Joe Josephson writes in his guidebook, Waterfall Ice: Climbs in the Canadian Rockies "If you are to do just one route in the Ghost River area The Sorcerer
would be it."
This climb pours over the walls at the back of stunning cirque of limestone walls that from beneath appear as shear towers. The atmopshere is simply breathtaking. It is likely the most aptly named ice climb in the Rockies. A true classic.
The climbing involves a couple of pitches of moderate to easy terrain followed by two sustained vertical pitches. A fifth pitch of rolling ice and a significant cornice can be done but most parties skip this.
This is understandably a very popular climb and as such you can likely expect company on the weekends and a consumate hook-fest throughout the year. This by no means negates the involvement of this climb. It is a solid grade 5 and is in a very remote setting. Any sort of rescue you would be lengthy and involved.
The Sorcerer: Our Route
There are two basic access points for this climb.
The quickest (in terms of walking time) approach to The Sorcerer is via the Waiparous Creek Drainage. However, be warned that the drive in up the Waiparous Creek is much more involved and can be perilous. Here is an excellent link to Will Gadd's Gravsports Webpage that details how to access the climb via Waiparous Creek. Hydrophobia Waiparous Access
From the furthest point you can access via vehicle the climb is about a 60 minute hike up a well flagged trail. The drainage should be obvious.
The traditional access has been from the North Ghost and involves about a 2 hour hike (give or take depending on your pace). At least half of this hike is full on bushwacking through heavy bush and trees so consider yourself forewarned.
Getting to the parking area is fairly straight forward. Dow writes from his post on Beowolf:
"From Calgary or Canmore, access 1A which parallels the TransCanada to the north. 13.4kms west of the Hwy 22 junction in Cochrane is the Forestry Trunk Road (Route 940). Turn north on the Forestry Trunk Road for 23kms to a gated gravel road on your left. There is a trail head information kiosk board here, but no obvious sign. If you find the gate closed, it is imperative that you close the gate behind you. Most climbers only take 4-wheel drive vehicles beyond this point, but depending on conditions, other vehicles can travel the road. This rough road goes for another 17kms until it reaches the “big hill”. Along the way there is one ice/water crossing. If this hill is muddy or icy or has too much snow, it can be extremely difficult to navigate. Orient Point’s “The Real Big Drip- 200m- V, M7+, WI 7” can be viewed to the southwest from atop this hill. This is a remote area and very little exists in the way of facilities or emergency help.
Pitch OneAt the bottom of the hill, turn right and do your best to follow a sometimes vague, sometimes obvious, track along the right of the wash until it becomes essential to cross the wash heading west and navigate further north crossing a well established bridge over the river and continuing through some big ruts and/or snow drifts until you come to a river crossing.
Park just after crossing the Ghost River in the North Ghost. Head towards the obvious pass between the large limestone walls on the left and Blackrock Mountain on the right. You should intercept a narrow road that should take you to the top of this pass and the first Johnson Lake about 30-45 minutes. Two options now exist from this point.
The first option is to continue to the north end of the lake before heading down and accross an open meadow before heading up into the trees moving up and right. You should crest a small ridge before descending into the drainage for the climb. Continue up this drainage to the base.
The second option is to move down to the left side of the first lake at its south end watching for a faint trail heading up and to the right. This is followed up and right until you round the ridge that drops you into the drainage. This will bring you higher up into the climb before moving into the drainage proper and is perhaps a bit more direct.
Both approaches involve some degree of bushwacking and trail finding.
You can watch for updates on the Access Conditions for both the North Ghost and Waiparous on
This climb, as noted previously, is likely to have seen a lot of traffic and subsequently it should be clear where most parties have gone.
Pitch 1: Starts up a solid 15 metres of grade 3 ice before reaching a sloping ledge. Continue up this to the base of a short and narrow pillar of ice that will take you to a bolt belay station up and to your left. 55 metres.
Pitch 2: Follow the long snow slope up and to the right of the base of the upper two pitches of ice. A bolt belay is found on the wall just right of the ice. Be wary of your belayer on this pitch as they are completely exposed to any and all falling debris you may knock off on your journey up as the belay sits in a narrowing of rock. 50 metres.
Starting Pitch 4
Pitch 3: Traverse out along the base of the falls and find your line. Several options will likely exist. The climbing is sustained and involved the entire way. Don't be drawn to the old bolt belay off to the right that is seen lower down the pitch. Continue up closer to the right side of the final crux pillar and a newer bolt station can be found, slightly tucked away, but in a much better location. 50 metres.
Pitch 4: Make a wild traverse out left onto the face of the climb and start moving up. This is a long and sustained pitch of ice requiring lots of endurance and good technique. Set up a belay station from the ice. There will likely be plenty to choose from. 55 metres.
Some parties may choose to continue up the rambling ice and cornice to the top but most do not.
Rappel the route. The first rappel is off V-Threads and the remaining 3 rappels from the bolt stations.
If you have chosen to climb the low angle ice up and through the cornice there are apparently chains in place to rappel from to get you back to th V-threads atop the 4th pitch. For this reason it has been recommended by some to climb Hydrophobia
first if linking the two climbs.
Standard ice rack. Rap rings or quick links...no one seems to use these in the Ghost.