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

Rjukan Ice Climbing Meet, 2016

Introduction

After some indecision Joe finally agreed to go on this year’s Climbers’ Club meet (held jointly with the AC) to Rjukan in Norway. The late decision worked in our favour though as perhaps strangely and unusually the cost of the Ryan Air flights to Oslo (Torp) had dropped a great deal. This combined with sharing a car with Lindsay and Sue made for a pretty cheap week of ice climbing fun in the famous frozen Rjukan gorge.

However, not having our own car did lead to a fair few compromises on venue choice, plus a number of interesting and fun lifts from others on the meet and kind locals who dropped us back in town after a day on the ice. Although we did manage a lift everyday it is certainly easier to have your own transport!

Rjukan’s ice climbing is near to the Vermork power plant, which was the only place in Nazi occupied Europe readily producing heavy-water and thus supported the German research effort into creating a nuclear bomb during World War II. The sabotage of the plant was the basis of the classic WWII film – The Heroes of Telemark.

Below I have highlighted a few pictures from our ace trip with a brief account of each day’s adventures at these locations…

Venues

1.markerworld-linkOzzimosis
2.markerworld-linkLower Gorge
3.markerworld-linkVermork Bridge
4.markerworld-linkKrokan
5.markerworld-linkUpper Gorge
6.markerworld-linkMael

Day 1: Ozzimosis

Our first day was at the Ozzimosis area – and easy single pitch venue to remind the muscles how ice climbing works. Although I spent my time selecting the most tricky pieces of climbable ice I could see…

Climbing an ice pillar not described in the guidebook
Climbing an ice pillar not described in the guidebook (photo Colin Knowles)

Day 2: Lower Gorge

Although the Lower Gorge is another single pitch venue it does offer a much larger number of routes.

The view from the Lower Gorge area down the Rjukan valley with the Gaustablikk ski area's pistes just visible
The view from the Lower Gorge area down the Rjukan valley with the Gaustablikk ski area’s pistes just visible (photo Joe Gittins)

Day 3: Vermork Bridge

We were stumped for a ride on our third day, no one seemed to be going our way or have space left in their car. Luckily Gary offered to run us up to Vermork Bridge. Amazingly he also came and collected us at the agreed time of 5pm. What a superb team effort – a real champion. 😀

Climbing the steepest line on the classic and easily accessed Vermorkbrufossen Vest
Climbing the steepest line on the classic and easily accessed Vermorkbrufossen Vest (photo Joe Gittins)

Day 4: Krokan

Joe (in blue) below Kjøkkentrappa packing up to leave the Krokan area
Joe (in blue) below Kjøkkentrappa packing up to leave the Krokan area

We had struck out on attaining a ride home from the Krokan area but luckily we blagged a lift with a Norwegian couple who were looking to leave just as we were. They dropped us off at the cable car station just outside town before they headed off up to the Hardangervidda for a hut-to-hut ski tour.

Day 5: Upper Gorge

The ultra classic Sabotørfossen
The ultra classic Sabotørfossen (photo Joe Gittins)
Joe walking out from the Upper Gorge
Joe walking out from the Upper Gorge

We bumped in to Jack and Nick who had just finished Rjukanfossen as we topped out on Verdens Ende. Walking out to the road together Jack and Nick were met by Gary and Chris for their arranged ride back to town. What a tease, they had a lift home, while Joe and I only had a very long walk to look forward to! But again our champion Gary came to the rescue and we managed to cram all six of us and our gear in to their super small VW Polo hire car. It wasn’t a comfortable ride, but it was a ride, and for that we were massively grateful. Plus of course it was a laugh squeezing everyone in to the tiny car. Especially so for Chris as she laid across the laps of us three lads sat in the back seat!

How to get six climbers and gear in to a small hire car!
How to get six climbers and gear in to a small hire car!
L to R: Jack, Joe, Pete, Chris’ hand, Nick, and Gary driving

Day 6: Mael & Vermork Bridge

On mine and Joe’s last day we went out to take a look at the Mael area with Steve and Chris. It was quite a long walk to the venue. And then we were faced with an uncertain abseil approach, a lot of bush whacking, and what looked from above like heavily snow covered climbs. We retreated. (Later we learned from Jack and Nick, who had walked in a little earlier than us, that this was likely a good decision – they got back very late and very knackered, and reported that the routes were indeed very snowy and hardly worth the effort.)

With half the day gone we opted to rush back to the Upper Gorge from Vermork Bridge, this being our best option to get to classic routes with an easy approach.

The Upper Gorge with Nye Vermorkfoss clearly visible below the heavy-water plant (now a museum)
The Upper Gorge with Nye Vermorkfoss clearly visible below the heavy-water plant – now a museum (photo Laetitia Sterling)

rjukan

Accommodation

Special thanks needs to be called out for Smiler and Peri who organised the meet. Thanks guys! It must be tough organising the accommodation at the very comfortable Rjukan GjestegÃ¥rd. On my previous trips to Rjukan I’ve stayed at the cabins at Rjukan Hytteby. However, this guest house is much better. They allowed us to use their kitchen in the evenings to cook our dinners, provided a nice breakfast, and included supplies at breakfast to make our own packed lunches for our days out on the ice. Plus they even made their facilities and projector available for me to give a presentation on Canadian ice climbing.

The title picture from AC Canadian Ice presentation from 2015
The title picture from my AC Canadian Ice presentation from 2015

Finally, with respect to the self-catering at Rjukan GjestegÃ¥rd, Joe and I joined forces with Chris, Steve, and Colin to create a cooking co-op. The idea being the each of us took turn to cook for the gang. Each night we each created our own three course menu. We each also included a beer or wine with the meal – a real treat in Norway, booze is seriously expensive. This idea worked out great. We had five superb meals and yet only had to cook once each. Result. Thanks to Chris for dreaming up that idea. 🙂

😛 A great meet! Gotta love ice climbing! 😛