Ice Climbing Beowulf
Yam guide James Madden has the ice section of the ACMG alpine training coming up in January and to fine tune his readiness he took Senior Guide Nick Sharpe and I out to climb Beowulf in the Ghost. James has been training very hard with Nick acting as his mentor and he wanted to do a classic guiding route with two people on his rope. Nick and James have countless days climbing together this season and I was an easy sell as the third man.
We left Canmore at 7am and after the two hour ride into the base of the climb, things hadn’t warmed up yet so we set off in -24 degree temperatures thinking we had a rough day ahead of us.
As luck would have it, even with the ultra cold temperatures, the first pitch was very wet. By the time we all reached the top, our gloves were soaked (always bring spare pairs of gloves ice climbing) and the rope was like a steel cable. James lead the second pitch which is a nice solid grade 4 then belayed Nick and I up on separate ropes. This would prove to be the toughest pitch with both Nick and I getting a good ol’ fashioned case of the “screaming barfies” – a classic Rockies cold weather ice climbing experience. After the first soft wet pitch the second pitch was hard brittle ice requiring a lot of swinging and cracks of up to 6 feet with some axe placements. We worked hard and dropped some big ‘dinner plates’ but the holds were good.
The next few pitches were easy grade 2-3 ice with some small steps through this incredible canyon. None of us had ever climbed this route before so each turn was an adventure. The temperature increased and the wet rope became a bit more pliable so life was good. This area is stunningly beautiful!
After an enjoyable lunch during the 3 minutes the sun actually hit the canyon, James lead the 2nd last pitch which is a full 50+ meters of brittle ice. From here it was a short 30 m easy climb to the top of the route.
James did a great job of leading every pitch with both Nick and I really impressed with how he managed the day. He has a lot of ski guiding experience under his belt already and he is definitely ready for this next step in his career.
Some Beta for this route:
- With the exception of the second last pitch (we rapped off a V thread), there are anchors at all stations so you can move pretty fast.
- There was a mix of slushy very wet ice and rock hard ice so be ready for that with spare gloves and perhaps some hand warmers.
- On flat ice sections we punched through the ice. It goes without saying but if your boots leak, its gonna be a long day for you.
- You need a 4×4 with good clearance to get across the rivers in the Ghost.
Have fun and climb safe!