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Canadian Rockies Ice Season Starts Big

Less than a few weeks after the first real freeze in the Canadian Rockies and it’s hard to keep track of everything being climbed.

Not only that, but there’s been new ice, mixed and alpine routes climbed across a number of ranges.

One of the biggest surprises is the attention Protection Valley has been getting. The area is mostly hidden from view, tucked behind the northwest end of Castle Mountain at Castle Junction.

The valley has walls up to a few hundred metres, but the approach takes up to three hours. Most years, only one or two parties will make the long hike in, but this year the area has seen multiple parties on the same day.

It houses a collection of should-be-classics that were climbed by the likes of Guy Lacelle, Will Gadd and Raphael Slawinski up to 25 years ago.

One such route is Superlight, a 230-metre 5.10 WI5+, which Jon Walsh and Michelle Kadatz recently climbed. It was first climbed in 1999 by Gadd, Laurence Monnyeur and Bruno Sourzac.

Another is Arian P’tit Grimlin, a 250-metre WI6 that was first climbed by Lacelle and team. Lacelle noted it as one of his favourite routes.

In Kananaskis Country, Amadeus M5 WI4 has been climbed a number of times. Above the top, Kris Irwin and Geoff Osler climbed a new 45-metre M5 crack up a small face that adds a new and nice finish.

Irwin and Jay Mills had recently climbed a long new M5 WI4 in Protection Valley called Grab the Cupcakes. Earlier in the season, Irwin and John Price climbed the new Remembering Fred, a 330-metre M6 WI5 east of Lake Louise.

Down the road from Amadeus, the East Face of Mount Kidd was climbed by Toshiyuki Yamada and Noboru Kikuchi. The two strong Japanese climbers have climbed two new routes this year: Full Moon Corner M6R WI4 400m on Mount Storm and Overslept WI5 near Spray Lakes.

While routes in Evan Thomas Creek haven’t shaped up yet, Parallel Falls Right and Left near Burstall Pass are getting climbed. They are usually threatened from too much snow.

In the Bow Valley, the classics in Grotto Canyon and on Cascade Mountain (Rogan’s Gully, Cascade Falls and Urs Hole) have been getting lapped.

Bourgeau Left WI5 has been climbed a few times, but Bourgeau Right WI4R is not in. Up on the Trophy Wall, Terminator and Sea of Vapors haven’t formed. But Sacre Bleau WI5+ has been climbed at least once.

In the Ghost, many of the big routes are forming. Classics like Sorcerer WI5 and Hydrophobia WI5 are reportedly in.

On the Radium Highway, no reports of any major routes on the Stanley Headwall have come in. Haffner Creek and Marble Canyon have have not formed yet. But routes in Storm Creek were climbed, including Puzzle and Difficile Monster by Max Fisher and Paul Rachele.

On the Icefield’s Parkway, Lady Wilson’s Cleavage WI3 and Wilson Major WI3-6 have seen many ascents. Pointless and Aimless Gully WI4 near Bow Lake have been climbed. As have Murchison Falls WI4+, Virtual Reality WI6 and Wymper Wall WI4.

Weeping Wall WI3-5 and Polar Circus WI5 have been affected by the sun and are not fully in. Shades of Beauty WI3 has been climbed a number of times. There have been ice climbs done around Jasper and Maligne Lake.

Along David Thompson Highway, the aesthetic Unicorn M7 on Mount Elliot next to the classic Kitty Hawk WI5 was climbed.

The Beer Climbs in Field will need some more time to grow. But two new mixed climbs were done close to the road by Ian Welsted.

The first was with Scottish climber Simon Richardson and called Chasing the Ephemeral, a four-pitch M2. The other was by Welsted and Chris Brazeau and called Scottish Scree Slide, a three-pitch M4.

Welsted and Richardson also climbed a new route on Storm Mountain, a 400-metre M5 they called Unknown Direct.

The official start of winter is over a month away. But like most year, ice climbing in the Rockies

One tool in one hand, a different one in the other, 15 year old boots. Out of retirement, watch out.

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