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dave schultz

[TR] 22-28 January 2014, Canadian Rockies Ice

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Trip: 22-28 January Canadian Rockies


Date: 1/22/2014 to 1/28/2014


Trip Report:

I was out of town with work from the end of March, 2013 to mid-December, 2013 and was planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies for the end of January. I floated the idea out on the partners forum and Michael picked me up on the offer. Michael and I climbed the North Face of Mt Hood last March so I knew I would be going with good company. He had been able to get on some ice in Utah, but I was unable to get on any ice since getting back from work, and so my first swings would be on this trip. I was hoping to be efficiently leading WI4 on this trip, but ended up being a sketchy-at-best WI4 leader. The harder WI3 and WI3-4 ended up being out ticket. Thus a lot of the CLASSIC routes were JUST out of our league … next time. Below is a relatively short write up for the seven days.


21 January


Michael arrived in the early afternoon and I got off work mid-afternoon. We sorted gear, loaded the truck, and took a short nap before our anticipated midnight departure.


22 January


We left Everett at 1230am, drove throughout the night and arrived at Kicking Horse Canyon, just east of Golden, BC around noon (a forgotten time zone change, and longer than expected border crossing being the cause of late first day start). We climbed the first half of the first pitch of Lady Killer (top half was rotten ice) and the first pitch and a half of Pretty Nuts (we ran out of daylight on second pitch, and we only had one headlamp between the two of us). We then drove to Banff and slept in the truck’s front seats, finally going to sleep around midnight.


23 January


We got a late start due to the late night, and the fact that the temp was around 7°F. We finally started making the approach in to Cascade Falls around 930 or 10am (a party was already topping out on the second pitch). We soloed all the approach ice and cruised up the two main pitches of ice. There is an optional short third pitch that we chose to climb to get a look at the upper basin. What an incredible sight, probably worth bringing skis to ski some of the tight lines when the avi conditions are good. We took the walk off option, requiring one rappel. We then relocated down to Canmore and scouted the start for the next day, at Grotto Canyon. Then went back to town for some internet, and again slept in the truck, falling sleep around 8pm this time.


Cascade Falls from the start of the approach ice.



Avalanche terrain above Cascade Falls, with more snow this looks like it would also be very good skiing.



This is an example of the use of smaller than normal hardware, and was prevalent throughout the trip.



24 January


We got a very early start, arriving at Grotto Falls before it was even light enough to climb without a headlamp. We cruised up the super picked out and easy two pitches, wishing we had spent our time somewhere else. We chatted with some climbers who were on His and we decided to head over to check out the Junkyard. The Junkyard is by the Canmore Nordic Center and is actually a pretty good destination. We climbed the main section and then did some multi-pitch cruising a little further beyond the main flow, a good place to get some easy mileage in. We thought Grotto Canyon was well below its advertised quality (though would be an attractive night-time destination) and that Junkyard was well above its advertised quality. Our next destination was Ghost, so we started heading in that direction. We arrived at the main entrance around 9pm to discover that my tire chains DID NOT FIT!!! WTF. After about 30 minutes of denial and trying to figure out the secret, we gave up. Not exactly sure how we would recover and what we would do the next day, we settled on a route that was on and off the “to-do” list frequently, but with the new window of time, and since it was close, we opted for Corie Dubh Integral. We made the drive to the start, and once again, slept in the truck, getting to sleep around midnight (again).


The Junkyard main flow.



The sign entering the Ghost River Wilderness area.



25 January


Like the 23rd, we got a late start and justified it “so we could see the descent ridge” and “make the approach in the daylight.” We started the approach at 9am, and the daylight didn’t help as we still went 750 feet up the wrong drainage, but we still kept going, delaying the decision about whether to continue or not until later. We ended up with a half mile traverse though everything from terribly unstable scree to waist deep sugar snow – a machete would have helped, and we almost ran out of patience. We finally broke through and found the ice, we cramponed up and racked the ice gear, but ended up soloing all of the ice into the upper amphitheater. We then replaced all the ice gear with the light alpine rock rack and started the first rock pitch at around 1pm (still not having decided if we would press on to the top or rappel down at some point). The guide says the first pitch is the crux, and if you follow the line of least resistance that is probably the case. The second pitch was a short, but very exposed, section of third or fourth class. We then soloed the “three rope-lengths of scree” to start the next section of climbing. The third pitch was super thin and with very poor protection, I would say nearly equal in difficulty to the first pitch, and was short since it wrapped hard around a corner after making about a 20 foot traverse. There were then about 3 pitches of consistently moderate climbing to the summit ridge. We topped out just in time to see the sunset and put the gear away with natural light. We made the ridge descent in the dark – it’s a good thing we got a look at it in the morning. The ridge deposited us about 1 mile from where we parked, and we were lucky enough to hitch a ride after walking about half that distance. We then drove back into Canmore and ate dinner at the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company and debated what we would do next. After our elk burger we decided an easy day at the Junkyard testing out different gear combinations would be a good “rest day” activity followed by a session at the Elevation Place, the Canadian recreation club, complete with a pool, hot tub, shower, and climbing wall. We drove to the Junkyard and, you guessed it, slept in the truck.


Bushwacking traverse to get into the correct drainage.



Michael following the first and “crux” pitch of CDI.



Dave coiling the rope between the technical climbing on the rock section of CDI. This area was labeled as a scree for about three rope lengths.



A view looking east from high on the CDI.



This was the third belayed pitch, and the first after the long section of scree. I found it to be nearly as challenging as the first “crux” pitch, thin and poorly protected with a tough traverse at the top and then up and around a corner.



Michael following the third pitch.



Dave coiling the rope at dusk.



The descent via headlamp. We messed the approach up, but we nailed the descent, following the ridge the entire length back down to the road really made it very simple.



26 January


We got a leisurely start and Michael and I both wore our ski boots. I switched my BD Cyborgs to be mono-point and brought my Neves. I also brought my 40 Below Overboots to try climbing in them. We set up a TR on the steep section of the main flow and went to town, doing laps with different pieces of gear to get a sense of the differences and pros and cons of each. The conclusion: (1) the mono-point seemed to give better first-kick sticks and they seemed more secure, (2) the Neves did not have as large a performance penalty as originally expected, and (3) the ski boots climbed just as good as I had originally thought, which was VERY GOOD. The results: (1) my Cyborgs are now sporting mono-points (though no anti-balling plates, I’ll just wait until that burns me and then buy the Stingers), (2) I have no qualms about using my ski boots when the approach requires skis, and (3) the I will almost always bring the Neves when doing lightweight ski mountaineering or alpine ice routes. We also did some single tool climbing practice and down-climbing practice. We then headed into town to go to Elevation Place; we showered and got into the hot tub, which was amazing. There was big slide, which was way better than expected (I actually thought I was going to fly out of the tubes on the way down). We hung out in the steam room for about 5 minutes, where we chatted with some of the locals who all seemed to know all about the ice climbs in the area. We then hit up the climbing wall, so much for a rest day, but it was included in the admission price, so what the hell. Then we brought out jetboil into the coffee lounge and cooked up some dinner, fortunately the jetboil was so fast we got the boiled water before we got in trouble for using a stove in their building. We finished up and started driving north, not sure of out next destination. We settled on Bow Falls, got to the parking lot, and slept in the truck.


27 January


It was a very cold morning, about -5°F but we managed to get a reasonable start at about 7:45am, it ended up being a very straightforward and simple, albeit longer, approach. We got to the falls and started climbing around 10am on completely virgin and bulletproof ice. We climbed two pitches to the start of the top tier. The top tier proved to be just a little too steep; combining with our fatigue and the challenging conditions rapped back down and did another long pitch up slightly more mellow terrain before calling it a day. We retraced our steps and were back at the truck in time for sunset. We then headed north to the Weeping Wall, and after about a 45 minute drive we were there. We needed water, so the guide said there was a hostel 30 minutes down the road, which without much thought we took to be 30 minutes north, since we had not seen anything on our drive from Bow Lake. It turns out the hostel was 30 minutes south of the Weeping Wall, and after 30 minutes it we decided it was better to go to Jasper to get water and diesel rather than spend the time to boil water from the crappy road-side snow. We picked up some water, and got directions to the Jasper Hostel; we even went to the Hostel’s parking lot, but decided that we might as well sleep in the truck for one more night. So we drove about 30 minutes south, and slept in the truck, and decided to finish the drive in the morning.


The approach across Bow Lake.



The view from up on the falls.



This was the view from high on the falls.



28 January


We woke up a little later than planned, and made the drive back south to the Weeping Wall, the lowest temperature we saw was -16°F. We racked up at the truck and made the arduous 5 minute approach. We thought we would climb Sniveling Gulley, as it was the easiest route and after 6 days we were pretty worn down. Once we got there, the Gulley looked pretty baked out and crappy. We opted then for a line up the left side of the Lower Wall, for about 40m to a section of v-threads below another tier of steep climbing. We decided that we would just rap from here and call it a trip. We descended and walked back to the truck, loaded the gear back up, and started the long drive back to Everett around noon. We stopped at the Rogers Pass Discovery Center to get the beta on skiing there for a potential future trip: very similar to Rainier’s bureaucratic mousetrap, though without the Longmire gate. We arrived in Everett around 166 hrs after we left.


Final takeaways and lessons learned (in no particular order):


1) Incorporate legitimate rest days when going on longer trips, our “rest day” was not “restful” enough.

2) The Canadian Rockies are HUGE! We spent a week up there, hit many of the major areas, but we still barely scratched the surface.

3) Double check your tire chains to make sure they fit.

4) It is possible to dirt-bag it in the truck in the winter, and though we slept pretty well every night, it probably contributed to a decline in our performance as the week progressed. A hostel every other night or every third night would probably be a better compromise.

5) Elevation Place in Canmore is the SHIT.

6) Good Earth Café in Canmore is a great place to get wifi and an afternoon snack.

7) Corie Dubh Integral is one of the finest climbs I have done, and a must do for anyone making the trip to Canmore.

8) We brought a large selection of ropes (2x60m 9.2mm single/double, 1x50m 10.2mm single, 2x80m 7.8mm double/twin) which allowed a lot of flexibility in terms of length and style and allowed us to get a lot of climbing days with the ropes we brought.

9) The truck has a navigation system which made traveling very easy, using the map in the guide to identify where we wanted to go and finding it on the navigation system. Without it, using maps and/or a portable GPS system would have made it much more challenging.

10) This was a fantastic trip, with a great partner. I highly recommend getting out there and getting after it.

11) We had the third volume of Waterfall Ice, and it proved to be an invaluable asset. We also found a new book, published I guess very recently called “Ice Lines,” which had about 50 very well detailed routes in them, running the range of grades from WI3-WI6.

12) We found lots of the rappel stations had with either a single small rappel ring or a single small chain link. I would suggest bringing some extra links to double them up or bring the proper larger sized link and replace them when you come across them.


This was our home for the trip.



**all photos are taken via iPhone and are mostly Michael's, some of mine are strewn in there**


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Sweet trip Dave…nice work get'n after it!


You forgot lesson learned #13…"remember to pack heel bails for crampons."




HAHA ... Yea ... that would be for a different TR. I don't think I will ever make that mistake again.


Though, having read some of the other accidents that happened recently, I feel a little better about not trying to press on without the proper footwear (though looking back I do wish we would have pressed on a little farther).


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Sweet trip Dave…nice work get'n after it!


You forgot lesson learned #13…"remember to pack heel bails for crampons."




HAHA ... Yea ... that would be for a different TR. I don't think I will ever make that mistake again.


Though, having read some of the other accidents that happened recently, I feel a little better about not trying to press on without the proper footwear (though looking back I do wish we would have pressed on a little farther).


HA…too funny.


Yup…as painful as it was, turning back was the right call. That section is no fall territory. The two Russian climbers made the summit, at least I saw them about 1000' below the summit around 0845 on my way down. The wind was still pretty stiff, but doable.

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