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New Rockies Ice Climb: Lake O’Hara’s Happy and Ugly World

The Lake O’Hara mountains have a number of summer alpine routes and winter ski descents. A handful of waterfall ice climbs have been done, but because of bad avalanche conditions, few ascents go done every winter.

The approach
The approach Photo Sebastian Taborsky

Report by Maarten van Haeren

After an excellent hint from Larry Stanier via the Mountain Conditions Report, we headed up the Lake O’Hara road for some ice climbing. All climbs seem in great shape, Sad and Beautiful World looks to be in WI3 shape. Our new route Happy and Ugly World climbs an alternate pitch to the final gully pitch of Sad and Beautiful World.

Ski up the Lake O’Hara road for a few hours. Step between the nine and 10 kilometre signs. The first obvious ice line on the W face of Wiwaxy peak is the beginning of the route. Ascend avalanche-prone slopes to a short rock overhang beside the start of the ice. Climb the broad flow for 110 metres at WI3+ to build a rock belay on the left side of the gully (med. sized cam and big pecker). We opted for the rock belay due to serious spindrift coming down the gully. In low-hazard conditions it’s probably fine to build an ice belay in the gully.

Happy and Ugly World is on the right  Photo
Happy and Ugly World is on the right Photo Sebastian Taborszky

Happy and Ugly World climbs a 50 m pitch of thin ice to the same ledge Sad and Beautiful world ends on. Climb thin ice for five body lengths to the first screw. The R rating might be removed/reduced with some additional rock gear (peckers/KBs). We found dry and brittle ice throughout the climb, though better screws were to be found higher up.

Unfortunately, conditions changed for the worse when we topped out. Additional snow loading of the gully above made us tuck tail and quickly ski out. Both climbs could be linked with Cool Water, Good Stone by a strong party. With the temperature around freezing the ski out was brutal, with snow sticking to our (poorly waxed) skis the whole way.

The name suggestion by Stanier was excellent and it suits the route quite well. While the climbing wasn’t perfect (the ugly part), it was very satisfying to climb it (the happy part). In contrast, while Sad and Beautiful was in beautiful shape, it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying to climb.

Happy and Ugly World 160 m, WI4R
FA: Sebastian Taborszky and Maarten van Haeren 50 m of new ground

Maarten van Haere   Photo Sebastian Taborszky
Maarten van Haeren Photo Sebastian Taborszky