I just polished off a long stint of local ice guiding working 18 days straight. I find it pretty hard to call it "work" since I was climbing 3-star classics everyday. In early February, I was out with Richard Hunter from Toronto for a few days including Grotto Falls, Weathering Heights and Moonlight Falls. I had never climbed Weathering Heights before so it was great to tick this classic smear. It was Richards first excursion into the Ghost which is always a wild adventure combining redneck 4x4'ing with remote ice climbing.
Immediately after, Rob Owens and I hosted the ACC Rockies Ice Camp. This is an annual trip offered by the Alpine Club of Canada which tours the best the Canadian Rockies has to offer. The first three days we based ourselves out of the Beauty Creek hostel which is located on the Banff-Jasper Highway just north of the Columbia Icefields. This rustic hostel is closed in winter but they open it up for one week every winter specifically for this trip. Juan, Jim, Lynda and Gene joined Rob and I for an outstanding week of waterfall hunting. Our mission was to sample the entire range in one week so we started with Maligne Canyon (Jasper National Par) just outside of the Jasper town site. After everyone did a few laps on the Queen and The Last Wall to fine-tune their technique, we embarked on the Original Route. The Original Route is primarily horizontal but is a neat adventure that works up the entire length of the canyon negotiating open pools and interspersed with short steps. A final 30m pitch of WI3 accesses the very top of the gorge depositing you at the parking lot. It feels very similar to the slot canyoneering one might do in the Utah desert except it is winter and everything is frozen.
We then travelled south to the Weeping Wall (Banff National Park) where we enjoyed stellar "blue-goo" conditions; "one hit shit" as we call it. Day 3 was the classic beer climbs of Carlsberg Column and Pilsner Pillar in Field (Yoho National Park). Day 4 we split up with Rob heading into Wicked Wanda in the Ghost with Gene and Lynda while I climbed the uber-classic roadside Cascade Waterfall (Banff National Park) with Juan and Jim. It was a super cold day and I actually ended up with "Screaming Barfies" in both feet while belaying the boys up the last pitch. The final day we all went cragging at Haffner Creek (Kotenay National Park) so the team could test their mettle on some steep funky pillars and get a taste for mixed climbing. Rob and I are already signed up to guide the ice camp again next year in mid-February 2008. In the meantime, we are also doing the ACC Ghost Rock Camp at the end of June. The plan is to camp in the Ghost for a few days of multi-pitch limestone then return to the civilization of the Bow valley to finish off the week with classic big faces like Yamnuska, Chinaman's and EEOR.
This past week I worked a Yamnuska Hot Ice with fellow guides and friends, Steve Holeczi and Pat Delaney. Again, another fun week of multi-pitch ice including Snowline, Louise Falls, Weeping Wall and GBU. Neil, Keith, Ari, Martin, Rod and the youth, David were keen so we stuffed them full of steep ice. The last day we climbed GBU in the Ghost en mass. The previous couple days we received 20-30cm of new snow accompanied by strong winds. In the Ghost, this means truck-eating snowdrifts. One of the best parts of climbing in the Ghost in winter is that you are able to get in touch with your inner red-neck. Neil did a proud job of negotiating the deep drifts. The only way to not get stuck is to keep forward momentum. This means keeping the foot on the gas and redlining the engine so you can keep speed. We managed to suck back half a tank of gas in approximately 3km but at least we did not have to shovel (well, not too much...).