I Need a Hug, Cause I Got the Rocky River Blues

I Need a Hug, Cause I Got the Rocky River Blues

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 53.04802°N / 117.99969°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Dec 17, 2006
Activities Activities: Ice Climbing
Seasons Season: Winter

The Approach

“You’re not going to believe what Kassie said to me this morning as I was eating breakfast” Greg said, as we drove down the highway early in the morning on our way ice climbing.

“I’m not even going to guess”, I replied. Greg’s daughter Kassie is 4 years old, and is never at a loss for words.

“She told me that if Mr. Jones starts to cry, make sure and give him a hug”, Greg said laughing.

Now, I’m not sure why Kassie thought I might be crying, because I’m not normally known for my sudden outbursts of crying, but as it would turn out she was fairly prophetic.
Rocky River Blues - Jasper National ParkThe first views of Rocky River Blues from the approach

It was December 2006, and Greg and I were going to attempt to climb “Rocky River Blues”, a beautiful 3 pitch ice fall located in a side drainage of the Rocky River in Jasper National Park. We had been wanting to climb this route for a while, but two things kept us from doing it. The first was the long approach (approximately 3 hours). The second was that if the first pitch isn’t in (and you can’t tell this until you get there), then you’ve walked 3 hours for the exercise only. We’d heard many stories of climbers who had done the long approach, only to walk back out without climbing a pitch.

With binoculars, we could see the upper pitches of the route from the highway (but not the lower), and they looked fat and green, so we were hoping the first pitch was going to be good to go.

The crux of the approach is choosing the right side drainage of the Rocky River to walk into, because you can’t see the climb until you’re basically at it. We had lined up which drainage the climb was in while scoping it from the highway – a particular large patch of unburned trees (there was a large forest fire in this drainage two years ago) was our landmark. This helped immensely and got us into the right drainage. From there, we stayed on the left side of the drainage all the way up, not traversing into the drainage itself until we were right at the ice climb. It’s quite a steep approach and we had to put our crampons on for the last half hour.

The first views of the climb were breathtaking. The ice flows out of a very narrow canyon in a blue sinewy ribbon. It’s immediately apparent where the name “Rocky River Blues” comes from.

The Climb

Rocky River Blues - 1st PitchThe steep first pitch of Rocky River Blues

The first pitch was definitely in, but looked hard and scary. For some unknown reason I volunteered to climb the first pitch – this was a decision I was soon to regret.

The first pitch was a steep, chandeliered, free standing column. It was difficult to protect and hard to get good sticks with the tools. I made it up about half way, but was thrashed and had to take a rest – the funny thing about that was my ice screws were so bad (rotten, airy, ice) that I was afraid to rest my weight on them. After shaking out for a few minutes and regaining my composure, I headed up again. I had gone another 10 feet, when the whole ice column shifted with a large auditable “thunk”.

“Greg, what sh..sh..sh.. should I do?, I asked nervously, hanging from my tools and trying not to wet my pants.

“I don’t thing there’s anything you can do, but keep climbing”, Greg replied, as he ran for cover.

“Greg, I think I need a hug”, I asked, even though I hadn’t started crying yet.

I think Greg was too busy getting the hell out of the way to respond. You might notice the picture on the left is a long ways from the ice fall - this is where Greg is belaying from. Smart guy.

I did gather my courage up and managed to make it to the top of the climb. Greg followed in impeccable style; meaning no crying or need for hugs. The ice column remained standing.
Rocky River Blues - 2nd PitchThe beautiful 2nd Pitch

The following pitch was the pay off for the hike in. It was as beautiful a pitch of grade 3 ice as you’re ever going to see. It consisted of a single band of blue ice 50 metres long with hardly a dimple or icicle on it. Greg was salivating and started on it right away. It was pretty much one stick ice with both your the tools and crampons – Greg couldn’t stop smiling the whole way up. It’s for an occasional pitch like this that we suffer the long approaches, the frozen hands and feet, and all the objective dangers of ice climbing.

The third pitch was just some rolling ice with a few steeper sections that needed an ice screw or two.

Getting Down

Rocky River Blues - Going DownRappelling the second pitch - note Greg at the bottom of the climb (which gives a good sense of scale)
We topped out into a hanging valley, and soaked up the sun and views for a while before we began the rappels down.

As always for me, with my bad joints, going down is worse (in the pain department) than going up. We took it slow, and were back at the vehicle just as it was getting dark. Rocky River Blues is a wonderful ice climb and we’re glad we did it.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-14 of 14

theronmoon - Nov 25, 2007 2:59 pm - Voted 10/10


Very inspiring climb, thanks for sharing.


AJones - Nov 26, 2007 12:16 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Insane!


Indiana Mad-Man

Indiana Mad-Man - Nov 25, 2007 10:09 pm - Voted 10/10

Very nice

Great trip report with even better pictures.


AJones - Nov 26, 2007 12:17 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Very nice

Thanks! It's a beautiful place (and it was a nice day).


AJones - Nov 26, 2007 7:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: nice one man.

Thanks - I guess if it wasn't for the bleak (hopefully brief) interlude of fear, we'd be doing something else. Cheers!


AJones - Nov 28, 2007 1:43 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome

Thanks! What would ice climbing be without the odd "oh sh*t" moment.....


tanya - Nov 28, 2007 11:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Wonderful Story



AJones - Nov 29, 2007 12:54 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Wonderful Story

Thanks! It was a good day.


johnloguk - Nov 29, 2007 6:26 pm - Voted 10/10

Superb stuff

One of the best ice fall climbs I've ever seen, and great photos too. Yes indeed, where would we be without the odd "oh s**t" moments!


AJones - Nov 29, 2007 10:21 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Superb stuff

Thanks - by the look of your pics, you've seen some ice. Cheers!


johnloguk - Nov 30, 2007 3:40 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Superb stuff

Yes I've had some "fun" days! I've never climbed anything quite like that ice fall though.


AJones - Dec 1, 2007 10:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great job

Thanks - it was a great day!

Eric Sandbo

Eric Sandbo - Dec 1, 2007 9:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Great story!

Did you ever get your hug?


AJones - Dec 1, 2007 10:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great story!

No, I don't think I did - certainly not from Greg, and I'm pretty sure not from Kassie either. I'll have to talk to her about that. Cheers.

Viewing: 1-14 of 14



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