The Upper Amphitheatre of Ice
One of the best climbs in the area. The amphitheatre of ice above the gully is amazing and well worth the lengthy grunt up from the road. There seems to be several lines that form but if the obvious two pitch pillar on the climber's left of the amphitheatre is formed, it is easily the gem.
The upper part of this route sees a tonne of sun, so an early season attempt is wise. We were turned away our first time up due to deteriorating ice conditions.
The lower pitches through the gully are enough to keep things interesting if there is no snow, but they certainly do not add to the quality of the route. The route is 465 metres long with the only about 100 metres of sustained climbing. The gully ice does not always form leaving an unbroken slog up the trees to the right of the gully.
As this route and Knuckle Gnasher
across the valley see less frequent traffic, you will find the beta in Joe Josephson's guide Ice Climbs in the Canadian Rockies is not all that accurate.
Driving through Grande Cache heading towards Grande Prairie continue for 13 km to the Gun Firing Range which is on the east (right) side of the highway. Continue north past the Gun Firing Range for 300-400 metres and park on the side of the road near an obvious steep embankment.
Google Map Grande Cache to the Parking Area
From the parking area cross the highway and head straight up the steep bank and follow the top of this bank to your right essentially parallel to the road until you hit the drainage. Work your way up the drainage until you reach the first small grade 2 step of ice.
If these bottom pitches are not formed you are faced with the daunting task of gaining the close to 500 metres to the upper amphitheatre via a steep and unrelenting grunt through the trees on the right side of the gully.
Grade 5 Ice Atop Evergreen Gully
This first bit of ice can be soloed or you may rope want to rope up.
Second Pitch of ice in the Gully
Continue up the drainage to another 10 metres of grade 2-3 ice.
Work your way up the drainage from atop this last pitch and you will come to a small hidden rock amphitheatre with a blob of ice trying to touch down. Mix route oppotunities? We have never seen this ice touch down, but it will be a wild 15 metres of ice when it does.
Hidden Rock Amphitheatre
This feature can be bypassed to the climber's right up steep slopes and some rock ledges.
Upper Grade 3 Pitch
Continue up the drainage if you can or side hill it if there is too much snow. You may come to another 10 metre grade 3 ice. Again this doesn't always form, but can be easily bypassed to the climber's right if it is not.
You will now be in full view of the amazing ice in the upper amphitheatre. There seems to be about 3 lines that form with the most difficult being the 100 m pillar to the left. Choose your line and enjoy the ride. There seems to be obvious belay ledges just above halfway for most of the climbs. The obvious pillar is spectacular and if it is in shape it is highly recommended. Sustained and vertical.
Rappel the Upper Pitches off of trees and the ice. March downhill to the skier's left back to the highway. This again is often steep frozen turf and is nicely forgotten by the time you hit the car.
Rappeling the First Tier of the Upper Pitches Upper Pitch - Grade 4
Standard Ice Rack and a V-Thread hook with Cordelette.
There are two great websites for ice conditions in the Canadian Rockies:
Live The Vision - Ice Conditions