I haven't really spent much time climbing lately. I was away in Edmonton for the Christmas holidays, and sick as well. I had hoped to go to the excellent Rock Jungle Fitness while in Edmonton to do some bouldering, but I wasn't really up to the challenge (sorry guys!). However, I was feeling well enough upon my return to southern Alberta that I felt that a trip to the mountains was in order. I was hoping to do some hiking with a very specific goal in mind; to find more ice climbing opportunities!
I packed up my gear - and Lupin the dog - and headed out to the Crowsnest Pass. Upon arriving in the area, I spent a few hours hiking along the flanks of Sentry Mountain in a couple of different places, confident that I would see some as-yet-uncharted ice climbs. I was disappointed, however, and nary an icicle was to be seen. In fact, the regularly-forming flow on the east side of the mountain was completely absent. (hmmm.... maybe a dry year? Maybe the Crowsnest IS a poor ice area...).
I then drove back to Crowsnest, and hiked up another canyon that looked promising (especially since it was right in town!). I did find a short waterfall, but it was probably only three meters high, and a half-frozen shell (less than ideal!).
I still had high hopes, though, as Star Creek Falls were next on my list of places to visit. It turned out to be a lot easier to find than I had anticipated, and a very pleasant walk in on a good trail led me to the falls themselves. A few short ice steps lead to a short waterfall (10m high?). The falls were a mostly-frozen shell of well-featured ice that didn't look particularly challenging. The canyon itself was more interesting, with some potential for mixed routes. Star Creek is also a prime candidate for 'ice-farming'; a little insulated hose could produce several pillars in the canyon, making it a very nice ice-climbing destination right in the town of Crowsnest! I'l bring some hose out on my next trip, and we'll see what happens!
By this point I was disappointed; I had (not surprisingly) failed to find the ice-climbing mecca of my dreams. With an hour of daylight left, I decided to hike through the snow-covered boulders of the City of Giants area in Frank Slide. There were several boulders I wanted to check out for potential projects for the upcoming bouldering season (which, given the right weather, could start in just a few weeks!). An arete I had walked by a dozen times turned out to be amazing-looking upon closer examination, and several other nice-looking lines revealed themselves amidst the snow-covered blocks. The problem with the City of Giants, though, is that the landings are very rough, and work will be needed to get the problems in shape to be climbed safely. I really enjoy climbing in the City, though - it's a bit higher above the valley bottom than most areas, and because the boulders are a lot bigger it has a stark beauty that the other sectors just can't match.
I'm half-hoping the weather warms up so I can boulder, and half-hoping it stays cold so I can do some ice-climbing. Ideally, the weather would hover around daytime highs of +5C so I can do both!
Until next time, Happy New Year, and happy climbing!