A few weeks ago I organised a weekend of ice climbing. Now, as anyone who knows me is aware of – I’m not much of a climber. I’ve been trying to make an effort this year though as I’m actually enjoying the ice side of things.
Anyway a bunch of us went and stayed at Rampart Creek up the Icefields Parkway and then we split off into rope teams during the day to go tackle different objectives.
I’d wandered out to Shades of Beauty (3 pitches up to WI4) a few weeks earlier and it had been one of the few objectives in good condition early season, but I’d only lapped the first pitch, so Paul, Nando and I decided to go take another crack and see if we couldn’t get up the whole thing. Kyle and Jenny (of Jenny’s Mountain Adventures) decided to tag along as an independent rope team.
The approach to the climb took a little over an hour. It’s a beautiful hike up the aptly named Beauty Creek and follows a pretty reasonable trail most of the way before a short, steep climb up to the base of the route.
At the base of the route we geared up, got our game faces on and Paul took off up the first pitch with Nando belaying while I did the whole ‘photography’ thing. The first pitch was in great WI3 shape and Paul crushed it in short order and Nando and I followed him up shortly followed by Kyle and Jenny.
Pitch 2 immediately looked like it might be a little spicy. It was thin and chandeliered – a stiff WI4. Paul though, he stepped up big time. Paul elected to tackle a groove on the right side while Kyle went up a bulge on the left side. Kyle’s line was super sustained, but had good pro. Paul’s line let him stem and take load off his arms, but the screws were consistently hollow so he couldn’t hang on a screw for a break until near the top of the pitch.
I would have shat myself, but Paul just kept working the problem, even resorting to placing a V-Thread on lead which was impressive to watch. I followed up after he topped out and while the placements were all there, nothing inspired a ton of confidence. Like I said, super impressive lead by Paul.
Kyle meanwhile systematically worked his line which was his first real WI4 lead – and it was definitely full value. He got a few really solid screws and took a couple of opportunities to shake out. It was a solid, systematic lead which is impressive since it was pushing his grade. No terror swinging or disco leg at all.
The third pitch is a long, sustained WI3 – super high value climbing. If WI3 is your happy place, then you’ll love this pitch. It looks like a thin smear, but took screws well through most of it. Paul again cruised up happily (other than popping a tool and apparently briefly reconsidering if he actually wanted to be an ice climber) and crested the top of the route. The final moves were super thin and there was actually a mixed move required to finish it out. Nothing crazy, just thinner than the route normally is.
Nando and I again followed Paul up and Kyle and Jenny were again just behind us.
After some victory high-fives we rapped the top pitch and then scrambled around the two lower pitches. The walk-off is just to climber’s left of the route.
Shades is a great route. It’s three pitches of reasonably sustained WI3/4 climbing and the top pitch is some of the best WI3 I’ve been on definitely worth the hike in if you get the opportunity.