Pretty Nuts, 180m. II, WI 4, is no doubt one of the more popular routes in Kicking Horse Canyon just east of Golden, BC. What does that mean? We climbed it on a Saturday in January without another soul in site.
The road and bridges are new in this section of the TransCanada Highway and therefore Joe’s approach beta is somewhat out of date. You still cross two bridges, approximately 10 and 5 miles east of Golden which mark the chasms that make up Kicking Horse Canyon. The 2nd bridge you come to, heading west bound, is the smaller of the two. Just as you past the bridge you have a large retaining/avalanche wall on your right. Continue west up the hill beyond the bridge and you will see a small parking opportunity on the south side of the road. Turn around and park here and hike back down to the bridge. Cross the road to the north right before the bridge and you will be staring up at the first pitch of Pretty Nuts. Ascend the short snow slope to the base of the climb.
600’, 3 Pitches, WI 4
1st Pitch- 200’- WI 3-4/ Consisting of a huge, somewhat dirty, ice wall, this pitch gives up several lines. Easier lines can be found to the right, steeper lines up the center, thin and ugly ice to the left. We chose the center aesthetic line which was mostly WI 3 until the last 10m which offered a nice steep WI 4 curtain of sorts. To reach a small tree for a belay, you will have to stretch your 60m ropes to their limits.
2nd Pitch- 200’- WI 4/ If the sustained portion of this pillar were any longer, it would be more deserving of a 5 grade. Proceed from the top of the first pitch over to your left and to the base of an obvious pillar curtain. There are good trees to the left to belay from. It looks short, but once on top of the pillar, you have to creep along easy ice quite a bit to belay off of a tree. This steep pillar (photo) is a fun pitch, definitely worth doing, but can be bypassed on your way to the final main pitch.
3rd Pitch- 200’- WI 4/ You can skip the more difficult pillar on the 2nd pitch if it is not in good shape and continue up the shallow rock corner straight above the belay for the first pitch. Either way, move into and cross a gully to the east, left to right, and circumvent ground into the next drainage east for the final pitch, a classic 60m WI 4 waterfall climb. Cross to the other side of the base of this ice and you will find a comfortable and well protected belay next to a rock wall on the right. The first curtain is steep, but not very long. It is separated from the main ice by a nice bench and then onto a full-on sustained WI 4 curtain finish. Again, a full rope stretch will reach a decent tree belay center and top of the ice for a two rope rappel. This last pitch was classic, thus we pulled the rope for two leads.
DescentRappel the 3rd pitch. Return until just on the east side of the gully you crossed before and descend here to a precarious large tree belay on steep ground (watch your step as you clip in). Rappel back to a large tree centered between the first and second pitches. One last double rope rappel will return you to the base a few feet short. Make sure your double ropes are at least 60m for these rappels.
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