This is our 10th weekly report about ice climbing in Canada this season, and it’s already been one full of historical climbs, with lots of hard new routes like the monster WI6+X Katana on the Icefields Parkway.
As we head into 2021, there will likely be many more big routes established and repeated before spring.
The Rockies got a lot of snow over the past week, which sent avalanche danger into the high and extreme zone. If you’re going climbing in the Rockies, select routes that are not in avalanche terrain when the hazard is high, check here for conditions.
Mountain guide Jeff Relph posted a reminder: “Just driving through field. I saw a party climbing Silk Tassle. I feel compelled to mention this as Silk Tassle like many ice climbs, is in big avalanche terrain with a huge amount of overhead hazard. The ridge winds are currently very strong with intense transport and loading happening. All on top of some persistent weak layers that have prompted a Special Parks Avalanche Warning to be issued. This avalanche path regularly produces large avalanches and has been the site of accidents in the past. I mention this in hopes that people will really consider their terrain selection relative to the current and observed conditions. With ice climbing it is often the unseen overhead hazard that gets people by surprise.”
Congrats to Caro Ouellet who sent her project Physiotherapy in Evan Thomas Creek last week. The route is on the Rehab Wall, which has a number of moderate mixed routes. Read more about it here.
A number of low-avalanche hazard ice routes are getting climbed, including Grotto Falls WI2+, those in Evan Thomas Creek WI2 to WI4, Louise Falls WI4, Tokkum Pole WI5 and Curtain Call WI6. Snivelling Gully on Weeping Wall was reported to be thin with running water.
Ace ice climber Stas Beskin reported, “Climbed Curtain Call, Tales of Ordinary Madness and planned to do Weeping Pillar, but it got a bit too much in three days. Curtain Call is in good shape, first pitch better be done from the right side. Harder, but way drier. Second pitch is dry and climbs like WI5. Weeping Wall center is pretty sun bleached.”
Ontario continued to have cold temps from the north to south. Around Thunder Bay, Fever Falls WI3 has formed, as has Lost Falls WI3 and White Lightning WI3+. In Orient Bay, the serious Parallax WI5 was climbed by Wes Bender, who reported, “Serious climbing that actually protected well for the most part. Quite thin above the serious bits.” Most ice routes in Orient Bay and Kama Bay are formed and have been climbed.
Shaun Parent reported great conditions at Montreal River and Agawa Canyon with a number of moderate ice climbs formed. Ice has formed around Sudbury and Parry Sound and farther east near Bancroft. Temps are rising to above freezing around Toronto, so ice climbers will have to travel north to get in some swings.
Quebec has lots of ice, from east to west, including classics in Vallée Bras-du-Nord and Grandes Piles.
Péa Paquet and Nathalie Fortin opened a new route on Gros Bras that climbs 240 metres of granite mixed terrain up to M6 trad that they called La Coupe aux Lèvres.
The Maritimes have been warm with few if any ice routes formed enough to climb. The past few winters saw a cold and icy east coast, but it seems this winter will remain warm and wet. Based on the forecast, don’t expect ice for a few weeks.
The West Coast
The west coast has been warm, but ice is starting to form in Marble Canyon north of Lillooet, but nothing south towards Whistler or Squamish. However, the area needs at least a week of cold weather for routes to be considered climbable.
Vancouver Island’s alpine has been cold, making for good new-routing conditions; Sutton Peak has been the centre of attention.
In mid-December, Max Fisher, Liam Gilchrist and Ryan Van Horne made the first ascent of Sutton’s Finest Seasonal Ale AI4+R 400m up the middle of Sutton Peak’s east face.
The three then climbed another new route on the south edge of Sutton Peak’s east face. “It climbs a massive deep gash from bottom to ridge top,” said Fisher. “We climbed the route in four long pitches and soloed the low-angle terrain to ridge top.” They called it Talisman AI5 350/400m.
Most recently, Marie-Lou Piché and Ryan Van Horne climbed a new line on the far north end of the east face, next to the North Ridge. Piché reported, “High winds brought a steady, heavy flow of spindrifts on us most of the day. We pitched out three rope lengths, then simul-climbed a couple hundred metres of unconsolidated, unprotected scary climbing to join the North Ridge right next to Black Bird Raging. Got back to our skis well after dark and enjoyed fairly good ski conditions on our way out.” They called it T’was the Night Before Christmas, AI3+/4 350m.
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Have anything to add (new route or conditions) to the update? Email us at brandon at gripped.com title “Ice Update.”