Upper Pitches - Kitty Hawk
In his Waterfall Ice - Ice Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, Joe Josephson describes this climb as "Simply the best David Thompson route, Kitty Hawk is a classic with an ambiance similar to Polar Circus
or The Sorcerer
." The first ascent in 1980 was mired in a series of minor epics including a name-insiring leader fall on the final pitch of the first attempt, an improvised rescue, several false starts, and finally a successful rope solo and 26 stitches.
This climb forms consistently
year to year but conditions may vary significantly. It is a solid grade 5 climb but this too can vary with the conditions. Be aware of the significant avalanche terrain above this climb.
You can expect challenging climbing in a majestic setting with this Canadian Rockies Gem.
Kitty Hawk is situated in the furthest right of the three main gullies on Elliot Peak which is just south of the Cline River Bridge. Park about 4 km south of the bridge in an obvious pull out. The climb is obvious from the road.
Google Map from Icefields Parkway
Google Map from Nordegg
As the route is visible from the highway it is wise to site your desitination prior to starting off. A climber's trail is likely given the popularity of this route. There is a drainage creek to guide your way in the event there is no preset trail. In typical winter conditions you can expect a 60-90 minute hike over moderate terrain to the base of the climb.
The first 90-100 m is low angle ice and snow with steps of ice up to grade 3. Based on your comfort level you may choose to rope up or solo this terrain which will bring you to the base of the steeper ice above.
Nearing the top of Pitch 3
The next 60 metres of grade 4 ice brings you to the base of the crux pitch. This pitch can form in very thin conditions making this a very delicate and cerebral pitch to lead.
The crux pitch involves a steep section of technical mushrooms that leads into a steep and sustained pillar. The pitch ends in a series of steep steps. 50 m.
The final pitch of grade 3 ice brings you to the top of the climb and views of stunning but avalanche prone terrain above. 30 m.
There is a pin and bolt station to the climber's right of the top pitch.
The next 2 rappels are off of ice stations that will bring you back to the base of the steep ice.
Downclimb a ways to the final rappel station on the climber's right of the canyon.
Spindrift Avalanche on the Descent
A standard ice rack and set of draws. 60 m ropes.
There are two great websites for ice conditions in the Canadian Rockies:
Live The Vision - Ice Conditions