it long enough. And trust me, glad it was you there and not me when that curtain came down. Even happier you can write about it.

 

Again and I mean this, no disrespect intended. Be happy you can learn from the experience. Major weather changes either way, chinooks or big freezes, any amount of wind, snow in any amount, and the volume (high or low) of water in the falls are all things that need to be looked at closely while weighing what you want to or can climb.

 

Fun stuff to think about on your next trip north :) Pretty obvious now but making the wrong choice on those things can easily get you killed on Rogans Gully or Weeping Pillar. Technical difficulty has little to do with how "hard" ice climbs might really be.

 

add.sized.jpg

 

Same climb, same week from a year ago, '08. Typical conditions in early Jan. I think 9 or 10 of us climbed it that day. Two of us on the left side at the top of the last pitch. At least one huge colapse off the right side recently that season although it is hard to believe from the hangers on there now.

But hardly a "death trap". Also easy to see the trough where most of the shit comes down the first pitch.

 

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They day I climber Louise Falls a guy came up with a metal detector to search though a bunch of ice debris at the base. His tools were burried unde that ice. Apparently he was belaying in the cave whe that whole curtian crashed on him.

 

Seems to be a common occurance.

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I was there for some time before & into the new year as well, the temps had come up considerably, it's a bit of an art form reading temperature & how it's affecting the ice. So A good story & cool photo, happy you'll live to smash it another day!!

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