Chicks With Picks 2015

The Edmonton Sections’ seventh annual Chicks with Picks weekend was held the first weekend in February. For those unfamiliar with the Two O’clock Falls ice climb in David Thompson Country, our first day began with a walk through the pines following the road past the Stoney Native Indian Vision Quest and Sundance Ceremonial sites (the approach is through private Nakoda Treaty land) we turned into the pines and followed the trail of previous climbers through reasonably flat land until the final steep section where crampons were required for the final approach to the falls.

Once at the base of the first pitch, Lil and Ann scrambled up the side of the falls to the top of the first pitch and set three anchors, establishing a variety of challenges for the group. Meanwhile, Donna secured a safety rope across the base of the falls, ensured all Chicks had a personal safe line and provided knees-over-toes instruction to those unfamiliar familiar with using crampons.

While the ice climbing experience level among the group ranged from intermediate to “never before”, everyone was familiar with belay technique, so we were able to get started rather quickly. Participants were coached in appropriate kick technique, the importance of trusting their feet when balancing on their crampon “toes”, keeping heels level and angled down, tucking their hips in when axe swinging and proper tool removal. For the majority of the Chicks this was a review, but for first-timer Jody thorough instruction was necessary to “break her of her rock climbing habits”, as our section’s former leadership director Foster Karcha would say.

Two O’clock Falls is rated waterfall ice two (WI2), which means 60 degree ice. The ice was pretty, blue and soft, receiving the axes and crampons with little “dinner plating” to concern us. However, uncommonly warm February weather meant avoiding the dripping sections of the broad fall was near impossible. Two of the three ropes were quickly saturated. Even so, most would agree that having to wring out belay gloves beats freezing temperatures.   

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As the day wore on and the trip leaders had the opportunity to assess and address skill levels, some of the more experienced climbers in the group also shared tips. Kate Snedeker, for example, demonstrated and encouraged everyone to try to climb with one axe. This technique was promoted on one of her guided trips as a means to develop the balance and control needed to place ice screws on a lead climb.

By the time we pulled the ropes and cleared the anchors each woman had climbed a few pitches, was happily tired and “pumped out”.

Making and serving our potluck dinner together at the rustic but clean and comfortable Shunda Creek Hostel has been a Chicks with Picks tradition since its incarnation. We were very disappointed that Jennifer was called back to Red Deer to work and had little choice but to leave before the meal.  Another wee disappointment was that Jacquie could not (would not?) share the recipe for her fabulous lettuce wraps, which she said she “made up”. Great salads and a hearty chili rounded out the meal, which was followed by a surprise birthday cake for Deanne.

As usual on Alpine Club trips, listening to everyone’s stories about their adventures climbing, skiing and travelling around the world means the time passes very quickly and before long the dishes were done and heads were laid to rest.

On Sunday morning, after the ropes were rewrapped and the backpacks refilled, the Chicks with Picks headed back up the highway for more top-roping fun at Isaac’s Wet Dream, also known as Wet Willy. This popular pitch of 30 meters is an easily accessed WI3 climb and was well-formed with its usual multitude of mushrooms and chandelier conditions. We were delighted to have it all to ourselves!

Ann Revill provided interested learners with a demonstration of setting anchors. While this was underway and the gals reviewed B.R.A.K.E.S. and rappelled down, Lil descended the trail to the foot of the waterfall with other Chicks.  Wendy designated herself our official photographer of the day; a welcome contribution that left everyone with photos of a great weekend, some of which you see here. Everyone agreed that, given the ice was both more brittle and more vertical than the day before, Isaac’s made for a great contrast.

After hiking the trail back to the vehicles we broke out a parking lot picnic of leftover cake and yummy chocolate chip cookies, getting fuelled for the drive back to Edmonton. All in all, it was another successful year for the Edmonton Sections’ seventh annual Chicks with Picks weekend. The weather was great, the ice was fat, the food was yummy and the company cheerful - even when we were talking about something as serious as climbing safety.

Leaders: Lil Lezarre, Donna McColl, Ann Revill

Participating Members:  Jacqueline Kingston, Jody Reimer, Wendy Rodgers, Kate Snedeker, Jennifer Zaprawa