10 of Canada’s Hardest Ice Climbs at WI6+
While ice climbs change every year, these are some of the most stoutly graded lines climbed over the past few decades
Canadian Quentin Roberts recently soloed a new route on Lake Superior’s shoreline in Michigan, naming it Lion Queen and grading it WI6+. The grade is reserved for the most severe, difficult to protect and steepest waterfall ice climbs. Lion Queen is a unique pitch that follow overhanging ice up a cliff below a forest. Roberts is known for his bold solos, last winter he soloed Torre Egger in Patagonia.
While there are WI7 routes and countless mixed climbs that have WI6+, there aren’t many pure ice routes in Canada that get WI6+. B.C. and the Rockies have a few, Ontario doesn’t have, but Quebec and the east coast have a handful. Here’s a list of 10 across Canada, but there are several others.
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Medusa: During a cold snap in Squamish in 2022, Tim Emmett and Sam Eastman found and climbed a steep ice line in Squamish Valle with Medusa, a 110-metre two-pitch (WI5+ and WI6+) ice line.
Siege Tactics: In 2020, Dave Rone and Jon Jugenheimer visited Icefall Brook in B.C. where they made the first ascent of this stunning three-pitch 160-metre WI6+. “A true adventure route, Siege Tactics required three days of effort to complete,” said Rone.
Katana: In 2020, Sebastian Taborszky, Stas Beskin and Dylan Cunningham climbed a new serious 245-metre five-pitch mega ice line they called Katana WI6+X. It’s found above Lake Margaret next to Hector Lake below Pulpit Peak in Banff National Park. The east-facing route goes at WI3 60m, WI6R 45m, WI5+ 55m, WI6+X 40m and finally WI6R 45. About the fourth-pitch: “Climb the improbable free standing pillar… first screw after pillar is at 30 metres. Pillar had a two/three-inch unhealed crack half-way up.”
Blessed Rage: Bruce Hendricks was one of Canada’s leading ice climbers in the 1990s. He was widely regarded as one of the boldest in the North America with hard first ascents and solos. In 1992, he made the first ascent, solo, of Blessed Rage, a 250-metre WI6+ above Emerald Lake near Field, B.C. Roberts repeated Blessed Rage solo in last winter.
Happy Days: There are many world-famous routes in Jasper National Park, including Happy Days WI6+. Found next to the famous Ice Nine WI6, the route doesn’t often form but when it does climbers line up. Watch Kris Irwin on it below.
Les Misérables: In 1992, legendary ice climbers Barry Blanchard and Kevin Doyle climbed Oh Le Tabernac on Mount Wilson continued to a bowl far above where they made the first ascent of this now-famous WI6+, which is popular when fully formed.
Arctic Dream: Mount Quadra is known for its intimidating winter lines. One of the most wild is Arctic Dream WI6+, first climbed in 1992 by Joe Josephson and Joe McKay to below the upper serac. Serge Angellucci and François Damilano repeated it shortly after and climbed through the serac to the glacier above.
Riptide: This might be the Rockies most famous WI6+, which was first climbed in 1987 by Larry Ostrander and Jeff Marshall. Mountain author Chic Scott wrote about the climb in Pushing the Limits, in which he quoted Marshall as saying, “It’s a five-pitch horror sporting sustained technical climbing on thin and otherwise unprotectable ice. Certainly I climbed some of the hardest pitches I’ve ever done on Riptide. We had five really hard grade V pitches in a row, one after the other – thin, shitty ice, sketchy gear if any gear at all, and huge falls. We called it a VI+ but people insisted it was a VII. It’s a psychotic ice climb. It’s way out there. Even when it’s fat it’s still hard.” Here’s Roberts and Michelle Pratt mid-way during a fat season.
Maïkan: Last winter, Jean-Philippe Bélanger, Yan Mongrain and Charles Roberge travelled to Haute-Moisie in northern Quebec, not far from the border of Newfoundland/Labrador. On the fourth day of their trip, they climbed an intimidating route that followed three pitches of steep, three-dimensional ice through roofs and along pillars. They called it Maïkan, which translates to wolf, and graded the 150-metre line WI6+.
Dreamline: In March 2017, Joe Terravecchia, Anna Pfaff and Will Mayo made the first ascent of Dreamline WI6+ right of The Pissing Mare Waterfall in Western Brook Pond of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. “We sent a new mega line up wild medusa like formations of spray ice and other worldly features,” said Pfaff.