Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Back for one last big one

Raphael on the first crux of Mr Hulot.

With our stay almost over we returned for one last route at the superb Stanley Headwall, our fifth route here of the trip. Together with Mr Stanley himself, Raphael Slawinski we climbed "The Day After Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot." (M7 WI6). I had read alot about this route and its one I particularly wanted to climb. Raphael made the first free ascent of this 10 years ago and its had hardly any repeats since. The main reason is that its on trad gear.
Nick squirming in the snow up a Scottish 7 chimney on pitch 3

The crux is a slightly leaning smooth corner climbed on tiny slopey hooks and minimal feet. After all the swinging around on steep overhangs particularly at Haffner I felt much more at home here reminding me of some of the things we climb in Scotland. Its interesting to note particularly following recent world wide web interest in modern Scottish mixed climbing how some of these routes would rate in Scottish terms. So my guesses are as follows:

French Reality (guide grade V 5.8 WI6+) M6 WI6 = Scottish VII,7
Nightmare on Wolf Street (guide V M7+ WI6+) M8? WI6+ = IX,9
Drama Queen (guide M7 WI6) M7 WI6 = VIII,8
Terminator (T2 start) (guide M7 WI6+) M7 r/x WI5+ = IX,8
Curtain Call (guide WI6) WI6 = VII,7
Suffer Machine (guide M7 WI5) M7 r WI5 = VIII,9
'Monsieur Hulot (guide M7 WI6) M7 WI6 = VIII,9

One of the interesting things is these are all old hat in terms of the cutting edge. Raphael's recent Victoria's Secret also at Stanley is probably M9, trad and climbed ground up and I guess would rate Scottish grade X. All good inspiration to see what we can do next year in Scotland.

Final holiday snap

Bit of cragging

Nick on Unleash the Frogs M7+, Bear Spirit

After our recent slogging sessions to the base of the bigger cliffs we opted for a few days cragging. First at Bear Spirit a small but fun venue with some exciting ice features and then at Haffner Creek one of the original sport mixed venues. Local guru Raphael Slawinski gave us a tour of "the cave" area at the latter. Both of us (particularly me!) received a bit of a boot up the derriere here as even the "warm up" felt close to M9. It was surprisingly photogenic though with some amazing ice formations deep inside the cave.

Nick working a very fierce M10 at Haffner cave

Friday, April 18, 2008

A wild one

Nick celebrating finishing the crux of the route - just getting to its start
We finally managed to get on a route we'd been hopping to do all trip (infact it had been at the top of Nick's list for his last 4 trips to Canada). Riptide WI6-7 is rated as one of the finest ice routes in the world in the latest guidebook but there is one not so small problem - the approach. No tracks, thick wood, a river crossing, hanging seracs, an avalanche bowl and snow which at times was head height bottomless mush. Still 5 and a half hours later we made it to the base.


After that the route went fine. Waves of spindrift, the echoing sounds of avalanches around the cirque and a long long way above Icefields Parkway made for quite a serious alpine feel. In the end the climbing itself was quite a bit more reasonable than the hype. A fine experience.

Nick about to knock a 30 lb column of ice on the photographers head

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The art of suffering

The art of suffering is one of my favourite articles describing the "joys" of alpine style high altitude climbing written by the Polish climber Voytek Kurtyka. Well there's not much high altitude action in Canada, infact with the weather we've been having not much mountain action full stop but that doesn't mean we can't still have our own fair share of suffering. So we headed back to Stanley headwall again and the classic mixed route Suffer Machine (180m, M7 WI5). After the big dumps of snow recently there was much wallowing on the approach (see Nick above).I then tried Teddy Bears Picnic the direct start, finding several bolts either missing or with their hangers fallen off. After pulling a big block off we left that as a dead route and headed up the original start. I'd climbed this the last time I visited Canada with local Raphael Slawinski, it was nice this time to get the route clean after I'd flailed about a bit with Raphael.
Above that were 3 very long pitches of sometimes hard and brittle but always entertaining ice.
Which enabled the full quota of suffering to be enjoyed by all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Classic Ice and classic mistake

The end of last week we were looking for a more mellow day so made the long drive (2 1/2 hours there) to the classic Curtain Call. Both of us had wanted to climb this for ages having seen some amazing shots of its 2 long pitches of cauliflower ice. We weren't dissapointed with the second pillar (Nick leading it in the shot above) being particularly sculptural. On the way back we got some views of Mount Andromeda and came face to face with a small group of Big Horn Sheep.
This weekend temperatures jumped from winter to spring and we really should have stayed in Canmore drinking Lattes at the Summit Cafe. We've been pretty keen to get into the mountains so made the typical mistake of being over optimistic. We camped beneath the superb line of Silver Lining 700m WI6...
Started early...this is Nick (below) on the first (one of the cruxes) pitch...
...and then met an avalanche at the top of pitch 2 which finally persuaded as on the Latte option.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Terminator on Terminator

"The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human - sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot."" Kyle Reese talking about the new brand of Terminator. Is Nick Bullock the latest incarnation?
High on Mount Rundle lies the Trophy Wall, home to some of the world's most coveted ice climbs. The only one close to forming at the moment is Terminator, first climbed over 2 days in 1985 and graded WI7 the route has only touched down again twicw in 1996/7 and 2003. After an exhausting near 4 hour approach we found that not only had the ice not touched down the dagger had snapped off leaving an ice roof. A very psyched Nick was chomping at the bit for the first mixed pitch T3 (T2 is the mixed pitch when the dagger is formed). This proved to be a very intense psychological challenge involving a 20ft run out on tiny hooks and at times no footholds above ice screws in a TV sized ice blob. One of the better leads I've seen in the mountains.

Nick heading up to the crux with the crucial TV sized ice blob perched below the ice roof

After that things returned to "normal" with 2 near full rope lengths of WI5+. Normal except for the 6 inch crack splitting the pillar halfway up, oh and the 1000m drop down to Banff.

Oops the big horizontal crack seperating two 50m long chunks of ice

The end of another day's gentle cragging 1000m above Banff

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Drama Queens

One Drama Queen expressing himself beneath the final pitch of insanity

After a brief attempt to climb the classic alpine route Andromeda Strain (we ran away after 20 minutes of the walk in - lots of snow = avalanches = unhappy holiday) we returned for more Stanley Headwall madness. This time a 4 pitch route called Drama Queen put up only a couple of years ago. The first half involved lots of digging and thrutching....

The very Scottish first half

.....the second half had some amazing ice features.....
The very unscottish second half - a pitch of overhanging "funky mushrooms" with the twin icicles of the final pitch hanging above.

....and the final pitch was just insane. rotting overhanging mixed climbing (think Lleyn with bolt protection) topped by a huge twisted icicle. Unfortunately it was my lead and I lived up to the routes name - having a bit of a meltdown.

500ft of exposure on the final steep ice

Me having one of many "moments" on the final pitch

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Nightmare on Wolfe Street, wasn't really a nightmare more a dream, if a very intense one, heres a few more pics from Nick

Ian on pitch 1 of Nightmare on Wolfe Street, Stanley Headwall

A tired and happy climber

Oh Canada Eh!

Our two big Stanley routes
Nightmare' on the left and French Reality on right

Nick Bullock and I have the next 3 weeks out in the Canadian Rockies. We're hoping for a couple of adventures in the mountains but to get us going we've spent our first few days on the ice and mixed "crags". Well when I say "crags" this doesn't do justice to the Stanley Headwall, which leading local climber Rapheal Slawinski calls "The premier hard ice and mixed crag in the Canadian Rockies, and a testing ground for winter climbing since 1974." I'd describe this place as like Ceuse for winter climbers. Theres a similar uphill approach (1 1/2 - 2 hours on skis) and each of the routes is notable in terms of quality and difficulty. Infact at Stanley the most ammenable route is the fearsome 150m WI6 Nemesis.

Nick on the first pitch of French Reality

Ian on the M7+ start to Nightmare' (photo Nick Bullock)

We opted for first French Reality (V 5.8 WI6+) and then the following day Nightmare on Wolfe Street (V M7+ WI6+). Both of these were about 170m long with Nightmare in particular being a total armblaster. We both felt these two routes were about as good as mixed climbing gets for lines of this length. It was nice to do Nightmare too, as this was one of the big first ascents by Sean Isaac, a friend from Canmore who I climbed with in Scotland on the last International Meet. So a much needed rest day today but not a bad start 2 big routes in the first 3 days of our trip.

Nick pulling onto the WI6+ ice after the mixed crux

A happy Nick