The Rick Blak Memorial Route is a fantastic ice climb that was named in honor of a Jasper resident who was tragically killed in a caving incident. It does not always form although it seems to have appeared more regularly over the last several years. When formed it provides a stellar 40 metre stretch of ice, that works its way through varied terrain and thin sections of ice. Protection can at times be challenging (bring your stubbies), but the climbing is rarely desperate. Rather this route is quite cerebral as you are forced to balance, stem and thoughtfully work your way through several crux sections before arriving at the chains.
This is a great alternative or a nice addition to the classic grade 4 route Shades of Beauty
which forms about 75-100 metres left of the Rick Blak Memorial Route or Stanley Falls Senior
which forms directly accross the valley. With an early start it is not unreasonable to aim for the "Beauty Creek Hat Trick" and climb all 3 routes.
This route is one of the finest lines of ice I have been lucky enough to climb and if it continues to form up reguarly it will likely become a more popular climbing destination.
Shades of Beauty and the Rick Blak Memorial Route From the Approach
As for all of the Beauty Creek Ice Climbs
you need to park 2 km south of the Beauty Creek Hostel.
From Jasper turn south onto Hwy 93 and follow it for about 86 km past the Beauty Creek Hostel to the parking lot for all the Climbs.
Google Map From Jasper
From Lake Louise follow Hwy 93 north for about 140 km.
Google Map From Lake Louise
The Route as seen From Where the Trail Breaks Away From the Shades of Beauty Approach - Note the Climber on the Mixed Dagger to the Right
Approach the route from the parking area as for Shades of Beauty
From the parking lot walk directly across the creek to the old roadbed. Follow this old road south (right) for about 500-600 m. Watch for a trail breaking off left up and into the trees and follow this. You will follow Beauty Creek on the climber's left for about 30-45 min.
The Bottom Section of Pitch Two
You will emerge into the upper valley and will have the first views of both the Rick Blak Memorial Route and Shades of Beauty
. The trail occassionally follows along the creek, but most often continues to follow along the left side. Continue up this valley for another 15-20 min. Eventually the trail will vear right into the trees and so begins the 15-20 minutes grunt up to the base of the climb. Unlike Stanley Falls Senior
, you will not likely be breaking trail, but it is steep and somewhat unrelenting. You will come to a small rock bluff where most people will gear up before the last grunt up to Shades of Beauty. At this point you head right and will likely be breaking trail up to the base of the Rick Blak Memorial Route. About 75-105 minutes.
If you are combining this route with Shades of Beauty you can traverse right from the base of the third pitch of Shades. You will be forced into an improbable looking chute that is exposed but can be easily downclimbed. A rope would not be inapporpriate for climbers not comfortable with either the exposure or downclimbing ice.
Some Mixed Stemming Helps Minimize the Pump Above the Crux Section of Pitch Two
The route can be climbed in one long pitch, but it makes more sense to belay the thin seam of ice from atop the short but wide apron of ice at the base.
Climb a short 15 metre step of grade 3 ice and establish a sheltered belay to the left of the base of the upper seam of ice.
Looking Up at the Crux from the Rappel
The next 40 metres follow a thin seam of ice through several steep and occassionally thin sections. There is a chain station at about halfway that can be clipped for protection just as you work through a 60 cm wide section of ice. At about 30 metres the ice widens and eventually kicks back to some grade 3 steps before topping out at the chain anchors.
Looking Down the Route on Rappel
A Standard Ice Rack with 3-4 stubbies would be ideal. Given the thin nature of the ice screamers would also be wise.
In really thin years rock gear might be necessary.
Rappel from the chain anchors. Their is an intermediate station at about the midpoint of the second pitch, but it is likely easier to trail a second rope and rappel a full 60 metres which will easily deposit you below the base of pitch one.
There are two great websites for ice conditions in the Canadian Rockies:
Live The Vision - Ice Conditions