Trip to Canada

25/12/2013 15:00

Trip to CANADA Winter 2013/14


Reflections about bears, mythical ice lines, mixed climbing and the wild spaces of an ice trip into the canadien Rockies....


For Ice-and Mixed climbing and also for Mountaineering the Rockies are just heaven. Having the possibility to return there made me feel very fortunate and i was very excited when Matthias and me packed our equipment on a warm late afternoon at the end of october in Cogne. Outside there had already been the first snowfall, leaving the upper rock spires covered in white,- but still,  winter was far, far away here in the italien Alps...


It was going to be our third voyage to Canmore now. The last two times in november  we had met a canadien ice- season full on, with many ice lines already in. On our arrival this time so, winter had just arrived in the Rockies and we had to cope with many different and unexpected challenges.





Having climbed many classics on Icefieldsparkway already, we had set our mind on one line, which had a reputation for bad ice quality, high avalanche danger and serac falls. But the line on Mount Patterson is a compelling one and most important, RIPTIDE was one of the few lines seemingly in. The avalanche danger was diminishing against zero. It was the time to go! But when we tracked our way there in, jetlag was still weighing on our bones, my  respiratory system was occupied by a nasty flue bug, and it was going to be  be our second time on ice in this oncoming season: We didn´t go, we weren´t ready yet. 

But we returned a couple of days later, climbing it together with Steve Swenson( more about the climb on my last post). The day became my seasonal “ice consecration” , always a delicate issue for  mind and nerves. But everything went fine, i was feeling well on the ice,  my mind was coming back to the game. After a full day out there, i was relieved to have found the entrance to an ever fascinating ice world once again, even when we didn´t finish the climb this time.




                                     Matthias on the first pich of Riptide


Riptide, the obvious ice line on Mount Patterson



The Bear issue




The second memorable note was of a total different nature, arriving on my birthday. The plan was to climb the reliable formed “Murchison”,  but the Icefieldsparkway was fully closed in cause of a car accident. So we decided to check out conditions at the Stanely Headwall. Heavy snow had fallen, there were no tracks and we made our way through knee deep snow. After 40 minutes or so, i decided to take a rest, have some tea and get rid of my outer layer. We looked at the rock face in front of us, but there were only smears of ice.  We were both totally absorbed in those icy issues that we did not take care of the strange noises around us. We walked on until we had a view on a still unclimbable “Nemesis”, then we decided to go. On the way back i suddenly found myself discovering big and totally fresh footprints of a bear, following our tracks back. With growing awareness i observed the prints until i noticed them  parting into the hollow forest of my right side. I was stunned and it all clicked together: our little break, the smell of Cliffbar-food, the sniffing noises, the surroundings we were in, the later arrival of a way this bear had just saved my birthday, as I was in a total lack of excitement, haven´t not climbed at all , ... but the bear issue just fully changed the mood i was in.

It is strange how the human spirit is touched by the presence of those ancient creatures: it did not only work on me: On the way further down we met an older guy with his grand- sun, and as we told them to be aware of a brown- or black bear, i saw the eyes of the child widening, shining in a sense of awe.

Stephen Herrero, which fascinating book about bears i´ve read already on my first journey to bear country provides an interesting description about that topic:


We keep bears because they are a part of nature and because of what they do to the human mind, body and soul. We maintain grizzly bears because there is no other animal in north america that drives our imagination as does the great bear. 

[...]images of pristine North America (arrive)when it was complete with bisons and wolves and when humans were still pioneers treading on the edge of something big and rich beyond definition.

...but images of mauled people also enter your mind, for this, too is part of the bear... 


For the rest of the day i was brooding over the fact if ice falls will someday become,too an endangered species, and  in which ways ice climbing, in it´s very core is related with the same awe and fear an ancient bear creature creates,  part of an long gone world, where danger prevailed.


On the way back to Canmore i actually saw my first bear in plain sight, vagabonding through the forest, this time safely on the right side of the Highway fence.





Mixed lines


Apart from our search for the most fascinating ice lines, we came to discover a lot of mixed climbing. A constant variability in this game became the “Playground” near Canmore. It provided a perfect relax day, with good physical exercise in a total safe environment. Plus the 45  minutes approach were just perfect to cleanse the body. So the “Swisscheese” found us many times, going on laps. These were the fun days and very often became also days of socializing, with great people filling up the place, cheering each other on.

But there were also some very cool new areas we found for mixed climbing, like the Cineplex. And although i have far more ice climbs under my belt than mixed adventures, i have to confess finding some joy in this totally different mind set game...  


"Swisscheese" M10-  at the Playground

super great climbing at "Haffner"..

M9 mixed Route at the "Cineplex" Icefieldsparkway


New Drytooling place near Canmore



The Ice


Medusas at the exit of "Murchison", IcefieldsParkway



Although winter had arrived late this year in the Rockies we got a lot of fascinating ice climbs done, amongst such beautiful lines like Whitemanfalls,  Murchison,Oh le Tabernac, Carlsberg or Pilsner Pillar.


"WhitemanFalls" in fantastic shape, me climbing the direct line...


the ice how it´s looking at the overhang..


2.pitch of Whitemanfalls



Matthias on "Oh le Tabernac", Icefielsparkway


Matthias on "Carlsberg", Field

Me on the upper part of "Murchison"


In the end we left Canada with great experiences, not only because of the marvelous rock- and ice creations we found, but also because of the many great people we met along the way. The possibilities for ice climbs and mixed lines are still endless, and even with icy temperatures and huge avalanche dangers it remains a place with a strongly pulling attraction for every ice addict.  


The unforgettable Icefieldsparkway, every time anew a pleasure ;-)


The beautiful "Ghost" valley in the uncoming morning...



The beautiful Minewanka Lake, still unfrozen...

little curious fellows observing, ...nature is all present