The Wraith is a popular Ghost climb located right-center of the Epitaph Wall in the West Phantom Crag area of the South Ghost, one of the Canadian Rockies premier waterfall ice destinations, but also gaining in popularity for moderate length trad rock routes. The Wraith is probably the most popular at its grade in the Ghost. It is also one of the earlier established modern routes on these walls just east of Lake Minnewanka in Devil’s Gap, put up in 1977 by Hellewell and Perry.
We did this eight pitch route, via the alternate more difficult pitches, in five total pitches utilizing a 70m rope and some simul-climbing towards the top. To reach the Phantom Crag area, proceed towards Devil’s Gap by turning left at the bottom of the “Big Hill” and follow the streambed to the top of the dike and turn left following the dike for a short distance into some trees and turn right aiming for Devil’s Gap on a well driven road. More than likely you will encounter several stream crossings as you make for the Banff National Park Boundary which is well marked. You are not allowed to drive across it. Park at the sign(s) and be prepared to wade across the stream bed to the tree line below Phantom Crag. I always take sandals with me to the Ghost for this reason. Look for a cairn marking a well trodden, but narrow and slightly hidden, trail that takes you up to the walls above to the north. Take the right fork that appears in the trail about half way up and follow it up and then turn left at the wall looking for a large detached block. 10m to the right of this detached block is the start of the Wraith on a ledge about 5m off the ground. From afar, the corner system that makes up 2-3 of the middle pitches is quite deep and obvious.
900’+/-, 8 Pitches, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 45m- 5.9/ The first pitch is fairly easy for the grade, with the crux in the middle as you traverse left into a corner. Going up the corner is straight forward from there. There is a bolted station on a wall above the ledge on top of this corner.
2nd Pitch- 20m- 5.9/ The alternate pitches as posted in the Ghost rock guide book make this a more modern route. The 2nd pitch, as described here, is the first of that variation. I led this pitch and actually combined it with the crux 5.10a 3rd pitch. I don’t necessarily recommend this unless you are strong at the grade, due to rope drag. The first move, down left, moving out over the arête is very airy and quite spectacular and probably the crux move of the route in my opinion. While this move mostly lacks feet, the hands are there and eventually you are looking for a mantle to get over it. Continue slightly left following a bolt through a scoop of sorts and then back right up a small corner to a small ledge with a piton. All of this latter climbing is fairly easy, but run out.
3rd Pitch- 45m- 5.10a/ As before stated, I combined this alternate pitch with the 2nd alternate pitch for a full 60m-70m climb. I placed little gear on this pitch and that was towards the end. The crux moves are well protected via modern bolts (4-2008) although quite spaced out . The climbing constantly trends left on hard cheese grate limestone. Eventually you turn another minor arête to the left and find a few 5.10 crimp face moves. You can now see a short corner up and left that leads to a bolted belay beneath the long corner above.
4th Pitch-40m- 5.9/ Pitches 4 and 5 are what make the Wraith special among the Ghost climbs. Above lies a sustained 5.9 corner for 100 meters. The first pitch is by far the easier pitch, with the crux moves right off the belay (5.9+ alternate in the guide book, you can go left at 5.8). Stem your way into the corner and place gear at will until you reach a comfortable belay ledge.
5th Pitch-55m- 5.9/ You can stop shorter than a full rope length on this pitch, but it makes sense to finish the corner via the 5th pitch, thus you can shorten the climb in general. A bolted belay has been added to make this variation more tempting and is how I led the pitch. Continue up the fantastic corner with plenty of pro opportunities. Pulling through a steep roof section is the crux of the climb. Once above the roof, you are below another, much more chossy overhang section. Tread lightly on this steep ground (directly above your belayer) pulling yourself up and onto easier ground leading to the semi-hanging bolt belay.
6th-8th Pitches- 85m- 5.7/ If you followed my advice above, the rest of the route is no more difficult than 5.7 and can be combined as one pitch. Move left across the small face via solid slab turning the climb at a bolt to the left and into a gully. Toss your ropes back right to avoid rope drag. Continue up the easy chimney section to the top and do a sitting belay. Have the 2nd prepared to simul climb to make this go as one final pitch.
DescentUse the Bonanza gully descent. Hike climbers left from where you topped out circumventing below a large summit block on large scree. Follow a trail as it makes its way for the center of the gully and then drop down on smaller scree as the trail angles right for the center of the gully below.