Paul firing up the second pitch of SuperBok.
The mega ice-science trip is over and I’m back in BC. While I’m psyched about the routes we sent this week, I’ve been thinking more about the ones we backed off. The weather was quite good, a bit chilly in the mornings but always warming to bearable in the afternoon. Avalanche conditions were about as ideal as you can ask for. The three routes I bailed on were Superbok, Spray River Falls, and Borgeau Left.
Superbok was early in the trip and looking fat. I led the first pitch through the instagram-arch and then Paul fired off the 2nd WI4 pitch. I headed off on the 3rd pitch, a 4(+?) and made it to about 40m before absolutely running out of gas. The ice was relatively virgin so I wasn’t finding much for hooks and was clearing quite a bit. I realized I was starting to get tired and had placed a few more screws than normal. Looking up towards the last 10m, realized I was finding it pretty hard. I blasted in two screws and equalized them before taking a rest. I was feeling a bit apprehensive though and didn’t want to push it early in the trip, so drilled a quick no-thread and bailed back down to Paul. In hindsight, I’m pretty confident that had I hung for a few minutes to rest and then continued, it would have been fine.
Just before I decided that the crux curtain of Spray River Falls was a no-go.
Spray River Falls was a few days later with Adam joining us. Paul was psyched to lead the approach pitches and got us up to the belay cave at the top of pitch two. I pulled around the corner and found very steep ice. The curtain wasn’t long but it was pretty chandeliered. I spent quite a while clearing ice but couldn’t get a good first screw in without hitting air pockets and was shearing through ice with my tools. It was a pretty quick decision to pull back into the cave and rap from there.
My last climbing day, Adam and I went up to Sunshine to attempt Borgeau Left. I was looking forward to trying the crux curtain. The first pitch is notoriously thin WI3 but from the base it looked decent with good hooks and some thicker ice bulges at intervals that looked to be reasonably well bonded. I started up, placing two yellow screws in good ice and passed the first bulge into a thin bit. I was doing my best to hook gently but while tapping in a tool, the curtain fractured across the width. It didn’t move but the thin bit was clearly detached from the rock and I wasn’t quite close enough to the next attached blob to reach it with my tool. The crack surprised me quite a bit and I wasn’t ready to commit completely to the thin section to get to the thicker blob so I decided to bail. It was relatively easy down climbing, 10 meters of hooks and steps so no rappel was necessary.
Banff from Cascade Mountain.
My analysis of these three bails is that first, I’m happy that I never climbed myself into a situation where I felt like I could fall off or couldn’t get out of it. I was never so pumped and gripped I couldn’t place a screw or anything like that. Second, two of these bails were due to ice conditions that felt to me to be beyond my skill set. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who could have cruised through the chandeliers of Spray Falls or the thin ice of Borgeau (and did, judging from the swiss cheese of screw holes) but I couldn’t confidently say that I could climb that ice safely. I’m fine with bailing off these routes as I see it as caused by the ice and my unfamiliarity but not so much my technical inability. I’m also glad to be moderately comfortably down climbing easy-ish ice. This seems to be fairly important and I’m glad that on Borgeau, I didn’t climb myself so far into difficult terrain that I couldn’t back off.
Adam descending from Borgeau Left just as the sun was coming over Sunshine Village 🙂
I’ll admit that I slightly regret bailing from Superbok – the climbing was well within my skills, I just got tired and then psyched myself out. I’m confident I could have finished the pitch, especially after a rest, though I’m not sure I want to be pushing so hard that resting mid-pitch is necessary. I think it was better form to call it there and come back stronger another day, rather than than aid my way up.
The nice thing about this ice week is that I’ve now got a solid list of things I need to work on and some good routes to look forward to redemption on. I’m looking forward to building core and upper body strength. I need to improve my foot work to be more comfortable standing on front points and moving up efficiently. Finally, I need to improve my left shoulder mobility to be able to reliably swing with my left tool rather than matching and repeatedly swinging with my right.
Stay tuned as I have one more post coming with some thoughts on gear from the trip!
Feeling decent on Carlsberg Column while snaking my way up the ice chimney.
For those who really want to know though, here’s our tick list for 8 days of climbing:
- Honeyman Falls
- Guiness Gully
- Superbok* (Bailed P3)
- Cascade Falls
- Spray River Falls* (Bailed P3)
- Massey’s Falls
- Carlsberg Column
- Weeping Wall Left to Snivelling Gully
- Lady Wilson’s Cleavage (all avi debris)
- Nothing but the Breast
- Louise Falls
- Borgeau Left* (bailed P1)
- Rogan’s Gully