Sea of Vapors is the must-climb route on Banff’s Trophy Wall.
The Trophy Wall needs no introduction. Its position above Banff, history, reputation, and route difficulty and exposure have elevated the wall to world-class status. The wall has a number of ice and mixed routes, each offering an unforgettable experience. In 1985, the Terminator WI6, was climbed and then The Replicant WI6, and Sea of Vapors WI6, were climbed in the early 90s.
Sea of Vapors was graded WI7+R after the first ascent by Joe Josephson and Bruce Hendricks. Vapors forms most years, but the first ascent was likely the thinnest it has been climbed. “Looked more like a streak of icy mist than a frozen waterfall,” said Hendricks after he approached the route with Barry Blanchard and James Blench in 1993. After two pitches which “Felt like twenty on a big wall” they descended. Hendricks returned with Josephson, repeated the crux and completed the climb, a psychological breakthrough in waterfall ice climbing.
In 1996/97 Guy Lacelle soloed all three routes on the Trophy Wall in 5 1/2 hours, then Hendricks soloed them.
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Often the route does not entirely form, but the climb Postcriptum, WI5, is linked to it with the Whipper Traverse, creating one of the finest winter outings in Canada. The Trophy Wall is north facing and does not see any sun in winter.
P1 WI5 Climb the Postcriptum Pillar until you arrive at the hanging bolt belay.
P2 M6 Climb up to the top of the pillar and the Whipper Traverse. Pass the pitons and onto the ice, continuing until the angle eases.
P3 WI5 Up a fun pitch of exposed climbing until a belay can be made.
P4 WI5 Continue up vertical ice to the top.
More Classic Canadian Ice Routes:
Source: Summit Post, Steve Swenson’s blog, Pushing the Limits by Chic Scott.