Ice Climbing in the Ghost

It was dark out, my headlamp needed a battery change, and my coffee hadn’t quite yet kicked in.  By 5am we were hiking over frozen creeks, bush crashing through trees, and shedding layers faster then leaves falling off aspens on a windy autumn day. 

Kate, Cheryl and I were on a mission….we came to slay the Sorcerer.  After an hour and a half of hiking, the headlamps had been turned off, the chatter was down to a minimum and Kate was almost down to a sports bra.  I anticipated the turn of the next corner of our hike as I knew it would shed the greatly anticipated first view of our classic 210m grade V climb. There was a gulp, a gasp and then some nervous and giddy “wows” and “oh my god”s…..THIS is what I love about my job! 

This year OR helped out with the Advanced Women’s Ghost Ice Climbing trip in the Canadian Rockies by supplying every woman with a new black Solitude jacket and windstopper hat.  WOW!!  It was an incredible contribution to an incredible group of high spirited and motivated women.  I hope these jackets know what kind of use and abuse they are in for! 

The trip's goal was to allow the women to push their own climbing either through following harder climbs or by leading the pitches they wanted to with direct coaching and feedback.  A day of cragging ice and mixed, near Canmore had some participants looking like they had just finished a mountain biking race…spring arrived earlier then usual!

The next morning we loaded up our 4-by-4's and headed into Ghost territory.  Some exciting river crossings tested our little Rav4 but shortened our hike to the Valley of the Birds where a bunch of short pitches led us into a maze of tight water-worn canyons and culminated in some cool 2-pitch, grade 4 climbs.  Almost everyone had a chance to lead that day and for some it was even their first ice leads ever!  Yah, Piper! 

That night we created a mini village of six tents, one walltent, and one serious fire pit.  After some good eating, the next day’s plans were set into motion and tired bodies crawled into tents early anticipating a predawn start the next day.  Fist and Fang, Beowulf and the Sorcerer were all climbed and happy faces and tired arms returned to camp that afternoon for a dinner feast and a roaring fire thanks to chainsaw and ice climbing guru Sharon Wood. 

Our last morning, two teams climbed Wicked Wanda, and one very courageous 4wd team blasted up Hidden Dragon, backed off of a detached Candle Stick maker and sillied their way up the Joker.  Sadly that afternoon the mini village had to be repacked and we said farewell to the Ghost Valley…until next year! 

I love ice climbing.  I love the Ghost. I love sharing ice climbing with others.  This camp was a bit of a dream come true for me, as I had the opportunity to share one of my favorite places with a crew of motivated, excited, and highly talented women. 

This summer OR will be contributing yet again to our rock and alpine programs.  Another great opportunity for keen mountain women to take charge of their learning and embrace the sharp end of their climbing careers….or just have a blast with a bunch of other mountain lovers! For more questions about these courses, please email Sarah at [email protected]  Thanks again OR for your support in these exciting mountain opportunities for women!