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Guy Lacelle and His Epic Ice Solos on Trophy Wall

Over 20 years ago, the late Guy Lacelle soloed the three classic routes on the Trophy Wall

In 1997, the late Guy Lacelle made the first solo link-up of three WI5/6 climbs on the steep and famous Trophy Wall on Mount Rundle above the town of Banff. The three routes are Sea of Vapors, Terminator and the Replicant, each are 160 metres. When Sea of Vapours was first climbed by Bruce Hendricks and Joe Josephson, it was graded WI7+.

Lacelle was one of the world’s top ice climbers and his triple solo on the Trophy Wall is still one of the boldest days of ice soloing in the Rockies. Shortly after his solos on the Trophy Wall, Lacelle said: “I didn’t put any pressure on myself. I started with Replicant to warm up, then I felt good and climbed the most demanding route, Terminator, and finally felt like I had enough energy left to climb Sea of Vapor safely.

“It took me five hours, which is about the maximum amount of time for me before my focus and energy start to diminish. As for as the exposure, it helps me to stay focused but doesn’t wear on my energy. I have been more taxed on a few occasions than the Trophy Wall day. For example linking Weeping Pillar and Polar Circus in twelve hours in December with brittle ice and less training.”

A native of Hawksbury, Ontario, Guy started climbing while pursuing a physical education degree at the University of Ottawa. His first climb was the 100-metre La Congelee (W13) on the massive Chute Montmorency outside Quebec City, which he completed with a partner in seven hours, a climb he has since soloed in less than five minutes.

His first trip to the Rockies was in 1983, when he and partner Alain Chasse climbed Polar Circus, a fierce route near the Columbia Icefields. He later went on to teach winter courses for Outward Bound in Ontario and guide for the Yamnuska Mountain School in Canmore, Alberta.

In 1988, he traded teaching and guiding for a new lifestyle, tree planting in the summer months and climbing in winter. Typically, he would spend 50 to 60 days climbing ice during the winter season. Lacelle died an avalanche in Hyalite Canyon, Montana, while climbing a snow gully between climbs in 2009.

Lacelle soloed a number of big ice routes, including the Trophy Wall solos, The Fang WI6, Rigid Designator WI4, Ames Ice Hose WI5, Capitaine Courageux WI5, Curtain Call W16, Malignant Mushroom WI5, Au-dela des Ombres WI5, Hydenfossen WI6, Pilsner Pillar WI6 and Iron Curtain WI6.

Be sure to pick up the December/January 2020/21 issue of Gripped magazine for a list of Lacelle’s 135 favourite ice climbs.

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