The Spectacular Upper Pitch
This is a great climb situated in the obvious left hand drainage of Mt.Elliot. It is two drainages left of the David Thompson Classic - Kitty Hawk
. You work your way into the narrow canyon via a long pitch of grade 3 ice and keep moving up. It has varied climbing throughout the first several pitches which eventually bring you to a hidden, long and sustained column of ice pouring off an impressive grey rock wall.
There is a significant avalanche slope above the climb so take adequate precautions to ensure that conditions are safe to proceed.
No matter how you are approaching these climbs take the time to drive around and look for a climbers trail. It can save some serious bushwacking.
From the Icefields Parkway turnoff at Saskatchewan River Crossing travel about 36 km east on Hwy 11 and park where the obvious lower pitches of ice can be seen in Mt.Elliot's left drainage.
Google Map from the Icefields Parkway
From Nordegg travel around 52 km west on Hwy 11 and park on the side of the road where the lower pitches can be seen in the left hand drainage of Mt.Elliot.
Google Map from Nordegg
If a climbers trail is not apparent, sight the climb from the road and start working your way up through the trees following the line of least resistance. There is a creek bed that comes down from the climb 1/3 of the way along. It may be easier to work your way through the creek bed, but it is less direct.
Eventually you will be forced into the creek bed where the climb will become apparent.
The approach is about 60 minutes.
The First Pitch
From the base climb a long pitch of grade 3 ice. There is a new bolt and chain anchor to the climber`s left at almost 60 m. (Disregard the old 1/4 inch bolt and pin station to the right).
The Middle Section
Continue up some thin low angle ice and snow to a series of short ice steps and more snow slopes. These continue for a good 3 rope lengths and depending on your comfort level they can be simu-climbed. Finding good belays may be challenging and time consuming.
Atop the last snow slope and once your heart recovers from the slog up, you will see the final pitch of ice pouring over an equally impressive grey rockwall. This is a long and sustained pitch of ice that apparently forms in varying conditions. We found the pitch in thin condition compared to the picture in Joe Josephson´s guide Waterfall Ice and some other pics we found on the web. All said, the ice was in surpisingly good shape and protected well. It is sustained for the first 25-30 metres before it gradually kicks back to moderate ice steps.
Belay from the obvious tree to the climbers left.
Working the Final Pitch Some Mandatory Downclimbing
Make a 50 metre rappel off of the tree to the climbers left atop the final pitch.
Start downclimbing through the snow and short ice steps. Continue until the downclimbing steepens significantly and appears too sketchy to down climb. Look for a bolt station on the climbers left of the canyon. It can be tough to see so watch for it on your way up. There were also signs of v-threads in the ice higher up and that may be an option for anyone not comfortable with the downclimbing. A full 60 metre rappel takes you to the last bolt and chain anchor atop the first pitch.
One more 55-60 metre rappel gets you to the base of the climb.
Standard ice rack. We were glad to have our short screws for the top pitch.
Two 60 metre ropes are needed to get off the climb.
There are two great websites for ice conditions in the Canadian Rockies:
Live The Vision - Ice Conditions