A Cheeky Weekend in Chamonix

For no other good reason than, we could, we joined a few of Laetitia’s mates in Chamonix for a cheeky weekend of skiing before winter gives way to spring … one last blast of ski fun before rock climbing takes over our lives again!

The gang of cheeky skiers – Georgina, Dawn, Laetitia, Beverley, and Pete (Nikki was also there – taking the photo)

Ghost River Wilderness

We made two and a half trips in to the Ghost River Wilderness area… Rob and Pete made the first trip in to the South Ghost to visit Wicked Wanda. Although we ran away from the top section fearing that some of the wet and poorly formed 10 metre long hanging daggers of ice might break off and squash and kill us!

Ghost River Wilderness
Wicked Wanda
Pete and Laetitia in the North Ghost

The second trip to the North Ghost was made with the help of Terry’s friends John and Alvin who have awesome off-road equipped Jeeps perfect for the journey. The route in to the North Ghost is much trickier than the last time we visited in 2007 thanks to the awful floods of 2013.

The temperature was -24 °C, plus there was a brutal wind blowing through the river valley making for a minus who-knows-what-temperature! So to make sure we all stayed warm we opted for a very sociable mass solo of This House of Sky.

Rob, Terry, and Alister in This House of Sky

The final trip was an aborted trip! Our normal SUVs were just not up to the job of getting in to the Ghost – we failed to get past the first bridge…

Our Jeep stuck in the ice at the first Ghost bridge!

After wasting the morning pulling the SUV out of the ice twice (!) we ran away to some close by road-side (ish) ice to salvage the day’s climbing. Wedge Smear was selected.

Pete leading up the central pillar of Wedge Smear with spindrift falling from above (photo by Terry)

Nothing to do with the Ghost River Wilderness, but here’s a neat picture of our host Terry on Melt Out

Terry following second pitch of Melt Out, which is along the Icefields Parkway (photo by Alister)

Parties & Rest Days

Laetitia took a few more rest days than normal as part of her recovery. She did enjoy a very indulgent salmon and cream cheese bagel on one of her rest days – although she made up for the calories by then going to the excellent Canmore swimming pool at the Elevation Place!

Sorry no pictures, but we must also send thanks to Joanna Croston (and the Canadian Alpine Club) for the amazing “welcome to Canada” meal she prepared for us! 😀

Plus we were lucky enough to coincidentally time our trip to Canmore with a full on major birthday celebration…

A live band at the Drake
Craigs Waystation – perhaps the best all-day breakfasts in Canmore?
Pete enjoying a late breakfast at Craigs before heading off for a trip to the Banff hot springs
Will celebrating his birthday!
Pete, Terry, Laetitia, Rob, and Pete at Will’s birthday party
The gang – Laetitia, Pete, Terry, Pete, and Rob – having a fine dinner at the George Town Inn on St Patrick’s Day evening

Lake Louise

We made two visits to Lake Louise Falls! (Well actually it was three! On the first trip to Lake Louise we had arrived at the car parking when Laetitia realised she’d left her boots back in Canmore. So we drove home and back again!)

Laetitia and Pete made the first visit on the second day of our trip. Then Pete, Rob, and Pete made a second visit on the last day of the trip. It hadn’t been our chosen destination for the day, we were heading for the Tokkum Pole in Marble Canyon. But the Radium Highway was closed off when we got to the junction from the Trans-Canada highway – there had been an avalanche that had buried and killed two snow-shoe walkers! Sad.

Pete exiting the ice cave on Lake Louise Falls
Rob getting in to the cave belay on Lake Louise Falls
Rob, Pete, and Pete at the bottom of Lake Louise Falls

Field – Carlsberg Column & Circus Circus

We had a couple of days in the Field area despite the high avalanche danger! We’d heard that Circus Circus, a rarely formed classic route, was in good condition. Then, after the Park Service had done some avalanche control on Mount Denis, we stole a day on Carlsberg Column…

The first pitch of Circus Circus
Laetitia abseiling from Circus Circus
Laetitia approaching Carlsberg Column

Johnston Canyon

We also visited another easily accessed and close by (to Canmore) venue, Johnston Canyon…

The entrance to Johnston Canyon
Pete climbing some funky ice at Johnston Canyon
Eyeing up the hanging ice above the cave to see if any was likely to break off before committing to the climb out of the cave
Pete climbing out of the cave on to the steep (WI 5+) ice above

Pete Frost dropped his crampons on the walk out – so if anyone finds them you know where to get in touch … comments below! 😉

Grotto Canyon

After a ten year break (!) we returned to Canada to get stuck in to some of what is likely the world’s best ice climbing… The trip was advertised as a joint Alpine Club and Climbers’ Club meet. But there was a surprisingly low take up, just 5 of the 9 available spaces were taken. This wasn’t a problem though as the gang were a fine bunch and we thoroughly enjoyed Terry’s superb hospitality in his wonderful Canmore home!

Our first day of the two weeks of ice adventuring was in Grotto Canyon. As well as climbing the classic Grotto Falls (where we bumped in to the local hero Margo Talbot) we also had some fun on the well used Hers

Grotto Canyon – Pete climbing the hooked out Hers

NHL – Calgary Flames vs Montreal Canadiens

Many years ago I used to play ice hockey in Oxford, for the the Oxford City Stars, and I have thought of making a trip to see the Calgary Flames play at the Saddledome every time we have visited Canmore. Calgary is only an hour away from Canmore and finally, after 10 years of thinking about it, we actually made the trip to watch a real live NHL hockey game – Calgary Flames vs. Montreal Canadiens!

We had the cheap seats, way up at the top of the stadium, but at least we had a good unobstructed view – almost in plan from directly above – of the rink. And we were seated at centre ice too. The Saddledome seats nearly twenty thousand people. A fair bit bigger than your average UK rink. Tickets can be super expensive too. While our seats were $65 each we could have spent around $500 to get seats in the first rink side level. This would have been good to be close to the action, hockey stars, and fights (there were three), but it was just way too much cash for us.

The atmosphere was great. Everyone we met, from both sides of supporters, was super friendly. It’s a great night/day out. Highly recommended, and entertaining for a whole family. There’s the typical North American fast food on offer all around the stadium to make a complete event of it. But stay clear of the NHL merchandise, a Calgary Flames jersey will set you back nearly $300. I was tempted but managed to resist.

A shot from the warm up before the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens 5:0
Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames face off the Montreal Canadiens

Aside: the booking experience was shockingly bad! Laetitia and I spent an impossibly frustrating and long time on the phone trying to book tickets. First the Saddledome only takes bookings for season ticket holders so they passed us on to their booking partner, Ticket Master. What a joke! It was so bad it could only have been a joke. But it wasn’t a joke, it was real. Who knows how much that phone call will cost! We were on the phone for over half an hour trying to get the stupid voice recognition system to understand us. Laetitia even tried putting on a false Canadian accent to make progress. A total waste of time. So here’s the big tip for anyone unlucky enough to have to experience this awful service for themselves… After another call to the Saddledome they told us that one simply has to say “Agent” to the voice recognition system and you actually get to speak to a real person. So back on with Ticket Master we spoke to an agent. This was much better – we actually got our tickets – but it was still really tough work. North American customer service is not at all what they like us to think it is!

…and for those who might be interested here’s a shot of the Oxford City Stars. I wonder which one is me?

Oxford City Stars