Rockies Ice

Rockies Ice

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jan 1, 2014
Activities Activities: Ice Climbing, Mixed
Seasons Season: Winter


Washington has shit for ice climbing. I used to try to argue with that statement, then I spent a season waiting for ice to come in and the result was one weekend in Leavenworth and some cragging around the Baker seracs the previous fall. I am sure that I missed many opportunities by not knowing the areas well enough (I have yet to visit Strobach or Banks Lake) but this year, likely my last in the PNW for awhile, I was determined to get on some real ice, and that meant road trips east.

The Breakdown

25 individual routes (not counting separate lines at Haffner)
8 distinct regions (Icefields Parkway, Kananaskis, South Ghost, Field, Red Lodge, East Rosebud, South Fork Shoshone, Marble Canyon)
13 pitches led
32 pitches seconded
8 pitches soloed
53 total pitches climbed

Thanksgiving in Banff

Haffner Creek Ice 
Rafael led the worst warmup climb in the history of warmup climbs, the first move was the hardest single move we did the entire trip.
Rafael leading a short WI5
Ryan leading a WI4

This place was the warmup we needed, but it got crowded fast.
Myself arriving at the base of the routes, photo by Ryan Hoover
Rafael leading, photo by Ryan Hoover

Devil’s Gap
Among the coolest areas I’ve ever visited, good ice was a nice bonus.
Nearing the base of Aquarius
Rafael leading, another group rappelling, not an uncommon occurrence.
Rainbow Serpent

Bourgeau Left
The climb started good, but got warm and rotten very quickly, my lead was easy enough but ended with a spicy mixed section to reach the sketchy bolted anchor.
Ryan leading, myself belaying, photo by Rafael Haroutunian
Myself leading, photo by Ryan Hoover

Cool climb, but we should have gone for Pilsner instead.
photo by Ryan Hoover
Rafael leading
Pilsner on left, Carlsberg on right

Kitty Hawk
Highlight of the trip, a fun WI2 gully solo followed by a terrifying thin WI4 pitch and a steep WI5 finish with excellent ice.
Ryan leading, photo by Rafael Haroutunian
Rafael leading, photo by Ryan Hoover

Beartooths and Cody

Woodbine Falls
Bottom pitches were lame as hell, but the top one was really cool.
First "pitch"
Third pitch
Myself leading, photo by Matt Lemke

Hellroaring Falls
My first WI4(-) lead, we also TRed true WI4 and 5 lines, which were fun.
Matt cleaning the pitch

Rock Creek Falls
WI2, maybe. This one wasn’t worth the hike.

California Ice
Definitely a high point of the season, a really aesthetic twisting couloir with WI2 steps, followed by some of the most technically challenging ice I’ve ever led, weaving between overhanging mushrooms offered decent rests and ok screws, but harder moves than one typically finds on WI4.

On the hike in to the East Rosebud
Start of the WI2 steps
Crux pitches

This one would have been better if it was colder, the ice was fairly rotten and very dirty – kitty litter is no exaggeration. South Fork reminded me of the Ghost, without the sketchy off-road drive in, definitely a place to return to.
South Fork Shoshone
Matt leading
Slow Turning not in


(not the Rockies, but still the nearest good ice to Seattle)

Deeping Wall
Fat, yet brittle and chandeliered, screws were suspect at best. Kudos to Ryan and Rafael for these leads.
Lower Tier
Deeping Wall
Ryan leading, photo by Rafael Haroutunian

Body Shop
- Fat enough to drop the grade, and [gasp] protectable!
Rafael leading
Body Shop
Ryan Hoover leading Body Shop
Rafael hiding behind the pillar

Icy BC
- First pitch was a freaky lead, as my screws were essentially useless (maybe 2 of 6 were good), third pitch, our second, was fun and steep.

New Years in Banff

Beer Climbs
Guinness Gully itself was pretty mediocre, but it was worth it for Guinness Stout, which made the whole day worthwhile.
Ryan leading Guinness Stout
Ryan on Guinness Gully
Myself on Guinness Gully

Devil’s Gap
Wicked Wanda is a bizarre climb, WI4 difficulty with WI6 commitment. Malignant was picked to hell but fun.
Ryan on Wicked Wanda
photo by Ryan Hoover
Myself on Malignant Mushroom, photo by Ryan Hoover

Whiteman and Red Man
Red Man Soars made me question my life choices, why do we climb this nonsense? Whiteman reminded me of the answer.
Ryan on Red Man Soars
Apparently Ryan felt cold at the top of Whiteman
Myself rappelling, photo by Ryan Hoover

Recital Hall
A real, 60m, WI4 lead (albeit, in very easy shape due to traffic), followed by Fearful Symmetry, the funnest climb I’ve done, and Rainbow Serpent, one of the hardest. Definitely a full value day.
Myself leading Aquarius, photo by Ryan Hoover
Rainbow Serpent
Fearful Symmetry
Ryan leading Fearful Symmetry

Haffner Creek Mixed
Drytooling… I love the idea, but the reality is really, really hard. I led what the guidebook calls an M6 with only one fall (stupid mistake after I pulled the crux), and an M7 with several long hangs, also TRed an M8 and an M9, with limited success.


1. Temperature is much less important than humidity, the coldest I ever felt was in Lillooet, and it was barely below freezing.
2. Will Gadd is right, ice grades are somewhere between irrelevant and downright deceptive – conditions, best described with adjectives, not numbers, make the climb.
3. Excellent rock and excellent ice are mutually exclusive entities.
4. Ice screws are like the first aid kit I’ve been carrying around for the last decade, I’ve never really needed it and I don’t actually want to find out how much good it would do if I did.
5. Two people is way faster than three, but you get way more tired and take way less photos.
6. There is more excellent ice climbing, by a factor of about 100, than it is possible to climb in Banff in a couple weeks; we will probably never tick all the classics here.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-6 of 6
Matt Lemke

Matt Lemke - Jan 4, 2014 11:53 pm - Voted 10/10

Awesome work!

You have had an excellent season so far! Nice TR and hope your good season continues. Let me know if you ever come back out to Cody. I am much more familiar with the area now and know some spectacular WI4's to do now


jacobsmith - Jan 5, 2014 12:59 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome work!

Thanks! that's probably it for the big ice trips this year, but next winter Cody will be very high on my list. Spring break in late march i'm going to be looking for a partner for Indian Creek by the way, let me know if you are interested.

Matt Lemke

Matt Lemke - Jan 5, 2014 2:20 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Awesome work!

I am very interested in that. I'll probably end up hitting ice through the end of this month then start back on rock in February. In addition to indian creek, there are 8-10 CLASSIC desert towers all around Moab

Old School WB

Old School WB - Jan 5, 2014 2:15 am - Voted 10/10

Thanksgiving in Banff

"Thanksgiving in Banff" I am assuming American Thanksgiving, not the Canadian Thanksgiving eh? (Oct. 14, 2013). Cool trip, you boys climbed some great routes. Ice climbing is a lot of fun and excitement, keep it up.

Old married guys with kids don't climb much anymore, great to read about guys who do.



jacobsmith - Jan 5, 2014 11:04 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Thanksgiving in Banff

Yes, it was in november. we had the same confusion with a couple locals we ran into last week, they were having trouble comprehending how these climbs had been in and they hadn't known about it.


Cissa - Jan 6, 2014 8:15 am - Voted 10/10

Great work!

The page looks awesome!

Viewing: 1-6 of 6