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Ice Climbing Weekly Update #8: New Rockies WI6+X

Quebec and northern Ontario are freezing up, but the west coast is still warm and wet

With the official start of winter just over a week away, the Rockies remain the go-to place in Canada for ice climbing. At least two big new routes were climbed in the past week.

Above Lake Margaret, which is next to Hector Lake below Pulpit Peak, Sebastian Taborszky, Stas Beskin and Dylan Cunningham climbed a new serious 245-metre five-pitch mega ice line they called Katana WI6+X (feature photo above by Taborszky).

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.”

Also on the Icefields Parkway, Rob Owens, Mike Stuart and Jacob Dans climbed a new route left of Murchison Falls. Owens said, “While I used to do new routes every year I don’t think I’ve done one since having kids, 9 years ago. So fun to check out new ground, especially in an area the three of us have probably been to over 50 times combined.

“We climbed a route a couple hundred metres to the left of Murchison Falls. 5 pitches starting with 120 metres of ice ( called aboriginal genocide) followed by a couple involved 30-metre pitches of super cool M5+ish terrain and a final exposed traverse to the rim. We rapped Murchison falls.”

Aboriginal Genocide start to new route Photo Rob Owens

Riptide was climbed at least once in the past few weeks. Local climber Jyoti Venne made an attempt but bailed. He reported: “Bailed from Riptide halfway up in a snowstorm Monday. On Sunday temperatures were -15 and there were signs that another party had climbed the route. The forecast was predicting new snow to arrive on Tuesday. Avalanche forecast was mod, low, low. We began skiing in at 5:30 a.m., it was warmer than expected but no snow yet.

“The snowpack on the approach felt really stable. Once at the base, it started snowing. We proceeded to climb, hoping the snow would stop. Halfway up the route, the snowfall intensified, there was spindrift and snow mushrooms falling off rock ledges. That was our cue to back off. It was a difficult decision since the ice was in good condition. On our way out, we saw natural avalanche debris at the base of Rocket Man. Further down, at the river crossing, the river that was frozen in the morning, was now open water. It was like we went from winter to spring condition in eight hours.”

Many ice routes in the Bow Valley had melted out, including Cascade Falls WI3 and Grotto Falls WI2, but routes like Spray Falls WI5 and The Professor Falls WI4 were blue and fat. Conditions in the Ghost continue to improve and the Waterton area with routes like Experts Choice still need a week of cold weather.

Elsewhere in Canada

Vancouver Island ice climbers had a few cold days where a handful of short lines were climbed on Mount Washington, but the freezing levels rose to over 1,300 metres and most ice melted.

The same can be said on the west coast, where some ice climbs have formed in the alpine but it’s far from “game on” for ice climbing north of Squamish.

In Ontario, ice routes are formed in Orient Bay, Kama Bay and around Thunder Bay. Ice is also forming around Agawa Canyon and Montreal River, but temps in southern Ontario have been too warm.

Quebec has a lot of ice that’s formed and is being climbed, including the classic 120-metre Gringalet WI4 at Mont Pinnacle. It was first climbed by Jean -Francois Denis and Serge Roy in 1977.

A number of routes are fat in Parc des Grands-Jardins, including Ti Cul WI4 and Ziggy WI3. Ice is also starting to form in the Maritimes. With temps plummeting across the country next week, there will surely be a lot of fresh ice to climb.

Ti Cul WI4 Photo Gabriel Foucault


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Past reports: Ice weekly #1Ice weekly #2Ice weekly #3Ice weekly #4Ice weekly #5Ice Weekly #6, Ice Weekly #7