Ghost & Kings Canyon

Monday, November 30, 2009

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Finally ice climbing season is officially upon us – warmed up the season at Kings Canyon which is dull and then moved to Ghost and my favourite climb was the house of sky – about a 14 pitch climb that can be solo’d for the most part – repelling down is the only way to decent.

We have a cold front moving in so we knew we were in for a likely blizzard later during our climb as the weather forecasted a 17+ C degree drop during the day and that happened. In the edge of the Rockies that pushes the warm air up and a ton of snow falls and the winds howl. It also adds dramatic effect to a climb. We are in the rocky mountains and in order to reach within 1.5 miles of the base of our climb we had some 4x4ing for 20 miles including crossing the ghost river 4 times as we navigated through the canyon in the sequoia on no roads.

The climb was brilliant rather uneventful ice climbing about 12-15 pitches in the route known as house of sky. Except for the final pitch of our mountain past where the actual “guide book route” ended -I was faced with about 250 feet of vertical ice class WI5 which I decided to solo and see how far I could get - that didn’t go so well - got over zealous and the ice disintegrated with honey comb ice so I didn’t get very far. I down climbed and we needed to get back because I needed to get to cell coverage for a work conference call at 4:00 which unbeknownst to me was cancelled which is fine because my night got late. When we finished and got back to the car it was 3:50, starting to get dark and my sequoia is covered in over a foot of snow. We book it out over the river and up the levy. Driving on top the levy perhaps I got too comfortable was going to fast and before we realized it the levy came to an end we had missed the turn off at some point it’s not like there were signs.

So I hit the brakes…. It seemed the vehicle picked up speed hurtling towards the end of the levy to unknown consequences. Well we hit the end and are airborne and then land recklessly on a steep steep slope and I step on it and finish the drive down to keep from rolling. We eventually come to a stop and jump out to assess the damage, realized there was none noticeable - looked at each other and started laughing. I actually cleared about 15 feet of snow where none of my wheels were touching so in my truck we found another path not remembering where we needed to go to get out. So we are driving along and “bang” “bang”.

I blew a tire - actually 2 tires on the same side. It appears we are spending the night out there we don’t have cell coverage and we are alone about 20km from my phone having coverage. His phone actually gets a bar if we stand outside in the middle of a blizzard and repeat everything 10 times but his battery is low and we have no charger. So we open the our climbing book that had our climb for where to contact in case of emergency - and I kid you not for this area it says “sorry pal you are on your own”. Anyways I get a hold of my office - they can’t move in Calgary for the blizzard so they call the towing company on the nearest town - pulling the Borger Construction strings to save my butt - we talk she is a climber and says I know exactly where you are but there is no way we’re going out there. So a couple of guys are heading out from my office to come get us. The snow is really drifting and coming sown hard. We get one tire off so I can get it repaired or replaced as I punctured the sidewall - it’s cold!!!

The last two people within 30 miles see our headlights flashing them they just finished a climb - I throw my tire in the back of their truck and they give us a lift to Cochrane where my two work guys picked us up. Will head back tomorrow with a new tire, use the spare for the other tire and shovel ourselves out and in likely - my truck could theoretically be there for a long time with this weather!

Partial list of completed climbs -

*First ascent