Rainbow Serpent is one of two WI 6 waterfalls found back in Recital Hall on the north side of Devils Gap
just west of Malignant Mushroom
. Rainbow Serpent is comprised of two pitches of ice for the route itself, some WI 2 to get to the base of the climb, as well as a WI 4 waterfall called Aquarius en route. There are several short pieces of solo ice to get to the base of Aquarius. Joe Josephson’s “Waterfall Ice: Climbs in the Canadian Rockies” guide book references the WI 6 portion of Rainbow Serpent at 75 meters. However, that figure is closer to 100 meters.
Either way, it takes two WI 6 pitches to climb Rainbow Serpent. The approach pitch up to the base of the waterfall itself could be considered WI 2-3 and can be soloed as well. Aquarius, which must be overcome to get back into Recital Hall is 60 meters of WI 4, and I mean a full 60
to get to the bolt station at the top, on the right hand side of the wall.
The north side of Devils Gap
is below the massive walls of Phantom Crag (aka Devil’s Fang) which sports some serious summer time rock climbing. Access to Aquarius and Recital Hall is through a narrow canyon just west of Sunshine, WI 3, and Malignant Mushroom, WI 5,
two pieces of ice that are clearly visible on approach. As you work your way through the trees and dry river bed in Devil’s Gap heading northwest, aim for a gully that leads into the canyon just west of Sunshine. As soon as you find an icy creek bed, you can adorn your crampons and ascend some short pitches that lead to the base of Aquarius. Only one of these is long enough to require a rappel on descent. It is the first piece. As you top out, look over to the right and you will see a significant leaning tree with rap gear.
Continue to the base of Aquarius. You might or might not want to remove your crampons depending on conditions. Aquarius is an easy WI 4 in my opinion. There are plenty of rest stops with short steep curtains to overcome in between. There is a two bolt anchor on your right at the top (photos).
Recital Hall (photos) is a spectacular oval bowl that is barely 100 meters in diameter. Its two routes, although classic in lore, rarely form and often die early in the season if they do form.
Even more rare, another party besides my own chose to climb Fearful Symmetry, WI 6X while we climbed Rainbow Serpent and thus we took photos of each others climb (photos). So both of these routes were in fact in January, 2007, although both were broken, with Fearful Symmetry looking suspect.
Rainbow Serpent can only be viewed once you are directly below or across from it in Recital Hall. This is part of its uniqueness. It is a very aesthetic piece that forms two long pillars with a bunch of mushrooming support in between. Climb the easy ice to the lower right corner of the lower pillar. This pillar is typically broken lower down. Climb the right side edge up to the mushrooming configuration and maneuver your way back left completely across the pillar
and up to a bench of ice below the upper, steeper pillar. The second will have to navigate the rope through the mushrooms to avoid climbing over it (photo). Make your station to the far right corner again. From here head straight up the right sustained edge. This last pitch is definitely the crux pitch.
Once even with the rock above, make your station in the ice for belay and eventual rappel. It was much easier hooking the lower pillar than the upper one.
On descent it will take two full raps to reach the base of Rainbow Serpent. It will take four total rappels to get back to the approach.
Two Ice Tools, Double 60 meter Ropes, 10-12 Ice Screws, YOUR MAMA
, Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes, Full Shank Boots, 4W Drive (Preferable), Shovel and Sleeping Bag, the Ghost can be full of surprises.