10 February 2010

A walk in the Parkway

Since Nemesis we have been climbing every day; Bear Spirit for an onsight (and a nonsight), The Vision!, Cineplex (Musashi - 2 good attempts, the best reaching the psychological crux tork) then 3 days in the Icefields Parkway.....

Ice 9 (photo Ramon Marin)

Ice conditions seem a little lean this year and routes such as Ice 9, that I have seen very fat, are currently only thin pillars. Seeing how Ice 9 looked this year got Ramon and I to the base of the route and discussing who was going to lead the first pitch. It was obvious from the ground that to climb the pillar was going to require a confident approach, unfortunately as it was my lead I was going to have to fool myself to jump on the skinny pillar; I was only going to 'have a look'. As I climbed up the fat base to place a screw I started to get a close look at the climbing and immediately wanted to be back in the car, thick chandeliers guarded this side of the pillar, pressing on to get a good look at the front face I could see that the ice was completely different. The line to climb was heavily featured ice with lots of air pockets but luckily not those fine chandeliers that can be dug through without finding anything solid. But ... the sun had worked its evil magic on the ice and had left a layer snow/neve/frozen mush over the surface, acceptable for tools, not for pro.

As I was only climbing up to 'have a look' at the line when I reached the point where I felt that climbing down was not an option the tension built. Doubts about picks hidden in invisible ice started to crawl in my mind (lower down on the pillar deep pick placements had crunched, settled and held). Focusing on a slight easing in angle and a likely screw placement above a possible fracture line I made a few more moves to a point where I could relax.

Ramon on pitch 2. Fun in the sun with quick release ice screws

Day 2. A quasi-early start saw us beaten to Curtain Call so we went to take a look at Oo La La, an M8 two pitch mixed line on the Tabernac Wall. I had fight with pitch 1 of this very good route; it was steep straight off the ledge and me struggling with unnecessary figure 4's in big boots was good entertainment for Ramon.

a silly game!! (photo: Ramon Marin)

Ramon trying to force the route without ice.

The tenuous looking curtain at the end of the second pitch visible from the ground turned out to be no where near our route! Despite Ramon questing up to have a good look we could not finish the route.

Day 3. I was flagging by Tuesday and a 0530 start didn't help but at least we made it to the base of Curtain Call unimpeded.

The wild Curtain Call north of the Athabasca Glacier

I found pitch one easier than it looked (it needed to be!) and could weave through the crazy ice sculptures relatively easily. Seeing the screw holes at the belay there must have been a lot of teams on CC this season and pitch one was probably only Wi5. Pitch two however....

Ramon on the overhanging brittle ice crux.

After a little adventure to take a look at Call of the Curtain from below the roof and then get the ropes stuck we made it back to the car then Canmore for a rest.

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