Winter first ascents in Canada by Adrian Nelhams
Another great season icefall climbing in Switzerland is over, with a lot of ice formed and, as usual, very few people around to crowd things. That same theme continued on another very successful trip to Canada.
[Climbers: Adrian Nelhams & Dean Mounsey]
I’m always amazed how few people you meet in Canada climbing the steep white stuff! I guess the Rockies is just such a huge place meaning that climbers are spread out. Even so it is the Mecca with some of the most amazing icefalls in the world!
So much ice and the huge area means there are still so many new routes waiting to be climbed. Ice appears some years where it’s never been seen to form before, which is a unique part of climbing there in winter. There is always something new to do.
Driving back to Banff from Lake Louise down the old A1, we looked back towards Mt Temple and glimpsed at what looked like the top of a big icefall. With a quick and excited look through the guidebook we soon realised that the icefall didn't feature. The next stop was Banff, where we logged onto a computer and checked out all the recorded new routes since the guidebook was published. After a good hour of checking we realised we could be onto a winner, provided that the ice we had seen the top of, actually touched down!
One thing was for sure, we needed to go and take a look. So, the following day, we snow-shoed into Paradise Valley and to the base of the route on the SE face of Mt Sheol. The two and a half hours were well worth the effort as we were rewarded with a superb two-pitch route which we named Club Tropicana and graded WI 4+.
Climbing this route led us to wonder what routes lay just around the corner on Mt Sheol’s NE face. One route had already been done there, but surely there were more lines?
Two days later we returned and snow shoed the 3hrs into Hidden Valley, which flanked the NE/E face of Mt Sheol and the west face of Saddleback Mountain. This beautiful hidden valley rewarded our efforts with 2 more new routes.
The first was a very challenging line up steep and fragile ice, which had formed 15m to the left of an already existing route called the Tease. We climbed our route in 2 long pitches and called it Tainted Love, grading it WI6.
The second new route was a line we saw on the way out from climbing Tainted Love. High up on a steep rock face we saw a hanging pillar of ice. What looked like a vague ramp line led across steep rock to the base of it - could that be the key?
Two days later we were back in there and standing at the base of the rock, not believing our luck. A mixed line lead out across steep and overhanging rock, through an awkward pull which then led to the base of the ice pillar and a belay. The next pitch followed a very steep pillar of fragile ice. We named and graded this mixed route Under my Thumb M4+ WI5.
Three new routes and a handful of other great classics, capped off a very successful and adventurous trip, in one amazing mountain range.
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