Sea of Vapours is the must-climb route on Banff’s Trophy Wall, but it rarely forms in its entirety.
The Trophy Wall needs no introduction. Its position above Banff, history, reputation, route difficulty and exposure have elevated the wall to world-class status.
The wall has a number of ice and mixed routes, each offering an unforgettable experience. In 1985, the Terminator WI6 was climbed. Followed by The Replicant WI6, and Sea of Vapours WI6 in the early 1990s.
TBT to my 3rd failed attempt on the famous and elusive ice route, Sea of Vapours, on the north face of Mt. Rundle. @timbanfield snapped this beauty moment of me nearing my high point 3 years ago. Unfortunately, we had to turnaround shortly after this pic was taken due to slow climbing conditions and our very long 5hr. approach (2hrs are normal). Maybe it'll form again one of these years so I can try it again! You know what they say, when the 3rd time's not the charm, the 4th time usually is! 😉
Sea of Vapours was graded WI7+R after the first ascent by Joe Josephson and Bruce Hendricks. Vapours forms most years, but the first ascent was likely the thinnest it has been climbed.
“Looked more like a streak of icy mist than a frozen waterfall,” said Hendricks after he approached the route with Barry Blanchard and James Blench in 1993.
After two pitches which “felt like twenty on a big wall” they descended.
Hendricks returned with Josephson, repeated the crux and completed the climb, a psychological breakthrough in waterfall ice climbing.
In 1996/97 Guy Lacelle soloed all three routes on the Trophy Wall in just over five hours, then Hendricks soloed them.
Some years, there won’t be any ice on Sea of Vapours and some years it can be fat. The full climb almost never fully freezes. Luckily, the climb Postcriptum WI5 can be linked to it with the Whipper Traverse M4 and to the often-there ice on Sea of Vapours.
The sun never hits the north-facing Trophy Wall, which means its a cold and windy place. There are a number of other climbs in the area. So far in 2017, the Trophy Wall hasn’t formed.
Sea of Vapours
Pitch-one: Climb the Postcriptum Pillar WI5 until you arrive at the hanging bolt belay.
Pitch-two: Climb up to the top of the pillar and the start of the Whipper Traverse. Head right on rock until you reach the ice. Continue up until the angle eases.
Pitch-three: Up steep and exposed climbing at WI5/6 until a belay can be made.
Pitch-four: Continue up WI5/6 vertical ice to the top.