WOI+ Mentorship Group Weekend - Ice Climbing

December 15-17, 2017

By Jocelyn Popowich

Participants: Sean Willis, Jocelyn Popowich, Jacqueline Kingston, Ashley Kocsis, Jon Beauchamp, Tamlyn Beesley, Phillip Burrows

The new WOI+ Mentorship program is well on its way with participants completing bi-weekly training sessions and one group ice climbing skills weekend once a month. November had arrived a bit too quickly for the group, so the skills trips were split into two weekends. However, this December weekend was the first where almost all of the participants were able to have a cohesive climbing weekend (minus two leaders Craig Hartmetz and Steven Rockarts, and participant Jay Wende).

Bright and early on Saturday morning around 6:45 AM, the group left the Shunda Creek Hostel to our first climbing objective of the weekend in the beautiful, quiet David Thompson corridor. We drove through pitch black with dimly silhouetted mountains and forests all around. The goal for this day was a slot canyon called Peskett Canyon, also known by various other names such as BATUS Canyon, Elliot Canyon and End of the Line Canyon.

Some of the obstacles that our group encountered were varying degrees of ice steps, snow chutes, open water pools and running water pouring off the steps.

Ice steps and adventuring through the canyon. (M: Jon, R: Jacqueline)

Our destination was an ice climb in the back of the Canyon, this equated to approximately a 4 hour approach as our group had to overcome an abundance of skill enhancing obstacles and learning opportunities. In this area there are two well-formed and established ice formations: End of the Line (WI4) and Lovely Parting Gifts (WI3), the latter of which we climbed.

Obstacles galore! These challenges  really seemed to help strengthen, support and solidify the team spirit, and cooperation. It was an excellent unintentional team building exercise.(L: First open pool, it took some brainstorming how to get across. Thanks to an ice tool anchor and rope line, Phillip makes this crossing look simple and easy. M: Second pool that flooded the lower step shortly after. R: Third pool that was trickier to maneuver around and up).

After a final trek through more snowy, rocky and icy landscapes, we finally reached an opening in the canyon. The beautiful, long and majestic piece of ice that we worked so hard to reach was revealed. The group set up a “base camp” area to surrender our packs, while Sean prepared to head up the climb. He seemingly effortlessly and gracefully led up the pitch in order to set two top ropes.

We made it! Time to climb! (L: Before the canyon opened up,M: Sean placing an ice screw, R:Size of the climb)

As one of the first pairs to climb, Tamlyn and I (Jocelyn) set our sights on the right side top rope. It was a steeper, more vertical line with solid, glass like ice that allowed ice tools to dig in after a few swings, although rather unforgiving of improper foot placement. It was a great line to start on, as it reinforced the necessity for proper ice climbing technique (ie. horizontally placed feet, kick with toes up, swing ice tools as if you are touching your back then contacting the ice above your center, etc) and an adequate ability to read the ice.

Right hand line was glossy, more vertical and a tad pumpy. (L: View beyond the anchor, M: Jocelyn’s view down from the top, R: Jon practicing) 

After Tamlyn and I tested out the right line, Sean demonstrated to us various ice anchors such as v-threads and sliding X’s with ice screws and carabiners. During the demonstration, we were given moments to practice each anchor and shown the true power of a v-thread. Sean was able to chip away the ice to around a pinky thickness, then proceeded to lean and torque back on the anchor to show its resilience and brute strength.

(L: V-thread, M: Testing the V-thread, R:  Ice anchor)

After some anchor practice, the group got in several more climbs including the left line which was a bit wet and picked out by the time Tamlyn and I made it there. However, this created a wonderful opportunity to practice gently placing the tools and crampon front points on/in already created holds. Overall, everyone seemed to have an awesome day climbing and adventuring.

Getting our laps in and refining our technique. (L: Jackie, M left: Tamlyn,  M right: Ashley. R: Jocelyn and Phillip)

On Sunday, we slept in a bit to depart at 7:30 AM. After some driving and checking on climbing areas (The Cline River gallery, Issac's, and Two O’Clock falls) we went to SARS. The forest laden approach was relatively short compared to our previous day’s excursion. After approximately 1.5 hours, we arrived at this gargantuan, diverse ice fall.

Incredible ice formations at SARS.

Since SARS was a wider formation, Sean was able to set up three top ropes ironically progressing from left to right - easiest to hardest. The left line was nice and gentle with some spots of delicate ice providing enough stability for beginner mock leading. However, many large plates of ice were knocked off some of the bulbuous humps in this climb. The middle line  had solid, shapely ice that became wetter closer to the top. The right was a wetter, more vertically challenging line beneficial for harder mock leads. However, this line created some belay difficulties later due to the wetness.

(L: Ashley belaying M: Jackie belaying R: Our frozen octopus looking rope)

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The end to a wonderful weekend filled with beautiful memories and new experiences!(left to right: Jon, Sean, Phillip, Ashley, Jackie and Jocelyn. Missing: Tamlyn)

Thank you WOI+ leader Sean, my fellow participants and the ACC for a wonderful trip!