Trio of Huge New Ice Routes in Canada

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Raphael Slawinski on the newly discovered Undertow. Photo by Eamonn Walsh

Raphael Slawinski on the newly discovered Undertow. Photo by Eamonn Walsh

5/18/10 - In a remarkable late-season burst of activity, three major new ice routes have been climbed on a remote wall in the Canadian Rockies. In mid-April, Steve Holeczi, J. Mills, and Mike Verway braved the epic approach to Tangle Ridge, near the Columbia Icefield in Alberta. After an hour of hiking, the trio climbed the 120-meter WI4 Shades of Beauty, and then kept walking for a couple more hours to a campsite at the foot of the cliffs.

The reward for all this effort the next day was Undertow (V WI6, ca. 600m): more than 10 pitches of continuous water ice, mostly WI4 and 5, with a WI6 crux near the very top. Above this, easier ice led to a laid-back serac band that the trio skirted to reach the ridge’s summit. On his guiding blog, Mills called Undertow “the longest continuous piece of ice we had ever climbed. Probably about twice as much real climbing as Polar Circus, significantly harder, and no big snow slopes en route.”

Raphael Slawinski tops a moderate mixed bulge on Boobquake (WI4+ M5). Photo by Eamonn Walsh

Raphael Slawinski tops a moderate mixed bulge on Boobquake (WI4+ M5). Photo by Eamonn Walsh

Word that an instant classic had been climbed in the Rockies springtime quickly got around. About a week later, Dana Ruddy and Ian Welsted did the long approach early one morning and repeated Undertow. With them that day were Raphael Slawinski and Eamonn Walsh, who decided to attempt a separate line to the right. The result was Boobquake (WI4+ M5, ca. 10 pitches), which Slawinski described as “never desperate but always entertaining.” Having left no gear at the base, the quartet was able to romp down the backside of Tangle Ridge and reach the highway in a little over an hour from the summit.

The newly discovered ice and mixed lines of Tangle Ridge, each about 600 meters high. From left, Undertow, Can’t Touch This, and Boobquake. Photo by Raphael Slawinski

The newly discovered ice and mixed lines of Tangle Ridge, each about 600 meters high. From left, Undertow, Can’t Touch This, and Boobquake. Photo by Raphael Slawinski

Slawinski and Walsh were so stoked by the discovery that they decided to brave the massive approach (three hours of driving plus four hours of hiking and climbing) the following weekend, along with Simon Parsons. They had their eye on the middle line, which featured a fragile-looking dagger midway. After several moderate pitches, Slawinski inspected the dagger, which appeared too weak to touch. However, he was able to aid across overhanging rock to its left to preplace some protection pitons, and then redpoint the traverse to reach solid ice above the dagger. With new snow falling and sending small avalanches down upon them, the team wallowed up the final slopes to complete Can’t Touch This (WI5+ M6).

The following Saturday, Slawinski and Walsh completed the trilogy, making one last trip to Tangle Ridge to climb Undertow, the first route on the wall. Said Slawinski: “It is without a doubt one of the finest ice climbs in the Rockies.”

Dates of Ascents: April-May 2010

Sources: Cdnalpine.blogspot.com, Raphael Slawinski, Raphaelslawinski.blogspot.com, Waterfall Ice