Ice Climbers Clean Up in Remote Rockies

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The Lyell Wall. From left: Happy Hours (240m, WI6), Fossen Falls (170m, WI6), Happy Birthday (120m, WI5), Into the Wild (100m, M12 WI5), Keep on Smiling (60m, WI6), Blue Lagoon (200m, WI5), High Five (200m, WI5), Jusq’au Bout (200m, M5 WI6). Earlier climbs on this wall include The Ice Palace (50m, WI4), below Into the Wild, and Mexican Overdrive (200m, WI5), the blue pillars between Into the Wild and High Five. Photo by Jon Walsh, courtesy of Gravsports-ice.com.

The Lyell Wall. From left: Happy Hours (240m, WI6), Fossen Falls (170m, WI6), Happy Birthday (120m, WI5), Into the Wild (100m, M12 WI5), Keep on Smiling (60m, WI6), Blue Lagoon (200m, WI5), High Five (200m, WI5), Jusq’au Bout (200m, M5 WI6). Earlier climbs on this wall include The Ice Palace (50m, WI4), below Into the Wild, and Mexican Overdrive (200m, WI5), the blue pillars between Into the Wild and High Five. Photo by Jon Walsh, courtesy of Gravsports-ice.com.

An all-star international team has reaped a rich bounty of new ice and mixed climbs in the Canadian Rockies during a nine-day trip to the remote Icefall Brook area. Audrey Gariepy, Caroline George, Jen Olson, Ines Papert, and Jon Walsh bagged 10 probable new routes in a nine-day trip, ranging from 60 to 600 meters, and from WI5 to M12.

The team helicoptered to Icefall Brook, just south of the Lyell Icefield in British Columbia, and camped a short distance below the climbs. At least 10 climbs had already been done in the area, mostly by Dave Thomson and Dave Chase, but dozens more possibilities awaited.

“Beautiful limestone walls [rise] hundreds of meters around this pear-shaped canyon, and dozens of waterfalls seep through the highly featured stone,” Walsh wrote in a report on Gravsports-ice.com. “Many of the routes in the canyon wouldn’t be safe to do with elevated [avalanche] hazards or direct sun, but generally unsettled weather and minimal new snow were the factors we needed.”

Among the big scores, the team climbed five routes WI5+ or harder, including the sustained 170-meter Fossen Falls (WI6, Gariepy-Papert-Walsh) and the wild Supernatural B.C. (600m, WI6 M7, Olson-Walsh), on which 250 meters of WI3 ice led to an 80-meter WI6 pillar, followed by a WI4 chimney, an M7 traverse, a thin pitch of WI4+ R, and a final 100 meters of ice steepening to WI6.

For sheer difficulty, the highlight was Ines Papert’s Into the Wild (M12 WI5). After climbing the existing route Ice Palace to a belay in the back of a cave, the route climbs a short pillar to a 40-meter bolted roof traverse. Another 60 meters of WI5 leads to hole where the ice emerges. Papert bolted the crux pitch on lead. “At one point you actually have to climb down, but you’re still horizontal and you don’t know whether to go feet-first or head-first—at least I didn’t,” Walsh said.

Dates of Ascents: March 11–19, 2008

Sources: Jon Walsh, Gravsports-ice.com

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