Pierre climbing first pitch of Nemesis - about halfway up (~35m).
Joe Josephson’s “Waterfall Ice, Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” references Nemesis as one of the few original WI6 climbs to have never been downgraded, and hence a classic consensus grade 6
. The climb is located on the NE aspect of the impressive Stanley Headwall, which also contains some of the regions hardest pure ice and mixed climbs such as Suffer Machine, Acid Howl, the Mr Hulot area, and French Reality. The hanging valley containing these climbs is a worthwhile destination to simply gawk at the beauty of the area, and of course the amazing amount of impressive ice/mixed climbing options! However, this area is also subject to serious avalanche potential and care should be taken to choose a safe time to attempt the climb.
To approach the climb, follow the directions provided in Joe Josephson's guidebook. In brief summary, park at the Stanley creek pullout and ski/snowshoe up the switch backing trail thru the trees into the hanging valley. The trail will level off and then head southward thru trees and open areas towards the back of the valley. Along your right you will see the impressive French Reality, Mr Hulot, Acid Howl, and finally Suffer Machine area. Nemesis is located past Suffer Machine in the back of the valley and care should be taken while on the snow slopes leading up to the climb (avalanche prone). In moderate snow conditions the full approach will take about 2hrs.
Nemesis with pitches and belays shown.
The guidebook lists the route as being 160m long and typically climbed in 4 pitches. Using a 70m rope we chose do it in 2 long pitches by using the bolted anchor at the midway cave as the first belay (very safe). The first pitch was done in one long 75m shot, with the second climber beginning to climb as the leader clips the bolts and begins the belay. (Only commit to this plan if you feel confident/comfortable with this style of climbing. Otherwise set your belay at anther safe location off to the left side where the belayer will be safe from ice fall.) The ice was good and relatively well traveled (in March), with some plating snow/ice as the angle decreased nearing the cave.
In hindsight, it is not recommended to do the second pitch in one 70m shot. The climbing from the belay is sustained/delicate, traverses to the right, and the communication gets worse as you head up. There is a quality bolted belay on the right side after about 40m - use it and don't risk falling due to exhaustion after 70m (especially since there is a 'sting in the tail' finish)!
Use or create abalakov's at the top from as far 'climbers left' (skiers right) as possible so that you reach the bolted anchors in the cave. We had ample rope leftover with a 70m rappel, so I believe that 60m ropes would also make it.
The second rappel from the cave can also be easily achieved with 70m ropes, and I've been told is possible (with stretch) using 60m ropes. If you don't touch ground then create and intermediate abalakov.
Two ice tools with spare pick, double 60 or 70 meter ropes, 14 ice screws (including some 13cm), a mix of regular quickdraws/screamers/long slings, crampons, helmet, belay jacket, ice climbing boots, skis or snowshoes, trekking poles, extra food and water/tea, headlamp.
External LinksIce Condition Reports
Avalanche Conditions - check Banff/Yoho/Kootenay