And then, there were two

Trip Report of the 1st ever YEG ACC Ice Climbing Camp

by Jackie Pearce

December 2017 - January 2018

We started strong with 6, two Ice Leaders and four participants, a good ratio for multipitching and a general atmosphere of getting more laps in with fewer cold toes on cragging days. One of the Ice Leader roles was split by two Ice Leaders, one for the first three days, and one for the remaining nine days.
On our very first day, the thermometer was registering a very frigid -30, but it being our very first day of the camp, there was no way we weren’t going to go climb. We set out as a group and headed to Wedge Smear. It was definitely chilly. So chilly in fact that no one braved a bare hand to take a photo! As it warmed up, I decided to take a photo, only to discover the cold had totally killed my battery. One of our Ice Leaders noticed a participant was getting a white spot on the tip of their nose, a great opportunity to learn about frostbite and exposure, as well as to add another layer to one’s face!
Our next day, we woke up, checked the weather, registering -39 with the wind-chill, to which we all rolled over and slept a few more hours. Two went off later in the day for a hike and exploration, the rest of us had a lazy day in the hostel. As it was New Year’s Eve, we had a party – a fondue party! I think everyone enjoyed it, particularly the chocolate fondue!

Jocelyn and Jeff explored Johnston Canyon in the frigid cold snap. The overhanging ice on the rock face looked extremely fragile and a pile of fallen ice had collected on the Canyon floor. It was a lovely brisk day for a hike in. Photo by Jocelyn Popowich.

 From left to right: Ben Vandenberg, Rory Skyes, Jocelyn Popowich, Jeff Thompson

From left to right: Ben Vandenberg, Rory Skyes, Jocelyn Popowich, Jeff Thompson

On Monday the group split up, two of us went to The Junk Yards for some top rope laps, and three went to Professor Falls, one stayed in to try and shake a man flu, which was rampant at the hostel, it is interesting to note though, that a few women also had the plague!

 Sean leading the first pitch of Professor while Jeff belays Photo by Jocelyn Popowich

Sean leading the first pitch of Professor while Jeff belays Photo by Jocelyn Popowich

Then, we were five.
The Ice Leader that was sharing the role for the remaining nine days had an old injury flare up, and was thus unable to participate in the camp. We had some strong and experienced ice climber participants though, so we weren’t too worried about the logistics of being short a leader.
Tuesday was a much warmer day, Jocelyn and Jeff took a rest day after Professor Falls, Rory, Ben and myself decided to aim for Cascade Waterfall, we knew we may need to bail if the avalanche risk was too great. Sure enough, we made it to the first “real pitch” of climbing in time to see snow start sloughing off. We decided it was better to be safe, than sorry so we headed to the Banff Hot Springs. We all had swimsuits at the hostel, but not in the car so we rented suits. I couldn’t resist renting the Historical Suit at no extra cost!

 Jackie Pearce sporting the “Historic Swimsuit” at Banff Hot Springs

Jackie Pearce sporting the “Historic Swimsuit” at Banff Hot Springs

Wednesday Rory, Ben and I decided to go earlier and try Cascade again, the group of three successfully completed Cascade – it was Ben’s first ice multipitch!

 Rory leading the way for Ben and Jerry – I mean Jackie on Cascade. Photo by Ben Vandenberg

Rory leading the way for Ben and Jerry – I mean Jackie on Cascade. Photo by Ben Vandenberg

Jeff and Jocelyn had their sights set on a WI5 at Haffner Creek. The J’s reported that the pillar was not in shape for climbing, but they made the best of it by exploring some mixed / drytooling routes. There was a small cave in the main climbing area of the creek that created a thrilling, fun and challenging experience.

 Jeff showing that a good core and grip strength pays off. Photo by Jocelyn Popowich

Jeff showing that a good core and grip strength pays off. Photo by Jocelyn Popowich

Thursday Jocelyn and Jeff had to unexpectedly head back to Edmonton due to work
So, then there were three.
Ben, Rory and Jackie went to Johnston Canyon, which is an absolutely beautiful approach, walking on metal platforms that wind through the canyon offering nifty views and opportunities to watch tourists sliding around in very inappropriate footwear.
 

Left: Pretty views along the way. Middle: Rory leading the left hand side of the right hand side at Johnston Canyon. Right: Other climbers doing the spicy route! Photo by Ben Vanderberg.

Friday was spent at His and Hers, Rick and Martina who were also staying at the ACC Clubhouse joined us for the day!
On the approach to His and Hers in Grotto Canyon, you pass Hopi pictographs that are between 500 and 1300 years old. It is pretty surreal to just be walking up a frozen creek and BAM! There’s a pictograph right in front of your face!
 

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Left: His and Hers. Right: Ben having fun doing some mixed climbing!

Rick giving a belay on the left. Another pair of climbers that did the multipitch, came over to climb on Hers (we were getting ready to leave) and we had a show and tell with his tool that broke on the multipitch!

Rory was a real trooper and awesome Ice Leader throughout the whole camp, try as he might to overcome the plague, he just couldn’t shake it. He left Friday afternoon after the climb to rest up before heading back to work on Monday.

So, then there were two!

Ben and Jackie headed to Bear Spirit on Saturday. It was a busy spot with mostly friendly climbers willing to share ropes, lines and dog cuddles too! I was pretty tuckered out by Saturday, so I made Ben do a lot of climbing drills to tire him out, including but not limited to: only one hand, only one tool, no tools, only one crampon and down climbing to boot!

 Harry, an adorable puppy having a nap in a heap of belay jackets at Bear Spirit

Harry, an adorable puppy having a nap in a heap of belay jackets at Bear Spirit

 Ben not nearly tuckered out enough for all the drills I made him do!

Ben not nearly tuckered out enough for all the drills I made him do!

We returned to the Clubhouse and caught up with other friends and YEG ACC members who were staying in the Bell Cabin on two separate ski trips.
All in all, The First Ever YEG ACC Ice Camp was a huge success – keep your eyes peeled later in the year for details of the 2018 Ice Camp!