Home > Profiles

Sea of Vapours is a Classic Rockies Ice Line

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.

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 theĀ 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.

The Trophy Wall, Sea of Vapours on the right January 2014 Photo Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides (CRAG)
The Trophy Wall, Sea of Vapors on the right January 2014 Photo Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides (CRAG)

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: ContinueĀ up WI5/6 vertical ice to the top.

Jasmin Fauteux on the Whipper Traverse. Photo John Price

More Classic Canadian Ice Routes:
Montmorency Falls
Polar Circus
Cascade Falls
Reflection Wall
Professor Falls