“If this climb was farther north and closer to a higher population of climbers, it would be a world famous ice route…”,
Along the Cameron Lake Road in Waterton Lakes National Park
, there are several drainages to the north that form spectacular waterfall ice routes during the winter months. These routes are considered to be relatively safer compared to other routes in Waterton and elsewhere that require a ski approach over avalanche terrain. The three lines making up Experts Choice can be found in the 2nd such drainage up the Cameron Lake Road. Although these routes are south facing, in January, the sun does not arrive until the afternoon.
The 125m, WI 4, “Left Side” forms consistently every year and is by far the easiest of the three lines. The 130m, WI 5, “Right Side” is the least likely one of the three to be touching down and in fact was not “in” as of January, 2008. The 130m, WI 6, “Middle Route” is no doubt the jewel of this wall and represents a considerable piece of ice.
Just as you arrive into the town of Waterton, turn right on Cameron Lake road and proceed 4.8kms up the plowed road (2008). You will pass the first drainage after the road bends sharply containing Pearl Necklace, French Kiss, etc and will pull over at the next drainage. Experts Choice will be unmistakable, blanketing a wall high to the north. More than likely you will not see a human trail through the snow and will have to post hole or snowshoe in through possibly waist deep powder up the left side of the drainage, angling right, back towards the base of the wall as you break through the trees above. You cross one short avalanche slope. The wind on this route can be a factor.
Route Description430’, 3 Pitches, WI 6
1st Pitch- 130’- WI 6/
The center and left portion of this fall is normally quite thick. The middle portion gets its rating from the many hanging pillars creating, at times, overhanging ice on the first pitch. There is typically a large hole on the left side of the center curtain. We chose a line just right of that hole and went straight up, traversing at the last few meters back left into a comfortable significant sized ice cave above the large hole. It had a small entrance that needed to be cleaned away in 2008, but made for quite the belay station for a party of three. This pitch is sustained and varied. You could pick a line left or right for several meters.
2nd Pitch- 160’- WI 5/
The second pitch features coming out of the cave of course onto the crux section of the pitch. Steep and vertical ice eventually gives way to ramping easier ice farther up. Angle slightly right to find an ice ledge belay or two.
3rd Pitch- 140’- WI 2/
Angle back left on easy WI 2-3 ice, traversing even more at the top to locate a fixed station in the upper left corner above the “Left Side” route, just to the right of some cool looking ice gargoyles shaped by the wind.
Rappel down climbers right of the gargoyles, looking to kick yourself out slightly left looking for one of two fixed stations for the mid rappel. We used the 2nd one which was hidden in a small cave below another fixed station.
Two Ice Tools, Double 60 meter Ropes, 12 Ice Screws with draws and/or screamers, Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes (cold spot in the am), Full Shank Boots, Gaiters, Hiking poles and/or Snowshoes could be helpful.
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