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Gimme Shelter in Canadian Rockies Climbed in 2019

The first ascent was back in 1983

In 1983, Kevin Doyle and Tim Friesen made the first ascent of Gimme Shelter, a seven-pitch WI6 ice climb that forms below a large serac on Mount Quadra. The line has only been climbed a handful of times over that past and the second ascent was by Alain Massin and Steve Pratt in the winter of 1998/99.

During the last few days of March this year, two teams climbed the route side-by-side for the first time ever. Jon Walsh and Peter Hoang roped up, as did Quentin Roberts and Tom Livingstone. Both teams reported the climb to be sustained and steep. “Definitely one of the most spectacular ice routes I’ve ever climbed,” said Walsh.

First climbed over two days by Doyle and Friesen with exceptionally thin ice, it was easily the hardest ice climb in the world at the time. Since then, the ice has formed fatter than on the first ascent. But, despite the WI6 conditions, the seracs at the top of the route have become very unstable, with several close calls keeping most climbers away.

Gimme Shelter is number eight out of 25 on the bold and cold list, a book that highlights the most difficult and classic golden-era Rockies alpine lines. Walsh has climbed 18 of the 25 climbs and only has a handful of mostly moderate ones left.

Major hazards on Gimme Shelter are the avalanche-prone approach slopes and ice/serac release from the top. The late Guy Lacelle, one of Canada’s best-ever ice climbers, once approached it for a solo, but decided before starting to turn around. Once he was clear of the route, the serac collapsed down the climb. It surely would have taken Lacelle out.

The 2019 team reported great snow conditions at the base and even got a few nice ski turns. During the same time, top climbers Luka Lindic and Ines Papert were attempting routes in the Valley of the 10 Peaks, but snow conditions prevented them from reaching the tops of any climbs.

Slipstream, the 900-metre WI4+ on the Icefields Parkway was also climbed in March 2019.