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Ice Climbing Weekly Update #12: Duffy, Rockies and New Quebec WI6R

Warm weather persists from coast to coast as some big climbs melt, while others are in peak condition. A monster new line was climbed in La Belle Province

Photo by: Matt Brooks of Brandon Pullan on Radioactive Beagle

The mountains in Alberta and B.C. have been busy with ice climbers for three months. All of the classic climbs are in and fat, such as Curtain Call WI6, Whiteman Falls WI6 and The Professor Falls WI4, but the new-routing action the dominated October and November has slowed due to avalanche hazards.

In the southern Rockies around Waterton, most routes are thin or not in. The weather has been reported as hot and windy. Right Gully WI3 and Left Gully WI3 are both in with thin sections, and Middle Gully is out. Quick and Dirty WI4 is in but has been affected by the sun, while Slow and Clean WI3 is melting.

Expert’s Choice condtiions: Left Side WI4 is growing and nearly good to climb, Middle Route WI6 and Right Side WI5 were falling apart this week. Lineham Falls WI4 is formed but was melting quickly. Approaches are quick thanks to the lack of snow. If the area is hit with this week’s polar vortex, then things should shape up.

King Creek in Kananaskis Country is formed nicley with all three flows fat and picked out. Haffner Creek has two ice pillars, but some mixed routes are missing their ice extis. In the Bow Valley, everything but the Trophy Wall is in, including the monster La Goutte WI6+ on Rundle. Bear Spirit has been busy and the Fireside Wall’s Radioactive Beagle WI3 40m is fat and fun (photo above). In Storm Creek, Scar Tissue has had a few ascents this year. The 150-metre M7+ WI6 was first climbed by Niall Hamill and Jon Walsh on March 24,, 2018, in honour of Marc-Andre Leclerc.

Mixed Master WI4 M5 was climbed in “challenging shape – the ice had some heady bits with marginal protection, and snow on route made for a few engaging mixed pitches and a lot of spindrift.” The final ice pitch isn’t fully in yet. “One thing to note – the route is definitely in avalanche terrain (especially to the top of pitch five) unlike parts of the Weeping Wall beside it. A handful of pins are useful, especially for the traverse around the first half of the final pitch.”

Murchison Falls WI4+ is reported in good shape with some brittle sections. Kitty Hawk WI5 was also climbed and was said to be “somewhat picked out but brittle enough to keep things rather interesting.” The climb is in avalanche terrain.

Seb Taborzsky and partner were caught in a small avalanche near Orion Falls. He reported: “We triggered a small size 1 slab on the approach to Orion Falls yesterday, MIN report here. Partial burial, but we stopped sliding about 8-10m from the edge of a bench. Going over that would have been pretty serious very quickly. A good slap on the wrist and great learning.”

Always check avalanche conditions here before heading out.

West Coast

The West Coast is still warm and wet with few options for ice climbing. Vancouver Island has some solid ice in the alpine on Arrowsmith, The Newman/Foraker II M3 WI3 was climbed.

Duffy Lake Road north of Pemberton has some ice forming up. Rambles Center is reported to be “in climbable shape and was led to the top tier, very wet though with running water on the surface. First pitch took yellows well but thin in some parts.”


Northwestern: Ice Breakers WI5+ was climbed by Wes Bender and friends. He reported, “We did the long haul into Ice Breakers today. Thank to Kevin and Patrick for trail maintenance. The ice quality on Ice Breakers was poor for the most part. I was throwing junk all the way. Protection was good for the most part. I worked for it today. If you want to dance, you have to pay the band. The arete had similar ice quality but it was a little more manageable. The top out was a bit spicy though. Feeling comfortable while being uncomfortable is good trait to poses. Ran out of time to bang on Wimpsicle this time.”

Near Tears of Joy WI3 in Orient Bay, Brent Elliot and friends added a new mixed climb that heads up a short pillar to solid rock at M5 called Tear 1. You can now view the climbs of Northwestern Ontario on a Google Map app by visiting here.

Northern: The ice from Parry Sound to Wawa is in fat in shady areas, but Shaun Parent reported that due to warm temps it’s “falling down on west facing walls, we need more cold weather.” Temps will be around or above freezing this week. There are a number of big ice routes around Restoule south of Sudbury that are in, such as The Snake WI4 45m and Looking Like Elvis WI5 40m.

Southern: Some climbs around Bancroft are still fat enough to climb, like Rollercoaster WI2. Climbs at Diamond Lake are being climbed, like Where Egos Dare WI4+. Warm weather over the next two weeks will likely have an affect on the conditions of lake crossings and ice climbs. Temps from Toronto to Ottawa will be above freezing most days.

Quebec and Maritimes

There’s a lot of ice formed in Quebec, from the south to the north. A one-month curfew will have climbers racing to and from climbs for the next while.

Some climbs that are getting a lot of action include: Sangsue WI4+ 65m, Les Cavaliers de l’apocalypse WI4+ 35m, Devil’s Tooth WI5 60m, Les Jumelles WI4 200m, Les Piliers du temple WI5 75m, and Passion Tropicale WI5 65m and a new 120-metre WI5 that hasn’t been named by Patrick Gagne and Vincent Demers in Parc national des Hautes Gorges de la Rivière Malbaie.

Also in the Hautes Gorges, Yan Mongrain, JP Bélanger and Charles Roberge made the first ascent of Klondike, a new 220-metre WI6R. The pitches go: WI5R 50m, WI3+ 35m, WI6R 35m, WI4+ 40m WI4 40m.

Weather in the Maritimes is warm and wet with little snow on the ground. Greg Hughes in New Brunswick went for a recon and reported: “Took a run in to Parlee today. Conditions in the amphitheater are improving quickly. I would say that almost all routes are ‘in.’ Certainly not fat but very protectable with a standard rack of ice screws. Blue Pillar WI4+ 50m is probably in the best shape of all the routes in there right now. I climbed Yellow Pillar WI4 50m and it was good but the snow on the slabby parts made it less enjoyable. There is a heavy boot packed trail now making the hike in very easy.”

Klondike Photo Yan Mongrain


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Past reports: Ice weekly #1Ice weekly #2Ice weekly #3Ice weekly #4Ice weekly #5Ice Weekly #6Ice Weekly #7Ice Weekly #8Ice Weekly #9Ice Weekly #10, Ice Weekly #11

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Lead photo: Matt Brooks of Brandon Pullan on Radioactive Beagle