This climb was the first Grade 6 climb in the Rockies in 1974, and despite having been re-graded to a 5 it still offers a great day of tool swinging. The line is highly aesthetic, unfolding in two tiers of two pitches each: The first a thin ribbon of ice flowing down a steep cliff; the second, a massive wall of undulating ice that will impress even the most jaded climber. A lot of people consider this to be one of the finest climbs in the Rockies.
The first ascent was epic. Tim Auger, George Homer and Rob Wood bivouacked at the base and then spent three days forcing the route after a previous team had retreated after 30 meters. The crux pitch was led in the dark with water soaking the climbers, threatening to freeze them to the route.
“Gloves froze to the straps of my axes,” Wood recalled. “Helmet was frozen to my hair and beard. Carabiners were frozen shut and had to be hammered open. Clothes cracked as I moved.”
The lead took three hours and was followed by a five hour bushwhack back to the parking lot. It's humbling to realize how much easier ice climbing has gotten over the years and what pioneering climbers went though to put up a great line. Beware of the avy danger.
Nine kilometers west of Banff take the turnoff for Sunshine Village ski area and drive into the parking lot as far as you can go.
From the end of the lot, follow the trail up the creek for a few minutes, before heading up through the brush. Eventually the slope opens up and some rope steps are encountered, trending right allows you to cut through them.
At the base of the climb itself there are two rock/ice steps that can be soloed at about WI2 or Class 4, depending on conditions, the upper of the two can be skipped by traversing high around some pine trees and then descending to the base of the first pitch.
Traversing around the 2nd step before the first belay
Note: as with all ice routes, pitch descriptions will vary greatly with conditions, when I climbed it the ice was fat and rotten, the previous owner of this page seems to have found much thinner conditions.
P1. WI4. Sustained off-vertical ice, good screw placements can be hard to find.
P2. WI4. Much like pitch 1 but shorter (pitches 1 and 2 can be linked together with a 70m rope).
Walk up the drainage to a belay cave on your left, the next two pitches are to the right.
P3. WI3. Rolling ice extends upward toward the obvious WI5 pillar, a mildly questionable bolt anchor can be found on the right, which may require some mixed climbing to reach. There may also be an anchor in a cave slightly lower.
P4. WI5. Short and steep, ends at a bolted anchor.
Pitches 3-4 with belay cave on the lower left
Rap the route. From the bottom of the first pitch you can avoid the ice steps by walking off skier’s left and making your way back to the approach track, alternatively there is a rappel station at the base of the pitch that can allow you to rappel the steps.
Standard for multi-pitch ice: tools, crampons, 10-12 screws.
70 meter twin ropes make the rappels simpler and allow you to link up the first two pitches.
The route is subject to high avalanche danger, so check the forecast carefully:
For route conditions: Gravsports