PrefaceWashington has shit for ice climbing. I used to try to argue with that statement, then I spent a season waiting for ice to come in and the result was one weekend in Leavenworth and some cragging around the Baker seracs the previous fall. I am sure that I missed many opportunities by not knowing the areas well enough (I have yet to visit Strobach or Banks Lake) but this year, likely my last in the PNW for awhile, I was determined to get on some real ice, and that meant road trips east.
25 individual routes (not counting separate lines at Haffner)
8 distinct regions (Icefields Parkway, Kananaskis, South Ghost, Field, Red Lodge, East Rosebud, South Fork Shoshone, Marble Canyon)
13 pitches led
32 pitches seconded
8 pitches soloed
53 total pitches climbed
Thanksgiving in BanffHaffner Creek Ice
This place was the warmup we needed, but it got crowded fast.
Among the coolest areas I’ve ever visited, good ice was a nice bonus.
The climb started good, but got warm and rotten very quickly, my lead was easy enough but ended with a spicy mixed section to reach the sketchy bolted anchor.
Cool climb, but we should have gone for Pilsner instead.
Highlight of the trip, a fun WI2 gully solo followed by a terrifying thin WI4 pitch and a steep WI5 finish with excellent ice.
Beartooths and CodyWoodbine Falls
Bottom pitches were lame as hell, but the top one was really cool.
My first WI4(-) lead, we also TRed true WI4 and 5 lines, which were fun.
Definitely a high point of the season, a really aesthetic twisting couloir with WI2 steps, followed by some of the most technically challenging ice I’ve ever led, weaving between overhanging mushrooms offered decent rests and ok screws, but harder moves than one typically finds on WI4.
This one would have been better if it was colder, the ice was fairly rotten and very dirty – kitty litter is no exaggeration. South Fork reminded me of the Ghost, without the sketchy off-road drive in, definitely a place to return to.
Fat, yet brittle and chandeliered, screws were suspect at best. Kudos to Ryan and Rafael for these leads.
- Fat enough to drop the grade, and [gasp] protectable!
- First pitch was a freaky lead, as my screws were essentially useless (maybe 2 of 6 were good), third pitch, our second, was fun and steep.
New Years in BanffBeer Climbs
Guinness Gully itself was pretty mediocre, but it was worth it for Guinness Stout, which made the whole day worthwhile.
Wicked Wanda is a bizarre climb, WI4 difficulty with WI6 commitment. Malignant was picked to hell but fun.
Red Man Soars made me question my life choices, why do we climb this nonsense? Whiteman reminded me of the answer.
A real, 60m, WI4 lead (albeit, in very easy shape due to traffic), followed by Fearful Symmetry, the funnest climb I’ve done, and Rainbow Serpent, one of the hardest. Definitely a full value day.
Haffner Creek Mixed
Drytooling… I love the idea, but the reality is really, really hard. I led what the guidebook calls an M6 with only one fall (stupid mistake after I pulled the crux), and an M7 with several long hangs, also TRed an M8 and an M9, with limited success.
Conclusions1. Temperature is much less important than humidity, the coldest I ever felt was in Lillooet, and it was barely below freezing.
2. Will Gadd is right, ice grades are somewhere between irrelevant and downright deceptive – conditions, best described with adjectives, not numbers, make the climb.
3. Excellent rock and excellent ice are mutually exclusive entities.
4. Ice screws are like the first aid kit I’ve been carrying around for the last decade, I’ve never really needed it and I don’t actually want to find out how much good it would do if I did.
5. Two people is way faster than three, but you get way more tired and take way less photos.
6. There is more excellent ice climbing, by a factor of about 100, than it is possible to climb in Banff in a couple weeks; we will probably never tick all the classics here.