Climbing conditions in many places are still not favorable, and at places straight up dangerous (due to heavy snow), so since we still have plenty of time to go to places of interested that aren’t accessible at this time we have decided to do another cragging day in easy access and safe environment place.
We’ve settled on Bear Spirit, a WI3-4 just north of Banff, it was definitely meant to be a step up from yesterday. It offers some nice WI4 lines, with very accessible TR setups. The approach is very nice, 4.2KM of uphill battle (around 400m elevation gain) along a drainage in a beautiful mountain surroundings.
It was a very cold morning, -16C at 8am, and it wasn’t getting warmer by the time we made it to our destination. Definitely a big change from last year, where it was mild temperatures for almost all of our stay.
We actually arrived pretty late, having hit very heavy traffic (broken bus shutdown entire lane of traffic) just outside Banff, then we missed our exit, had to turn around and go through the traffic again.
Because of very easy access to the top (for setting up top ropes) the place unfortunately suffers from heavy climbing traffic. There can be anywhere from 10 to 30 people climbing on as many as 6 or 7 ropes (I counted 17 today on 5 ropes). That can mean hooked out ice, making it difficult to protect if you choose to lead it.
Below: the main curtain of Bear Spirit:
Lar learned it first hand, having attempted to lead a line on the right hand side of the curtain, and backing off after 3 meters after he realized he won’t be able to place any pro until at least 9 or 10m. It was a good test of character and fair play to him for staying on the safe side.
Below: Lar trying to find screw placement:
After that we’ve decided to take out the good ol’ single rope that Lar brought, setup a TR and do laps ourselves. By the time we got to do it, it got very busy, so there was really only 1 line left on the very left of the curtain.
Below: busy busy busy
After we did a lap each , the rope froze up pretty severely, to a point it was very difficult to belay (technically it was obvious that it will be a problem from the moment the rope touched the ground). It was clear that over the years the rope has lost all of it’s waterproof capabilities. It’s a bit of a problem now, as we are left with 2 ice lines only. Looks like buying a new 60m single is inevitable, if we want to do some other single pitch/cragging/dry tooling later on during that trip.
Luckily to us the owner of the rope next to ours let us it as they were taking a break. I managed to sneak in 2 quick laps on steep ice practicing my still middling technique, before we had to turn it back to them. Below: happy camper after few laps.
In the mean time Lar went back to retrieve what now can only be described as 60 meters, 20mm thick icicle, which now weighed almost 6kg.
Below: well, self-explanatory
It was a decent day, mostly saved by the really nice approach. We didn’t do much climbing, mostly due to ‘technical difficulties’ described above, but then – there is still plenty ahead of us.