It is November the 5th and the hour is early. Some days have past already since our arrival in Canmore, Canada, but it is still early in the season and the ice lines are just about to come in. There is not yet plenty formed but some lines are. Driving along Icefields parkway a couple of days ago we had a brief look upon Mount Patterson: Riptide seemed to be in! In the Guidebooks it is described as “sustained weirdness” and it is said that ice quality there is nearly always bad.
Outside it´s below -14 °C. On some parts of the Icefieldsparkway the temperatures scale in our car had shown -20°C, before eventually settling down on -14° here, so that seemed o.k.now. We are a party of three for this climb, and I am happy to share an adventure with Steve Svenson again.
We´ve brought our Suunto Ambit 2 along which means that the todays bushwalking won´t be a problem. We´ve marked some waypoints on the map at home, so we won´t get lost now- a good thing since it is still pitch black dark around us as we start our track through the narrow forests. After a short walk the first challenge of the day lies before us: Crossing the still not frozen river without getting wet feet. But we are prepared: Matthias pulls out some shiny, most high quality garbage packs we´ve caught from Will´s place.
Steve tries his luck with some black households garbage backs.
We sprint through the river and everyone stays sound and dry- the bush walk is going to continue.
We travel up the frozen river, blowing all the snow on us as we scramble through trees and bushes. Then we reach the moraine and track through rising snow levels. The higher we get the deeper the snow becomes. Finally we reach the rock wall with a serac towering on top and change cloth, swap on gear and get ready.
The route starts with some scrambling over loose terrain and some easy but brittle ice. Each of us makes his way up until we reach the first real ice pitch. It takes us some time to form a good belay on a piton and two tiny friends on a sheltered left side corner.
When all is ready Matthias sets out for the first pitch. The sound of the ice makes it clear that the ice quality is as expected: detached, brittle, not to be trusted. It starts steep.
Matthias climbs his way up and we observe him while one spindrift after the other is rushing down on him. It is a great ambiance around here and although I am very cold on the belay i start feeling really happy to be here. To be back in the game! To witness such a beauty and tranquility around me... When a good deal of the rope is through we hear Matthias voice, screaming he is on belay. We order our things and follow our way up.
Now it´s my turn: The pitch above me looks O.K. from here,but I know that this angle does not tell much. As I climb up, the ice quality is very bad and most of my screws are not going to hold much impact. The ice is air-filled and often mixed up with snow.Yet I have to trust this treacherous mixture. When the ice section thins out I find a thin crack in the rock to my left side for gear placement. With 2 small friends in I feel away better as I continue the climb. Shortly after I find belay on two old bolts.
Steve and Matthias follow up.
Steve goes for the 3.pitch. Also here the ice is tricky and brittle. Everything just takes more time with ice like that. So when we arrive on the third belay we discuss our ongoing. It is only one pitch left but darkness is soon to come and we have a long way back. We all agree that it´s fine to finish here.
The rappel and down climb takes it´s time, too. We build several abalakovs. When we reach the base of the route and our rucksacks is´s full dark again.
We have some tea and enjoy the moment, everything seems peaceful now. Above the stars are glittering and an enormous silence fills the air.
As I sit on my rucksack, sipping tea, it´s one of the moments, where there is nothing more to aid : It `s all there!