Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ice Conditions: Haffner Creek (Nov 29-30)

I just spent the past two days in Haffner Creek doing mixed clinics for the ACC Calgary Section. Yesterday there was only one other group present: a fellow guide with the Yamnuska Semesters students. Today (Sunday), the crag was packed with over 25 climbers swinging tools. There are only two ice good lines at the main area so the mixed routes saw lots of traffic. Half n' Half, Mojo, Shagadelic, Half a Gronk and Swank all have enough ice on them. The water is flowing (actually gushing so bring a Gore-tex jacket) so more pure-ice pillars should be formed soon. There are still a couple spots of open water in the creek near the mouth of the canyon but someone has made a makeshift bridge out of 2-by-6.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ice Conditions: R&D (Nov 26)

There must be more ice finally forming because the Ranger Creek area was not its usual over-crowded self today; only three parties including us. As suspected R&D is a hooked-out peg board; no swinging necessary. We climbed the newly formed pitch upper pitch, erroneously thinking it may have not seen an ascent yet. Our delusions of grandeur were nurtured by the fresh ice with nary a hook to be seen--silly us. Of course, there was a V-thread at the top. There is quite a bit of water flowing from the rock overlap, which has covered up all sings of the previous passage. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant romp turning R&D into a two-pitch climb. This second pitch goes at WI3 and maybe add an R to that grade since it is a little thin off the ledge. This will most likely keep thickening as long as the tap stays on. The photo shows R&D (you can see the hooks from here) and the aforementioned second pitch up.

HS below the climb is still below threshold amounts. The strong winds from the past week are evident in that all fetches are stripped to scree. Stiff winds slabs are surely lurking above the routes but should pose little threat until the next major inputs (i.e. snow, wind or temps).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ski Conditions: Bow Summit Area (Nov 25)

Ali Cardinal and I decided it was time to check out the skiing so we headed to the Bow Summit area hoping to find some turns. Bow Summit proper is completely destroyed with tracks, so we skied a bit further south below Jimmy Simpson. We weren't expecting much as we skinned up over a 7cm-thick wind crust (first photo) but sheltered spots provided some good wind-pressed, boot-top powder. The Nov 2 rain crust was present all the way to our high-point (2400m) offering good support and keeping us up off the rocks. Average HS was 50-60cm but variable with as little as 20cm only 10 from the deeper spots.

Tests: Compression test (N aspect, 2200m, 25 degrees) failed in the hard range on the facets (almost but not quite depth hoar yet) between the rain crust and the ground.

Avi Obs: A size 1 loose-snow point release occurred just after 1200 on a SE aspect starting from steep cliffs (second photo). It ran 100m on what appeared to be the Nov 2 rain crust.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Icefall Lodge

My long-time good friend Larry Dolecki owns and operates an amazing new fly-in ski touring lodge located on the west slope of the Rockies. It is only 60km from Golden, B.C. as the crow flies and has access to unlimited glaciated terrain as well as good tree skiing for those murky and/or poor stability days. It could also be a convenient basecamp for the remote and relatively untapped ice climbing paradise of Icefall Brook. Check out the website at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ice Conditions: The Playground (Nov 14-15)

Well, there is no ice to report at the Playground but then again there is never ice at the Playground. This crag was developed last year by a couple industrious locals, Eric and Pat, solely for drytooling. I ended up guiding there two days in row, which was fun for everyone. There are some great intro drytooling routes in the M5 to M6 range that have excellent positive hooks and easy moves. The crag is located on Grotto Mountain on the right-hand side of the drainage coming from the eastern grotto.

Approach Beta: To get there, park at the Rat's Nest Cave parking, which is found at the far east end of the mining scar. It is on the right-hand side when driving east along the 1A just before the road really starts to curve. The parking area is ringed by boulders. From here a good trail leads up hill. A couple hundred metres out of the car park, you will see the powerlines up ahead. About 100m before the power lines, a small trail with flagging tape branches off left. From here a combination of game trails and old roads head west above the mine scar and eventually into the drainage and up to the crag. The entire path from the Rat's Nest trail junction to the crag is flagged with yellow and pink flagging. If you miss the first flagging and go all the way to the powerline cutline then simply turn left and follow it downhill where you will regain the correct route and pick up the flagging again.

Ice Conditions: Ross Lake Headwall (Nov 12)

I guided the ice flows up at Ross Lake Headwall. I had never been before so was excited to check out a new area. The right-hand flow offered two pitches of ice with the first one being a short but steep WI4- pillar. The gusty down-flow winds from the hanging glacial valley above created some severe spindrift adding to the alpine aura. The approach takes between 1.5 and 2 hours and is a pleasant walk except for the final grunt up frozen scree to the base of the ice. The photo shows the ice (we climbed the right one) but is of poor quality due to the flling snow.

Ice Conditions: Stanley Headwall (Nov 10)

There were groups on Nemesis, Suffer Machine, Sinus Gully and Thriller. One team also top-roped the top section of Killer Pillar but the middle was still too fragile looking to even TR. It is still flowing with water so should fill out and be climbable soon. This will be the third time in known history that it has formed. There is lots of ice at the Killer Cave and the classic BIG mixed routes like Distiller, Rototiller and Caterpillar have substantial ice on them. Some friends this week went over to Clucking but they did not climb it since it looked very thin and detached. The first two pitches of Nightmare on Wolfe Street look climbable but the top half needs a bit more time. Dawn of the Dead has enough ice on the first two pitches but like its neighbour, the top need to fill in a bit more. French reality appears all there but looks stiff. The steady storm pulses throughout the week have steadily increased the amount of snow making walking more difficult but definitely not enough to ski yet. Some big sloughs were observed off of the ledges above Acid Howl over to French Reality. photo: Nemesis (Nov 10, 2008)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ice Conditions: Chalice and The Spoon (Nov 6)

photo: Lone Ranger (left) and Chalice and The Spoon/Blade (right)

Yesterday, I climbed Chalice and The Spoon in Ranger Creek, Kananaski Country with Jeff Lockyer and Marc Dastous. The temperature was much colder than when I climbed R&D last week thus resulting in the tap being turned off. Instead of wet, plastic ice, the climb offered cold, hard ice, but at least there were still some hook placements. The first pitch was WI4+ with lots of rattly hooks. On the second pitch, we wanted to do the Blade but the ice seemed a little too brittle for skinny pillar climbing so I scooted up the left-hand Spoon variation. Our double 70m ropes got us from the top to the ground in one long rappel. There was a total of seven groups of climbers working both the a.m. and p.m. shifts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Coldsmoke Powder Fest 2009

Once again the Coldsmoke Powder fest is happening again in Nelson. I have yet to make it to this cool event but maybe I'll finally get there for it this winter. It sounds like it follows the same format of the ubiquitous ice festival that we have come to love: entertaining slide shows, instructional clinics, fun comps and of course rowdy parties.