The WAD Valley was named after the three guys (Wes, Andrew & Dave) who discovered and first climbed the beautiful ice in this spectacular area. There are a number of different climbs in the WAD Valley, which vary from Grade 2 to hard grade 5. There are also a number of mixed climbs in this area.
With awesome views across the valley to the Skyline Ridge, a generally sunny exposure, and a variety of ice climbs to choose from, the WAD Valley is a great place to spend the day. There is no significant avalanche hazard in this valley.
The impressive and scary looking pillar of "Softy, Softy, Cagey Monkey"
Another appealing aspect of the WAD Valley is the relatively short approach (30-45 minutes depending on your pace).
To get to WAD Valley, starting from downtown Jasper, drive east until the intersection with Highway 16. From this intersection, turn left (east) onto Highway 16. Follow Highway 16 for a short distance and then turn right (south) onto the Maligne Lake Road (also the road to Jasper Park Lodge). You will immediately cross the Athabasca River on a fairly narrow bridge. Keep on the main road (i.e. don't turn right onto the access road to the Jasper Park Lodge). Follow this secondary highway, slowing gaining elevation. This road is maintained during the winter and is suitable for a 2 wheel drive, assuming you drive appropriately for the road conditions.
After approximately 20 minutes on the Maligne Lake Road, you will come to Medicine Lake – this is a large lake (impossible to miss) on your right hand side. This lake will look empty – with a river channel flowing down the middle of it. This is a natural phenomena – due to a large sink hole at the outflow of the lake, the water is unable to drain from the lake faster than it fills up in the spring. However, as water input diminishes during summer the lake is able to drain, leaving a river in the middle of a dry lake bed by the fall of each year.
Continue along Medicine Lake until you reach it’s southern end – approximately 2-3 minutes past the end of the lake, the road will start to climb a steep hill. At the bottom of this hill on the left, there is a large obvious frozen creek gully. Turn around on the hill and come back and park just downhill from the drainage. There is most often a well packed trail starting here – look for it.
If you are unfortunate enough to come here after a large snowfall – go home. No just kidding. You need to walk up the left side of the creek, keeping as close to the edge of the large gully as possible. After about 10-15 minutes of hiking, you can traverse into the creek gully across a steep pine forest. Once in the creek gully, follow the creek up to the ice.
Although the first part of the approach is steep, the remainder is not bad. It should take you no longer than 45 minutes.
The following sections provide some detail about each of the climbs in the WAD Valley – there are also some mixed climbs, and rock climbs, in the WAD Valley, which I will not describe.
Softly, Softly, Cagey Monkey (Grade 5+)
If formed, this climb is eminently obvious. It is the scary looking dagger of ice that flows out of the main drainage into the canyon, and the first climb you come to on the approach. When formed, it’s steep, chandeliered, and often very wet (especially when sunny). As with all free standing pillars, great care must be taken when deciding if the conditions are right for an ascent.
In the last 4 years, I’ve only seen the pillar form once, but it may form briefly and fall down each year (I’m not entirely sure, as I’m usually only climbing in the WAD Valley once or twice a year).
The name implies how you need to swing your ice tools – softly, softly……
Boss Hog (Grade 3 to 4)
"Softy, Softy, Cagey Monkey" can be seen on the left (it's broken), while the wide flow on the right contains "Boss Hogg" and "Spanish Fly". "Spanish Fly" is the shorter column on the very right of the flow - the last 5 metres to the top are mixed and protected by bolts.
This is the wide ice flow right of “Softly, Softly” and very obvious as you approach the end of the Canyon. The grade depends on how you climb it – the right side is steeper and longer, while the left side has a longer section of moderate ice, followed by a steeper final 20 metre section.
We usually climb this as a two pitch climb (as do lots of other parties). The first pitch starts on the left and climbs up the moderate ice to the start of the steep ice (about 25 metres). A belay is set up on the left. The next pitch can either go straight up from the belay (harder), or traverse out to the right a little and then straight up (still pretty steep).
You can rappel from trees at the top – you will need two ropes to reach the ground in one rappel.
It’s also possible to traverse a bit to the right at the top, and set up a top rope on the next climb “Spanish Fly”.
Spanish Fly (Grade 4+, 5.9)
On the far right side of the Boss Hog flow there is a steeper pillar of ice – this is “Spanish Fly”. You climb the ice to its top and then traverse slightly left onto the rock for another 5 metres of mixed climbing. The rock moves are protected by 3 bolts.
Fire Drake (Grade 6, M6)
About 50 metres to the right of the Boss Hogg Flow is another patch of ice. There is mixed climb that connects to the hanging ice. Bolts protect the mixed section, but additional gear may be required depending on the state of the ice.
The B-Man (Grade 3+)
This is a short flow (15 metres) another 50 metres right of Fire Drake – it’s not immediately obvious when you walk into the Canyon, but it is there and normally forms every year.