I was able to sneak away from a busy schedule for a brief trip up the Icefields Parkway with a group of ACC Trip Leaders, organized by Phil Tomlinson (who provided most of the photos, thanks Phil!). Kyle and I drove out ahead of the crew and arrived at the Rampart Creek Hostel with plenty of time to eat and relax. The Hostel is small and cozy and very basic. It feels a bit like a fancy hut-trip as the electricity is solar, water needs to be pumped into a water tank and there is no indoor plumbing. It sure makes for a social atmosphere and we mingled in the common area as people trickled in. There were a few other groups at the Hostel and even some people that we knew but were not expecting to be there. The climbing world is small, but the ice climbing world is tiny.
Kyle and I briefly investigated the sauna, but decided to save that for after climbing the next day as we had an early start the next morning. 6 am arrived too quickly, but we wanted to get a head start on the other climbers who might have been interested in our climb, Shades of Beauty. The approach is about an hour, and although it isn’t difficult, it would really suck to show up and have the route already busy with people. We drove north through about 15 cm of fresh snow on the highway, as the plow hadn’t been by yet. The trail starts at the Beauty Creek pullout and follows the river up to a road. After taking a right on the road, the trail rejoins the river shortly and continues up the valley on the left side of the river for about 30 minutes. From the car, we could see the climb Curtain Call (WI6) which looked pretty intimidating. As we made our way up the valley, Shades of Beauty came into view on the right side of the river at the far end of a rock band.
|Sign marking the trail as you leave the road to start following the river|
|This frozen waterfall was full of running water which was pretty cool to watch|
|Sunrise over the Icefields Parkway (Phil Photo)|
We were the first groups to arrive. Fortunately, only one other party showed up. Nando, Phil and Paul climbed as a party of 3 while Kyle and I followed as a group of 2. The first pitch was pretty mellow, two short steps of WI 3 with a big ledge to build anchors and hang out. It was pretty cold standing around and I got my first screaming barfies of the year at the top of the first pitch.
|Approaching Shades of Beauty|
|Paul starts up Pitch 1 (Phil Photo)|
|Another view of Paul making his way up Pitch 1|
|Approaching the belay ledge (Phil Photo)|
|Kyle about to top out on the first pitch (Phil Photo)|
The ice was solid on the first pitch and the climbing was pretty straight forward. The second pitch offered a bit more of a challenge. Although it was short, it was steep and unrelenting. Paul picked a line on the right side and found some parts difficult to protect, especially when he tried to top out and encountered more snow than ice. He stuck with it and pulled off a great lead. Kyle opted for the direct line up the left. It was pretty wet but the ice seemed a bit more solid. This was his first WI 4 lead and he killed it! I found it pretty tough because I had quite a few screws to remove. At the top I was breathing hard and super pumped but totally stoked. There were two bolts with some cordelette (no rap rings) at the top left hand side of this pitch that we used as an anchor.
|Paul starting up pitch 2 (Phil Photo)|
|Kyle on the crux, Pitch 2 (WI 4) – Phil Photo|
Pitch 3 was my favourite. It’s a long WI 3 with two main steps and pretty good ice. It was also super wet! I think everyone hit a rock or two on the way up as it started to get pretty thin near the top. The top out didn’t have much ice and involved hooking a big boulder with your ice tool and hauling yourself up. That move was more mixed climbing than I have done in a while. The top had an anchor with chains and we used 2 ropes to rappel to the top of pitch 2. From there, we walked off to the climbers left through steep trees which was much faster than rappelling the rest of the way down. Two other parties had arrived as we topped out and were just starting the route as we packed up for the walk out.
|Paul leading Pitch 3 (Phil Photo)|
|Phil makes his way up pitch 3|
|Nando on Pitch 3 (Phil Photo)|
|Feeling stoked at the top of Shades of Beauty (Phil Photo)|
After the great day out, we had a monsterous meal of wraps and warmed up in the sauna. I had to be back in Calgary Sunday morning so I left to drive home that night while everyone else stayed to climb Sunday. Fueled with coffee but wondering if I had enough gas to make it to Lake Louise, I drove south through heavy snowfall on a very empty highway. I made it to Lake Louise with 8L of gas to spare. I won’t be making that mistake again, there is nowhere to fill up on 93N so gas up in Canmore before you go!
|The back of my car got very snowy on the way down from Rampart Creek|