Drive from Canmore to Banff on a clear day and you will see an inspirational wall before Banff high up on the face of Mount Rundle with thin drips of ice coming down. That is the Trophy Wall.
The Trophy Wall with Sea of Vapors on the rightmost side
The Trophy Wall doesn't really need an introduction as it has become known with the sport of ice climbing. Climbing any of these routes is indeed a trophy. These routes are some of the most watched routes around. If any of them form, expect to see others from around the world trying to get on them. Also expect to experience some of the best ice climbing around along with a good challenge. And the exposure is simply amazing!
The Terminator was the first climb on the wall to be climbed in 1985. It was graded WI7 and took three days to climb. Since then, it has been downgraded to WI6+. The few that have climbed it have said it's the hardest piece of ice they have ever climbed. It's the most watched piece of ice in Canada and has not formed that much.
Two other routes on the wall, The Replicant (WI6+) and Sea of Vapors, were also climbed in the early 1990's.
Sea of Vapors was originally graded WI7+ R and defined what was possible when it was done. One can only imagine how hard and physicological the leads were with extremely thin ice and overhung ice. That is with no protection except the belays.
The Trophy Wall see's no sun at all. When one of the climbs are "in", expect to see traffic. Get an alpine start.
Getting there is pretty simple, actually not really. Use the same approach for Professor Falls, except take a right off the trail before getting to Professor Falls and go through steep forest until you enter the drainage below the Trophy Wall. In order to reach the wall, you must skirt around left of all the cliffs until it skirts back around via a gully. Traverse a bowl to a fixed rope and then a WI3 pitch get's you to the base. If you bike the trail and the trail to the wall is packed, expect 2 hours. But that's not usually the case. Around 4 to 5 hours.
Consult Joe Josephson's Canada Ice guidebook for a good description.
Google Map of Approach
Sea of Vapors on the right
When in condition as of the first ascent, this climb becomes one of the hardest ice routes anywhere. (WI7+ R) When the sustained thin ice turns into thicker ice, expect to see difficulties in the WI5+/6 range.
As much as I'd like to say I did it in WI7+ R condition, I didn't. I'll explain the climb in the conditions I found.
In 7+ condition Joe Josephson explains that the belay anchors are solid in the rock but besides that there is no gear leading, just sustained steep thin ice with a couple of overhangs.
P1 Climb the WI5 Postcriptum Pillar for 40 meters until you arrive at the hanging bolt belay. (Only bolts on the climb) Continue to stare at the next pitch.
P2 Climb up to the top of the pillar and enter the "Whipper Traverse." The pitons there are quite interesting. OR place a high screw and traverse directly right skipping the Whipper Traverse with a couple of M4/5 moves to Sea of Vapors. I did not do the Whipper Traverse and skirted right before it so I cannot speak for how hard it is. I have heard M6 or M7. Continue up funky vertical ice for a while until the ground eases in angle. (85 degrees)
P3 Continue up a fun pitch of exposed WI5 climbing until a belay can be made. If your lucky, there is sometimes a cave that makes one of the best belay stations I've been on.
P4 Continue up vertical ice until the top of the climb is reached.
In the conditions I found, no rock gear was needed. A couple knifeblades are not a bad thing to bring though. Bring a few stubbies.
The route is the right most line on the Trophy Wall. The start is by the Postcriptum or a direct start can be had via two bolts at the roof but it's been known the crux hold broke making it extremely more difficult then it already was.
Descend via V threads.
On lead of P3
External LinksMountain Project
Kurt on P1