Friday, January 17, 2014

Crowsnest Ice Climbing

Last weekend, I had an opportunity to go the Ice Opener in Waterton Lakes Park to ice climb with the local section of the Alpine Club of Canada.  The forecast was for extreme wind on Saturday, so I bailed.  This turned out to be a mistake, as the climbs there are fairly sheltered; the people that went (apparently) had a great day of climbing. The next day, determined not to make the same mistake, I went with Mark Guckert to the Crowsnest Pass to continue my hunt for ice climbing in the area!

We first went to Star Creek Falls, which were half melted-out.  The usually frozen-over falls were mostly running, but there was a lot of ice on either side of the falls.  I led the left side of the falls, and when Mark G joined me up top we set up a toprope for the right side.  We climbed that as well, but neither route was particularly challenging.  There is a lot of vertical terrain in Star Creek Canyon, though, and with some engineering (probably a small streamside concrete tank and about 200 m of 3" flexible pipe, insulated and buried at a constant grade) there could be several tall  (20 - 30m) pillars in the Canyon, and probably 15 mixed climbs.  With some investment, Star Creek could be a real ice-climbing destination.  But at present, it is simply a nice little canyon with one mediocre ice climb.

My tools embedded in the base of Star Creek Falls.  A fun, albeit very short, lead.  Most of the falls were running, the shell was pretty eroded.  A very nice mixed route could start up the ice but veer up and left onto some steep rock. 

Me leading up through weird eroded ice mushrooms.  Easy climbing, hard to protect; I'm putting in a ice screw here, I think.  Thanks for the pictures, Mark!

I'm interested in bolting a mixed climb to the left of the falls, though - it would climb about 8m of ice, then about 10m of rock to a bolted anchor.  Looks fun, and would likely require 3 bolts and an anchor.

I'm also happy to report that my new tools (Grivel X-Monsters) performed beautifully!  A bit heavier than some other new tools (like the Petzl Nomics), the weight is distributed beautifully making for a very nice swing and stick.  I'm still getting used to this ice-climbing game, but am appreciative of having great tools.

Mark G and I then headed to Gold Creek Canyon.  Parking at the top of the Canyon, we rapped in (though some scrubby alders).  We toproped several lines on the short(ish) flows there, before packing it in for the day.  There is a really nice short WI4 or 5 pillar there that we would have liked to tried, but it is difficult to get a toprope on it, and we only had one rope so we couldn't lead it.  Next time!  Gold Creek could be a lot more fun if someone took a few minutes to cut out the few scrubby alders and willows at the top of the climb; it would make the access to the top of the route much easier, and would allow leaders to lead right to the big tree at the top of the route.  Maybe some day I'll spend the time and get it done.

Mixed Master Mark at work.  Very fun short steep curtain at Gold Creek.  Next time we'll bring a rope so we can lead, but getting to the tree anchor at top is problematic because you have to wade through  some scrubby alders.

Mark bouldering around at the base of the pillar.  Next time!

This weekend, I am looking forward to bouldering at Frank Slide!  It is supposed to be really warm, so it should be a lot of fun climbing in spring-like conditions in January.  I'll post an update soon!

Until then, happy climbing!


1 comment:

Yves Plante said...

Thanks for sharing. We would like to try Gold Creek as well (just moved to Lethbridge from S'toon). Would you mind giving us direction to get to the climb. Drove to Frank Slide last weekend but could not find the right trail. Man thanks.

Yves Plante