“Hey guys, do you need help with that?”
It’s only the sixth Canadian offering to help us while we push our car into a snow covered parking spot. “I guess it’s true what they say aboot them Canadians, Eeh?” Keenan mocks.
It was only the beginning of a very deranged night out in Banff to celebrate the end of our ice crush fest in Alberta, Canada. As we agreed what happened that night would stay in Canada, I’d rather just tell you the story of eight days of screaming barfies, frozen canyons and ice… Ice everywhere!
Dave had to leave to New York for thanksgiving so he flew in to Calgary where we planned to pick him up. After some struggle at the border –the customs lady genuinely thought I was stoned – we arrived at the airport just under 2 hours late. Two hours of driving later, we crawled into our sleeping bags on the Canadian Alpine Club House parking lot and set to climb the next day.
After some looking around for routes in condition we set goal for Urs falls. A big route with lots of small ice-steps (10-20m) in a mighty canyon that we all soloed up. As the last pitch was steeper, we all took a lap on it before going down. All in all not a bad start of the ice season!
Waiting in line for the last pitch.
We stayed the night at the Rampart Creek hostel amidst the baffling mountains of the Icefield Parkway. After driving south – quote Dave: “I’m absolutely sure the route is south of the hostel!” –we realized we had walked up the wrong gully, got back in the car, and drove north of the hostel to find the actual “Polar Circus”. We had a bit of a late start so we soloed the whole thing as well- only to find that there was not enough time to climb the steeper last couple of pitches. Too bad, cause they looked pretty stellar!
Luckily we didn’t have to sleep outside or in a hyper warm bunk anymore, as we joined the rest of the team in a cozy condo we rented in Canmore.
Next day Keenan and I set out for Professor falls. Dave and Kurt went out for a rather long approach to Sacre Bleu. After soloing the first pitches we decided it would be safer to get the ropes out. At the bottom of the last steep pitch we had a nice chat with a team of Canadians. We took our time going down, hoping to find Kurt and Dave waiting for us at the car. Sadly they weren’t there yet and it took us 2 hours of freezing in the car before we realized we were parked right under a warm and welcoming pub. A pitcher of beer later Kurt and Dave popped up out of the darkness of the trail head and we headed back for some well-deserved dinner in the condo.
After a rest day Dave, Keenan and Kurt set out to try Asteroid alley on Mt. Andromeda only to get turned back by a large “WHOOMP” and shooting cracks in the snow. Avalanche danger was pretty high apparently. I set out with Jason, Jakob and Kirill to get a move on Murchison falls.
A late start and some very technical climbing (chandeliers and cauliflowers made it hard to place both tools and screws) had us up under the third and fourth pitch way too late. Not too bad, as they looked like horror anyway.
Then the weather changed. From a nice -5˚ to -10˚C (23˚ to 14˚F) we suddenly got a lot of snowfall (non-stop for about two days) and temperatures dropped till -30˚C (-25˚F)! Some drytooling in a crag and a day of skiing made for a nice change of pace. How amazing to ski the first powder of the season in the Canadian Rockies!
Last but not least Keenan, Kurt and I drove up to Field, some twenty miles into British Columbia, where about half of the houses in the little town are hostels, hotels or pubs. The mountains rising up above the town accommodate some nice climbing on the “Beer falls”. We decided to get a go on the semi-avalanche-safe Carslberg Column. A short hike through a fairy tale, snow covered forest lead us to the base of the route. Despite the low temperatures, the second pitch was pretty wet, and the snowplowing up above the last pitch made for a cold and wet descent. But we were happy to have squeezed in a last climb!
As mentioned before, that night we went partying in Banff… All I can say is that some soldiers were left behind, only to be picked up the next morning. Well, everybody got back safe and sound at some point!
As my last month of US has kicked I am looking for a crew to join me on a winter-ascent in Yosemite, but for some reason people think that a big wall in winter is too much of a suffer fest… There’s always the Bozeman Ice-fest as a backup plan, so you’ll hear from me sooner or later!
Thanks for reading, and many thanks to the sponsors:
Many thanks to CU-Alpine club for the condo!