6 intrepid women, Susan, Nicole, Julie, Katherine, Maple and Sheena, ventured north on the highway 93 in search of ice despite the recent tropical el Ninio temperatures. The walk from the Athabasca falls hostel parking lot through 5 cm of water inspired us to dust off our rock shoes and drive to hidden valley in search of warm stone. As we travelled towards Jasper, rain poured over us. When we arrived, the air dried, the sun came out as did the gale force winds while we trekked up to inspect our potential objectives. We broke into 3 teams of 2 to ascend 3 lovely multi-pitch routes. As soon as we were ready to climb another burst of ferocious rain pelted us into submission. Well everyone except Katherine who rallied us and insisted that we wait at least 10 minutes before running away like sissies. The perpendicular deluge miraculously stopped, the wind blew the remaining moisture to Saskatchewan and we enjoyed three pitches of lovely warm unpolished limestone to bring in the rock season. The rest of the day was spent on single pitch sport routes until the weather chased us back to the hostel for a decadent dinner and satisfying sleep.
What a difference a refreeze makes! Our spirits bolstered by the cold, we ventured off to find ice. After following the “donkey” trail to Balfour wall, we set up our top ropes and practiced aggressively kicking baby steps into the ice with our crampons. We did as many laps as we could in a snowstorm that made me wish we had brought our skis. We packed up and drove south on the 93 which had become a river of meltwater happy to be travelling before the water froze. Much camaraderie, great climbs and delicious food were enjoyed on this this trip.