On Oct. 22, Alik Berg, Peter Hoang and Dylan Cunningham made the first ascent of the 410-metre seven-pitch Goat Face Ice Line M5+ WI4 on Goat Mountain east of Canmore.
A second ascent attempt was made a few days later by Raphael Slawinski (who just received the 2020 Summit of Excellence Award) and team, but they bailed due to poor route conditions. The temperatures were frigid for the first ascent and with the rising temps this week and clear skies, the route might not stick around very long.
The rarely formed piece of ice includes 120 metres of sustained and “generally well-protected mixed climbing,” said Hoang. It leads to a mellow pitch then a final short mixed section into for 200 metres.
“Berg ran out of climbable ice within a few body lengths of the top and Cunningham took a 20-footer on the first pitch,” said Hoang, “so it’s still waiting on a free and complete ascent.”
The wall is popular for rock climbing with routes such as the all-bolted Fluffy Goat Butt Face 5.11. Goat Face Ice Line starts up the 580-metre Manitou (a 5.8 first climbed in 1980 by Chris Perry and Jon Martin) and finishes up Oreamnos (a 450-metre 5.8 first climbed in 1973 by Jack Firth and Jon Jones).
“On our attempt there was a veneer of ice in the first corner section and on all the bulges/roofs of pitch one,” said Hoang. “There was useful ice for the feet but not the tools on pitch two/three and on pitch-four a narrow bit of ice came a body length down the first steep wall. From there all the climbing was on ice.”
Hoang said that it was thin and sometimes hollow, but generally better on the steeper sections and we were able to protect adequately. “The narrow ice hose of the last 20 metres deteriorated to a thin, wet, rotten shell that disintegrated as it was attempted but if conditions were better this would be a really cool ice gully. It was also very snowy on our ascent which generally made the day more humorous.”
The pitches go as: 60m M5+, 60m M4+, 65m M2 snow climbing, 70m M5 WI4, 60m WI3+, 60m WI3+, 50m WI4. From the top of pitch-seven, you could continue up the obvious ramp to the east ridge of Goat Mountain. The first ascent team rappelled the route off fixed gear.
For gear, they brought a double rack from .2 to 3, single 4; plenty of nuts; healthy amount of blades, a few angles and arrows, a few peckers, single speckter; 10 to 12 screws mainly stubbies, 12 draws and 70 m ropes.
Hoang, who recently had a feature on Scottish ice climbing in Gripped magazine, is a celebrated Canadian climbing photographer. Be sure to follow him below and check out his images from Goat Face Ice Line.