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Rare X-Rated Ice Climb in Banff is The Oracle

Mount Rundle in Banff National Park needs little introduction to ice climbers as its north facing walls above the Bow River house some of the most legendary ice routes in Canada.

While many seasoned climbers knew about Terminator, Sea of Vapours and Sacre Bleu before this season, few knew about the rarely formed x-rated line that forms above the Banff golf course.

In 2003, Steve Holeczi, Rob Owens and Brian Webster made the first ascent of Oracle, a 450-metre IV WI4+X M4.

It had been attempted two days earlier by the strong team of Phillipe Pellet and Barry Blanchard, who climbed all but the final two pitches.

The eight-pitch route has 15-metre run-outs between hard-to-find gear with six pitches getting an X rating.

Blanchard climbed the first six pitches in –20°C and said it was a “a fine test and stress on the calf and head muscles and relatively easy on the biceps.”

During the early 2000s, the “bolt wars” of winter climbing were going strong and Blanchard (an advocate for bold non-bolted winter lines) said, “I’m incredibly glad that it went trad.

The Oracle IV WI4+X M4 Photo Brandon Pullan

“Had the bolt boys got there first it would merely be a MEGA place to practice thin ice. Hats off to the lads! The Oracle is 450 meters of pure spice.”

The Rockies has had an early start to the ice climbing season with some classic lines being climbed to the top already, including Amadeus in Kananaskis Country.

But the Oracle unclimbed as of this year, despite good efforts of some climbers heading up for an attempt this season. The warm daytime temps have delaminated the ice from the stone, making those big run-outs that much more cerebral.

Owens wrote on Facebook in 2018 after pictures of it popped up online, “Possibly the best ice route I ever did and one of the longest routes in the range.”

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