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Ice Climbing Weekly Update #5: Rockies still go-to for 2020 Ice

The Rockies have dozens of classics routes formed, while warm temps persist throughout the rest of Canada. Plus a 20-metre mixed climb whipper!

Ice climbers have been getting out for a month-and-a-half in the Canadian Rockies, with over a dozen new routes climbed, a few big solos and moderate classics starting to form.

This past week saw more action on Storm Creek Headwall, Stanley Headwall, in the Ghost, Bow Valley, Jasper area and Kananaskis Country.

Nearly all of the classics are fat enough to climbs, including Weeping Wall, Cascade Fall, Grotto Falls, Wedge Smear, the mixed routes at Haffner and more. The steep La Goutte WI5/6 was climbed on Mount Rundle.

Stas Beskin, well-known for his bold ice pillar leads and solos, travelled from the West Coast to the Rockies last week. He made quick work of Nemesis WI6 and a narrow Louise Falls WI5. The pillar he climbed on Louise Falls settled and shifted. Photographer Tim Banfield said it was an audible shift of ice.

On Wicked Wanda WI4+ in the Ghost, at least three parties climbed it on Nov. 21. One of the climbers that was waiting in line, said, “We made a fire. Waited, watched Malignant slide off. Was a bit wet, windy, warm etc. Climbed well, protected OK on top half.”

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On Murchison Falls WI4/5, one climbed reported, “Approach knee to waist deep snow in the alpine, took 2.5 hours. We were happy to have brought avy gear. Murchison was a solid WI4 with lots of snice covering the ice. Virtual Reality WI6 had good ice and pro and is not too picked out. Winds picked up around sunset.”

In Evan Thomas Creek, the Rehab Wall routes aren’t formed yet, but the main ice flows have been climbed. One climber reported, “Bring your gortex and umbrella. Great early season conditions on Moonlight WI4 plastic. The third pitch looks sporty. Snow line doesn’t look to be in unless you have huevos grandes and two low for zero looks great – bring the stubbies.”

In Field, climbers on the Beer Climbs, like Guinness Gully WI4, have been getting their packs picked apart by ravens, so be sure to lock them down or carry everything with you.

New Rockies Routes

Also on Mount Murchison, Sebastian Taborszky and James Walter completed a new 160-metre M6 WI3+ in the Cosmic Messenger drainage called Ferrethawk. It finishes up a stunning upper corner.

The line was first attempeted by Taborszky, Maarten van Haeren and Jas Fauteux. One of the climbers took a 20-metre whipper.

“The smallest black Totem cam held the fall,” said Taborszkey, breaking the six-inch-wide wedged block sitting in the crack. Two more bolts were added after that to keep things sane, and the broken block fell out on the first hand pull.”

In Protection Valley, Rory O’Donnell and Ryan Daniel Patteson climbed a bold new mixed route they called High Hanging Fruite M6+R WI4 305m. Read about it here.

A: High Hanging Fruit / B: Grab the Cupcakes

Softly, Softly, Cagey Monkey

Stas Beskin is known for his bold lead/free-solos of narrow ice pillars. Over the weekend, he repeated the rarely formed Softly, Softly, Cagey Monkey in WAD Valley. Check it out below.

Outside the Rockies

Elsewhere in Canada, warm temps have kept away any possibility of mid-autumn ice forming, except for in a few places. Northern Ontario is starting to see some action for keeners in search of early season swings.

In Northwestern Ontario, Aric Fishman reported that ice is starting for form in Orient and Kama Bay and closer to Thunder Bay. However, no flows are fat enough to safely climb as of this weekend.

On the eastern shore of Lake Superior, opposite Thunder Bay, a few short and thin ice climbs around Montreal River were climbed. But climbers should wait for fatter conditions before travelling north from Toronto.

Ice continues to grow in Quebec, the Maritimes, on B.C.’s West Coast and in New England, but it’s not game on just yet.

ACC Workshops

In preparation of the winter season the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is offering a series of workshops on Wednesday evenings. In accordance with current health concerns, the workshops will be livestreamed on YouTube.

The workshops will be presented by Doug Latimer, the ACC’s lead winter guide. The program will be about 45 minutes in length and is then open for participants to ask questions via live chat. Everyone is welcome. Visit here for more info.

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Past reports: Ice weekly #1Ice weekly #2Ice weekly #3, Ice weekly #4