With a long and warm Chinook having hit in the week prior to this trip, the original Waterton Ice Climbing trip at the end of January suddenly became the Ghost Ice Climbing trip. I was excited to head back into the Ghost, since it’s inaccessible with my car. Our plan was to camp on Saturday night, a far cry from heated bathrooms and pub food in Waterton. Instead, we would all bring something to share for dinner.
All six of us met at Nando’s early on Saturday morning and commenced the ceremonial gear faff to rearrange ourselves into two trucks. After an uneventful drive, we arrived at the turnoff into the Ghost, where we decided on heading to Valley of the Birds, in the North Ghost. Keith had been here earlier in the week and promised relatively friendly access.
It was a busy day in the Ghost and there were two cars already parked at VOTB when we arrived. We split up into two rope teams and spread out to different climbs. I went with Matt and Nando to Yellow Bird, while Brian, Lida and Keith headed to Dead Bird. Yellow Bird was great, with Matt leading the left side. We then all top-roped the much wetter right side. The other team met up with us here, then we explored further in the canyon for other climbs. I joined Keith and Lida on the single pitch WI2 just past Seagull, since Albatross had a party on it. We all met back at the car just before the sun went down.
Our camping spot was still undecided, but there was a light, yet cutting, wind. Matt had an idea of a sheltered spot he wanted to go and we turned off the main track to an old road, only to promptly get stuck in a snowdrift. We dug outselves out and conventiently, the nearest open space looked great for a camp. Nando had snagged the ACC Dome Tent ™ at the last minute, so we cleared snow for a floor and set it up easily with the expert instruction of Matt.
With the tent set up, we had a feast. Lida brought a delicious appetizer, while Nando cooked burgers and sausages on a BBQ we brought (we were car camping in style – I even had a pillow!). For desert, Keith had brought a cake, while I had raw s’mores. Before long, we were all ready for bed and all decided to sleep in the dome, rather than go back outside and set up our own tents.
The next day we drove a little farther into the North Ghost to Beowulf. I had done this climb several years ago and we couldn’t make a river crossing by truck, so we had walked almost 4 hours each way. In comparison, the 30 minute approach was pretty delightful!
We were the third and fourth parties to get to Beowulf. Again we split into 2 rope teams. Soon Lida, Nando, and Keith had made it up the first pitches and out of view. Matt lead this pitch and brought Brian and I up. We started climbing swimming up the next easy ice creek step, but soon met up with the other half of our group. They had made it to the base of the final pitch, but a party was on it. We decided the intermediate pitches weren’t worth heading up, and all headed back to the trucks.
The drive out to the access road included avoiding some truck-size holes in the creek crossings, but went well. We soon found the crux of the drive – the icy Transalta road. Here we learned that all of the winches, lifts, bush bars, or snorkels in the world did not help give traction to bald summer tires. After patiently waiting, we made it back to the highway safely. Thanks to Nando and Keith for organizing the weekend!