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Ice Climbing Weekly Update #13: New Routes, Rescues and Gaspésie

Big new routes on Vancouver Island and in Quebec, and a hard-mixed linkup in the Rockies

B.C. has been warm this winter, with rock climbers getting out in Skaha, the Nelson area, Squamish and on Vancouver Island. Luckily for ice climbers, over the past week there’s been a dip in temps in some areas and in the alpine.

This weekend, Danny O’Farrell, Steve Janes, Garner Bergeron climbed two new mixed routes on Vancouver Island’s Mount Arrowsmith. The new routes are Master of puppets M4 – WI4R 80m bolted on lead, and For Whom the Bell Tolls M6 – WI5 70m bolted on rappel. The routes are located on the steep walls to the right of the climber’s trail at about the same elevation as the Ice Box. Both routes are equipped with bolted anchors and bolts for protection where needed.

O’Farrell said, “The area is an amazing zone, with endless potential for high quality mixed routes and some full ice routes. Some routes will fatten up considerably and offer better protection later in the season.”

Rockies

In Field, Mike Bott made some upgrades to some of the old hardware: “Pilsner mixed climbs updated. Replaced the bolts on Lucky Lager. The climb is in fun condition. Replaced the two crusty self drives on Traditional Ale. The rest of the hardware on the wall looks good from the ground.”

Also in B.C., Niall Hamill repeated, “Asylum M7+ WI5 180m: Beyond the poorly protected ice on the first pitch it’s in pretty good nick! Brought a single rack of cams but didn’t need them. Hardly any snow in the canyon right now, makes for easy travel. Cuckoos Next looked sporty but doable.”

On Highway 93 South, Sarah Hueniken sent all of the Haffner Cave routes in a day. The top winter crusher ticked these grades in one session: M8+, M10, M11+, M12, M10 and M7. Read more here.

In the Ghost, which has a lot of snow this winter, Cryophobia M8 WI5+ 225m was climbed by Stas Beskin, Caro Ouellet and Jeremy Regoto. Beskin said, “The exit from the crux pitch is tricky because the ice is very minimal there. Aside from that normal conditions.We did it in four pitches.” Also in the Ghost, Ethan Berman reported, “Rainbow Serpent WI6 pillar is cracked and precariously leaning. We scoped out the mixed line but the transition from rock to ice looked thin and we honestly didn’t want to touch the thing at all.”

Ice crags have been crowded most days of the week with tons of climbers at Bear Spirit, Haffner Creek, Evan Thomas Creek, King Creek and Grotto Canyon. Even Heart Falls WI2 30m in Heart Creek had a line-up. All of the big routes are in and getting laps, like The Professor Falls WI4, Weeping Wall WI4/5 and Curtain Call WI6.

In Waterton, Steven Noël reported, “Sean La Rose and I climbed the Left Compound Gully WI3 in Waterton today in alpine-like conditions. Apocalyptic wind gusts all day and lots of wind transport of what little snow is on the face. Environment Canada forecasted 80 gusting 120–seemed about right. The ice was mostly reasonable and took pro, thought the last pitch was a bit more variable.”

There were two ice climbers rescued in the Rockies without life threatening conditions, both were lead falls. A big avalanche ripped down Cascade Falls WI3 this week as conditions in the alpine have remained touchy. Always check avalanche conditions here.

Ontario

The ice is fat in Northwestern Ontario around Thunder Bay, Nipigon and along the eastern shore of Lake Superior around Montreal River and Agawa Canyon. There’s lots of fat ice around Sudbury and south toward Parry Sound and east to Bancroft. Read about The Snake WI4 45m here, a must-climb Ontario ice route everyone should do.

Due to covid, Ontario is on stay-at-home orders and climbers are laying low on social media and not reporting conditions.

Quebec and Maritimes

Quebec has a lot of ice this year. Hundreds of pitches are being climbed all around the province, which currently has a curfew due to covid.

We heard from Kevin Duquette who reported that some big lines in Gaspésie are formed, including the 10-pitch Corridor Lumière WI4+ M4R and the classic 10-pitch Ouskissont WI2 M2R. Corridor Lumière can be very serious in early season or thin conditions. The first ascent party, in 1998, topped out at 2 a.m. after 15 hours of thin, demanding climbing. And Ouskissont is the best and easiest of the longer routes, with classic, wide-open gully climbing and a spectacular view from the top. First done solo by Benoit Marion, this can be easy or tenuous depending on conditions, and there are many options. As often works on alpine routes, follow your chosen path of least resistance.

Gaspésie has long been a go-to Canadian ice destination with legends like Guy Lacelle, Joe Josephson, Barry Blanchard, and Margo Talbot making trips to the area. There’s a long list of strong locals who’ve made many trips, including Bernard Mailhot, Benoit Marion, Patrice Beaudet, and Stéphane Lapierre. The climate is warmed by ocean waters which provides appealing climbing on the shores of the Peninsula.

A new route was climbed in Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park called Tabasco WI6+ 115m. Jean-Philippe Belanger reported that he and Charles Roberge climbed the new route on Jan. 15. The pitches go WI5+ 70m and WI6+ 45m. It’s the second WI6 first ascent in the park this winter along with the first ascent of Klondike, a new 220-metre WI6R. The pitches go: WI5R 50m, WI3+ 35m, WI6R 35m, WI4+ 40m WI4 40m.

The Maritimes are warm, but some ice has formed at Parlee Brook in New Brunswick with climbs like Yellow Pillar WI4 getting lapped.

Gear

Lightweight Ice Climbing Avalanche Gear
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Edelrid Swift Protect ProDry 8.9
Sleeping Pads: Best new pads reviewed
Valandré Odin Neo winter sleeping bag
Sleeping Bags: The ultimate review
Camping Stoves: Six of the newest stoves reviewed

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Past reports: Ice weekly #1Ice weekly #2Ice weekly #3Ice weekly #4Ice weekly #5Ice Weekly #6Ice Weekly #7Ice Weekly #8Ice Weekly #9Ice Weekly #10Ice Weekly #11, Ice Weekly #12