Today welcomed us with a nice -24C outside, burned scrambled eggs and amazing blue, sunny sky. It was going to be a great day!
The area of choice was our last year’s favorite Evans-Thomas Creek. As a matter of fact today is exactly a year, to a day since we were in that place (with ol’ good Del). It was the very first place visited on last year’s trip. Oh how things have changed though!
Below: “Derek’s lost turn” aka – lost in the woods – aka – TURN HERE!!
For starters this time we didn’t get lost in the woods (as per picture above), the temperatures were much lower (-24C vs -4C or so in 2016) and we actually were so efficient enough to do climbs (6 pitches for total 200m)- Chantilly Falls 100 m II, WI 2 (we actually ran the 2nd pitch twice, with different lines, the hardest one being a solid WI3+/4) (more about it below).
And then of course the main dish – Moonlight 110m III, WI 4 -adventure climb that is made of 3 pitches (but can be run in 2, and it’s how we did it). It also didn’t resembled it’s guidebook description. Again – More about it below.
One thing for sure – walking in in Canadian Rockies are amazing. This was another super special, just over 3.5km to the first climb, via great trail in full sunshine. Despite the freezing temperatures, could have gone out in a t-shirt!
Above & below – the trail in full sun!
Our first target, previously mentioned Chantilly Falls – named for the often lacy appearance of the ice. It’s rather easy and serves as a nice warm-up. Seen here, on the picture below.
I lead the first, quite easy pitch, then Lar did the 2nd part taking the right hand line. We then abseiled some 40m, to do the 2nd pitch again, this time its left hand side, WI3+/4 lead by PG.
Below: Lar on the 2nd pitch. Note that Andy Kirkpatrick-esque solution for flared pants ( duct tape that is.)
Below: PG on the same pitch, but it’s left hand side.
Once we were back on the ground it was only 1.30pm, so we went further down the path to check out Moonlight – it was only 10 minutes more walk up the frozen stream.
We got lucky, as one group just finished it, and another approaching the top. We were clear to go!
It was definitely much thinner than last year. Here it is below in its current condition.
And below picture from exactly 1 year ago (Moonlight is the most left line):
This year not only the cave isn’t fully formed, but also the ice was much thinner. He actually lead both pitches – both for efficiency and the safety reasons – he is just in a different league than us.
Our (Lar and mine that is) goal was to be as efficient as possible, without compromising safety, so we climbed side by side as much as possible, not without some ‘collateral damage’ here and there (ie. flying ice here and there).
PG ran the climb in 2 pitches – Ground to the cave – wafer thin 50m, and then cave out to the top (in 2 pitches lead together, but broken down by snow ledge) to a tree belay (55m).
There was a ‘nice’ surprise for him though past the snow ledge above the cave- the 3rd pitch supposed to be nice and easy WI3/4. This year it somehow formed more resembling WI4+. (see below, photo taken during abseil). That wasn’t looking like I remembered it from 2016.
To get down we abseiled back to the cave (bolted belay), and then to the ground.
It took us only just over 3h down-up-down, which is a very good time – considering the condition the route was in. With big smiles on our faces we head back to the car ready to go back to Bear Hostel we are staying in.
It is actually the same place we stayed in last year, and funnily enough we met one of the climbers that was here same time last year – 68 years old Japanese lady named Mariko, who climbs like there is no tomorrow having just scaled Polar Circus 2 days ago!
She is actually going back to Tokyo in 3 days, having been here in Canada for last 2 weeks. Who knows, maybe next time we see her in Japan on some of their classic lines?