Its October 25th and some of the Canadian Rockies ice climbs have begun to see traffic. Local climbers have been getting up early for a few weeks already and making long walks in search of frozen water.
Ice smears and frozen classics can be see from town, the snow coverage is light for the most part and typical for this time of year. The mornings are cold, relatively mild by Rockies standards, but at this time of the year one’s body has not yet grown accustomed to the cold, so it feels like -25 even though is barely below zero. The afternoons are warm enough to still feel like fall and people are still biking in shorts.
My tools are where they have been since their last call to duty, last May, hanging with the rest of my medieval weaponry, all of them battle ready.
This year i haven’t been making the early walks just yet, something has me waiting….maybe i need to be reminded of something first? I haven’t been out dry tooling even. But for several weeks now i’ve been hitting the weight room getting ready, but I still have no ice under my belt. Maybe I’m resisting winter, holding on to the last rays of summer?
But resistance was futile and there was no hesitation on my part when David Stark, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures Director of Operations, asked me to take our new guest Nick Fletcher out for some ice climbing. Nick, a visiting actor from England, had requested climbing on the 27th and that meant I had less than 2 days to prepare!!!
I felt like a kid on December 23rd…Christmas was coming!
I headed home, packed my bag and the next morning headed out for an exploratory drive. By mid day on the 26th the objective was set, Ranger Creek and the Lone Ranger would be our first ice climbing trip of the 2011-2012 season.
On the 27th Nick and I both showed up early. Right off the top, while shaking hands for the first time, Nick expressed that it was his life long dream to climb ice in the Rockies. Nick had climbed in Scotland and the Alps but had never put the metal to the icy Canadian Rockies. I couldn’t wait to show him a good time.
By the time we hit the trailhead the sun was out. Up on the Spray Lakes road however the sun does little this time of year to hide old man winters cold embrace.
We geared up and into the cold crisp alpine air we walked up. I think we both had all our layers on and it took at least a half hour before we took off our puffy thick insulated jackets.
Ranger Creek is a steep alpine drainage that reaches all the way down to the old gravel road that once serviced logging operations. Nowadays, sight seekers, skiers and climbers make they way onto the old highway to access the endless beauty this high country highway has to offer.
For us, the objective was perfect, quick access and great ice. Safety checks, on belay…. and finally climbing! Swing one 2011-12, I’m on the ice again and in a rush it all came back to me: the cold air, the creative nature of climbing ice and the big smiles I share with guests…I love it and always will!
We got back to the car and enjoyed some “mac and cheese” Nick had packed for us. Somehow food just tastes better after a frozen adventure. Rolling back down into town, watching my guests face as we stopped several times for pictures I was reminded once more why I’m in this profession, why I keep coming back to it season after season and perhaps why ice climbing and I get along so well. The reason is, that I simply can’t compare the satisfaction I get with anything else I do. Cold alpine adventures are special, they remind us of the important things, like how every moment is special and how we can always experience things for the first time all over again!
Well, I’ve got to go, the ice is calling….but give us a call, routes are ready and early season classics have an adventure waiting for everyone!
Written by Patrick Delaney
To Book Pat or any of our other guides visit our Private Ice Climbing Guide Page.