Aquarius is the narrow drainage west of Malignant Mushroom in Devils Gap that is used as the approach ice into Recital Hall for the more infamous WI 6 routes of Rainbow Serpent and Fearful Symmetry. To date, Rainbow Serpent is the most difficult ice climbing route added to Summitpost. Many climbers climb Aquarius on its own merit, but we used it as the approach ice for Rainbow Serpent in January, 2007. Aquarius is a full 60 meter pitch (and then a little more depending on how much of a wanderer you are when putting in screws). There are chains at the top on the steep granite walls to the right. It is a relaxed climb for the grade due to several short benches below steep curtains. From Planter’s Valley it looks much sportier than it really is in my opinion. There is some easier WI 2 ice on approach and this ice, although normally soloed up, does require a rap on the way back down. Aquarius is positioned in a very cool environment with huge walls of rock rising on both sides. Recital Hall, reached at the top of Aquarius, is even more of a treat and even though you might not be there to climb the two WI 6’s within its confines, it is worth the extra effort to proceed to the center of Recital Hall to reach the full effect of the boxed in canyon (not to mention that you should give beta reports at live-the-vision.com regarding Fearful Symmetry and Rainbow Serpent as it is impossible to determine their condition outside of climbing Aquarius).
I led Aquarius in January of 2007 to reach Recital Hall and found it in good condition (not too picked out). You will not be able to see Aquarius on approach and it is actually best viewed across Devil’s Gap from high up in Planter’s Valley when you are climbing Weathering Heights or the Peanut Gallery.
The north side of Devils Gap is below the massive walls of Phantom Crag (aka Devil’s Fang) which sports some serious summer time rock climbing. Access to Aquarius and Recital Hall is through a narrow canyon just west of Sunshine, WI 3, and Malignant Mushroom, WI 5, two pieces of ice that are clearly visible on approach. As you work your way through the trees and dry river bed into Devil’s Gap heading northwest, aim for a gully that leads into the canyon just west of Sunshine. As soon as you find an icy creek bed, you can don your crampons and ascend some short pitches that lead to the base of Aquarius. Only one of these is long enough to require a rappel on descent. It is the first piece. As you top out, look over to the right and you will see a significant leaning tree with rap slings (2007) for the descent.
Continue to the base of Aquarius. You might or might not want to remove your crampons depending on conditions. There is a two bolt anchor on your right at the top of the route. This full piece (60 meters) of ice really goes up the gut. The crux, when I led it during the month of January, was the 2nd half of the 2nd and 3rd tiers. Both were steep and the higher you got, the thinner the ice that early in the winter. However, overall I felt the route was on the easy side of WI 4. That might have had something to do with how challenging the last pitch of Rainbow Serpent (WI 6) was at the end of the day. I imagine I was reflecting on what a walk up Aquarius was mid-way through that unrelenting last pitch of Rainbow.
Essential GearTwo Ice Tools, Double 60 meter Ropes, 10-12 Ice Screws, Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes, Full Shank Boots, 4W Drive (Preferable), Shovel and Sleeping Bag, the Ghost can be full of surprises.
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