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 Post subject: Canadian Rockies Ice
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 11:37 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2004 1:26 pm
Posts: 293
Location: Boulder, CO
Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/Jason.Killg ... HouseOfSky

While the rest of UW was down at smiff last weekend, I decided to try and salvage one last trip of the ice season. KJ and I got to talking about a trip to canmore. The forecast/weather in the rockies recently had been pretty dismal with lots of warm weather and high avy danger. Smith was starting to look pretty good, but we stuck with the original plan and managed a fun if only marginally successful trip. Friday night we got out of town around 9 PM, which put us in northern Idaho just in time for some heavy fog. I tried to sleep, but narrow misses with moose and deer made it difficult. I took over the next shift at the border, and was greeted to good visibility and easy driving. A stop for red bull got me to within about a half an hour of radium, but the last bit was a real battle to stay awake. In radium we took a half hour nap, grabbed some coffee and breakfast, and continued up to haffner. It was 35 degrees in the parking lot and raining. We ran laps on short ice for a few hours. The place was pretty empty for a saturday; Only us and some clients guided by Barry Blanchard. Watching and talking to Blanchard was pretty cool! Eventually we got tired and drove to canmore, where temps were pushing the upper 50s. Luckily Sunday's forecast was better.

Avy danger was still considerable, so we decided to check out the Ghost on the drier east side of the range. The drive to the ghost is quite an adventure (video soon maybe), lots of water crossings and steep drop offs as you drive through the river valley. Luckily we were able to follow another car to our same destination (this house of sky), otherwise we probably would have gotten really lost and wasted our only good day. Temps were in the mid 20's, and forecasted to keep dropping. For some crazy reason the road is now closed at marker 39, so it is a 1+ hour walk to the climb. The climb was a lot of fun. We simul soloed the lower route until we reached the pillar in the upper bowl. From here we did a couple more exposed roped pitches before we started our descent. For the descent you can either walk off or descend the route. We descended the route with a mix of down climbing and rappelling. This climb would be pretty frustrating roped up, because the steps are all pretty short; however, solo it is a blast. The book lists the length at around 700m, but there is a fair amount of snow thrown in the mix.

The next morning dawned cold, but was forecasted to warm up. We decided to try and get on Guiness Gully in Field. When we arrived in field it was still 23 degrees. We missed the parking area our first lap around the one way back road, so we had to do a second. We followed tracks, but they soon disappeared in climax slide paths. Eventually we reached a gully and started up towards what we thought was the climb. After climbing too high, we decided we were probably in the wrong gully so we found some more tracks and traversed into another gully. Wrong again! By now it was getting warm and avy danger was becoming a concern. We bailed back to the car (where it was 38 degrees). We decided to drive the extra 30 minutes to golden to see how things were faring there (plus if it was in we could hit it again on the drive home). No avy danger in golden, but the climbs looked horrible. Oh well, lets drive back to canmore and salvage the day. We thought about Johnston Canyon or Bear Spirit, but it was getting late by now, so we settled on the Junk Yards. We climbed the Scottish Gully in drizzly 50 degree weather, then went back to our hotel. Sorta fun, but only marginally.

Tuesday was supposed to cool down a bit too, plus it was our last full day. We wanted to climb something else fun, but avy forecasts still raised concern. We narrowed it down to Coire Dubh Integrale or Bow Falls, and eventually settled on Bow Falls. We got up early and soon encountered whiteout blizzard driving conditions. Visibility was about 10 ft, making for a slow drive. Things let off a little by lake louise, so we continued up the Icefields Pkwy. Unfortunately all the snow caught DOT folks off guard, so they were all tied up on HWY 1 and hadnt gotten to the pkwy yet. There was one southbound track in already, with about 8 inches of snow in the other lane. Luckily the snow was light and we were able to keep moving. Towards bow summit there was more like 15" of fresh, and probably more up high. Although Bow Falls has no avy danger, the approach is up a steep slope. We made it about 5 minutes from the parking lot before deciding it wasnt worth the risk. Instead we continued on the Pkwy towards the weeping wall. On the way we encountered a half dozen or so stuck cars who we stopped to help push. Our subaru was kicking ass and was one of the only northbound vehicles capable of pushing a trail through the fresh snow. Anyhow, we made ok time to the weeping wall. At the parking lot we met a group who had tried to reach the columbia ice field the night before, but had gotten stuck and were forced to camp in the parking lot. Many more cars would get stuck that day before the plows finally made it out. The weeping wall was very snowy, and the southern exposure was taking its toll on the ice. Regardless we decided to check things out. As KJ led the pitch, lots of sloughing and a few small avys came down in the surrounding gullies. Luckily the wall itself has little terrain above to pose any real threat. We each ran a few laps on the first pitch, but the ice kinda sucked and it was getting really warm. Soon the whole face started sloughing, and while not too dangerous it was a bit unnerving so we bailed. It was 48 degrees back at the car and probably closer to 60 in the sun. As we drove out, we approached the Balfour Wall (zero avy danger cragging), and skies were cloudy with temps a bit below freezing. We decided to get a bit more climbing in. It was fun steep ice, if a bit short.

On our last day we slept in a bit, then hit Haffner again on the way out. Did enough laps to get a good pump, then got in the car and headed home.


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