"A feather in any ice climber's hat"--JoJo
This may be the best ice climb in the Canadian Rockies.
The approach is almost handicap accessible. The line is striking and direct. The climbing is sustained and compelling. Avalanche hazard is low. The climbing to hiking ratio is much better than Polar Circus. If you cruised Polar, you’ll enjoy Upper Weeping.
The classic line is to climb Lower Weeping Wall’s Central Pillar (WI5+) and continue onto the Weeping Pillar, which adds up to two full pitches each of Grade 4, 5, and 6 climbing.
“The crux is usually wherever you encounter the worst ice,” Joe Josephson writes in “Waterfall Ice.” “It can be horrendously bad, going from overhanging mushrooms to sun-leached slush. However, don’t despair—it isn’t always in such rough shape and the Weeping Pillar can offer some of the most difficult plastic ice you’ll ever climb.”
I did the climb via two variations twice in three days (March 2009) and encountered both conditions. The Left side third pitch was the scariest ice I saw in the Rockies all season; the Right side was the most plastic. Both were memorable.
Take the Icefields Parkway north from Lake Louise. About 17 kilometers north of the Rampart Creek Hostel there’s a pull-out on the left with a good view of the route across the highway. There’s usually a yak trail to the base. About 10 minutes.
Route DescriptionLower Weeping Wall Pitches (180 meters)
. Choose any line, all 180 meters. Central (5+) and Right (5) are both excellent, with the middle pitch on each being the crux.
Hike up to the next tier, which puts you at the start of the left side. On a boot pack this can take 10 minutes or so. Breaking trail it could take hours.
Upper Weeping Wall Pitches (170 meters or more).
Left is longer and might not always form. Right is much better.
Two pitches of up to WI4+ climbing with easy steps in between gets you to the big ledge at the base of the main wall.
The third pitch (WI6 or harder) is a rope stretcher to a big cave. To get to the cave, hack your way through a forest of chandeliered, rotten ice with bad pro and sketchy committing moves and tenuous hooking. Definitely exciting in a horrorfest kind of way.
From the cave a short fourth pitch on better ice puts you on top.
Continue hiking up and right until the snow slope ends.
A 60 meter rope and some simul climbing gains the big ledge at the base of the main wall. This pitch is Grade 5; it’s steep but was super sticky when I climbed it, as was the next pitch.
The second pitch (WI6) goes more or less straight up. Expect steep, technical ice, although there are mushrooms and other features for stems and rests. Pro wasn’t great but the climbing was pretty secure. At the end of the rope, put in a hanging belay.
The third pitch (WI6) weaves through tiers of icicles and up into a groove. The pitch starts out on overhanging technical ice with tricky pro, then turns into lower angled snice with no pro. After half a rope you reach the top where you can either put in an anchor if you find any good ice (I didn’t) or wallow up a snow slope to trees with rap slings and belay from there.
Rap your route, leaving v-threads, then descend the Lower Wall by using the fixed stations starting at the big tree atop the right side.
Gear: Ice rack, tools, double ropes (60s work fine), belay jackets, headlamps.