Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Unicorn

The Unicorn

The day after our attempt on Polar Circus we headed to Ice-9, a two pitch climb near the Rampart Creek Hostel on the Icefields Parkway. 


The storm from the previous day had cleared, allowing some great views of classic Canadian Rockies scenery.

A nice sequence of Rolf leading the first pitch.

Top-roping an Overhang on the First Pitch

 Pulling Ropes

 Patterns in the Ice

 Mt Wilson

The day after Ice-9 we were relatively rested and ready for another big day. We headed to Kitty Hawk with hopes to make an attempt on "The Unicorn" which is a difficult mixed line next to Kitty Hawk. Once again we left Rampart Creek Hostel before light.

The sunrise was spectacular, and required a stop along the way to capture it.

After an hours walk into the climb we found another party in front of us, which forced our hand. The Unicorn, it was. 

The Unicorn (M7- WI5)

 Rolf on the Approach

Great climbing partners inspire and push you to tackle climbs outside your level of comfort. So it is with Rolf. I never would've chosen to tackle the Unicorn without him. But his confidence, prodding, and desire convinced me. Its a route at the limits of my ability. But deep down, I knew we had it in us.

That said, the first pitch of the Unicorn was definitely still beyond me. It is the psychological crux of the route. While not physically much harder than the second pitch it is a different game mentally. Fragile ice, sections of hard climbing with little gear; it required confidence and commitment. 

Rolf Below the First Crux

The first crux required pulling over a steep overhang on a fragile thin piece of ice. The second involved pulling onto a fragile free hanging pillar. One could place gear at the base of both spots, but once committed to the hard moves above, there was no chance to protect it. Rolf climbed with confidence. It was inspiring.

Rolf at the Top of the Second Crux

Climber On Kitty Hawk

Rolf at the Top of the First Pitch

At the base of the route I seriously doubted I had the strength or confidence to lead any of the Unicorn. The second pitch is well protected, but the grade is the same. Rolf's poise and concentration on the first pitch inspired me, as did my clean follow of his lead. I took the rack from him and after a quick rest launched into the mixed section of the second pitch.

Rolf at the Belay

The second pitch involved climbing the rock behind a free hanging curtain of ice. Once through a "hole" between the rock and ice it was possible to gain the ice curtain. Gaining the "hole" I rested and then launched up the curtain of ice, climbing through 20 feet of steep WI5 before the angle lessened. With arms burning I started up a long 100 foot section of WI4. Winded, calves screaming, nearly out of screws I finally reached to top of the climb. I was elated, and in disbelief. I couldn't believe I'd done it.

Climbing the Rock Behind the Final Curtain

Climbing Through the "Hole" Behind the Curtain

Rolf and I were exhilarated at the top. We both commented that it was the best ice climb we had ever done. It had stretched us both physically and mentally; pushed us to the limit, but never past. That doesn't happen often in climbing, and when it does the moment is sweet.


Tying Ropes Together

Sweet Success

The next day it was snowing again, which killed our dreams of another big route. With the new snow and winds, the avalanche danger would be too high. We spent the day climbing at Haffner Creek, and completed a collection of short, hard rock and ice lines.

Rolf Stretching After a Day of Ice Cragging

Haffner Creek

The New Goal, Replacing "Polar Circus." The Stanley Headwall and "French Reality."

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