Le Pilier des Putains is the only WI 6 formation in the first drainage up Cameron Lake Road in Waterton Lakes National Park. The more common routes on this wall are Quick and Dirty and French Kiss at WI 3 grades. My partner had already done French Kiss, so we ran up Quick and Dirty for a warm up and then took on Le Pilier des Putains. We were a little surprised at the rating. Although it was a pumpy sustained piece, we felt it belonged more in the WI 5 range versus WI 6. Technically, Le Pilier des Putains and French Kiss are the same ice. French Kiss is the obvious left WI 3 line and Le Pilier des Putains takes on the right side fractured ice made up of multiple buried pillars. To the right of Le Pilier des Putains and French Kiss is Pearl Necklace which was "in" good as a WI 5 piece in January, 2008. Quick and Dirty was quite stout if you follow the left line, more like a WI 4 rating on the first pitch and WI 3 on the 2nd pitch.
Le Pilier is about 50m long, so you will have to either bring up the 2nd or pull the rope for two leads. Keep in mind the right side of this wall, Quick and Dirty, requires two pitches of climbing. The left side of this wall is shorter in height. Joe describes the base of Le Pilier des Putains as “a hideously small and technically rotten free standing column.” I think we found it in better shape than that, thus the lower rating in our opinion. We rapped from a large tree as I recall, but you can walk off supposedly.
Getting ThereAlong the Cameron Lake Road in Waterton Lakes National Park, there are several drainages to the north that form spectacular waterfall ice routes during the winter months. These routes are considered to be relatively safer compared to other routes in Waterton and elsewhere that require a ski approach over avalanche terrain. Although these routes are south facing, in January, the sun does not arrive until the afternoon.
Just as you arrive into the town of Waterton, turn right on Cameron Lake road and continue 4.8kms up the plowed road (2008). You will come to the first drainage (pull out) after the road does a big snake. The approach is short and you can see the ice from the road. We ascended the left side of the drainage.
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