No Spray


The boys were jumaring before me. They exited the Helmcken Falls and I was left behind retrieving the gear. I had a quiet sit down and almost broke down into tears. It's hard to explain the sense of frustration that was going through my head. I looked at the stupid metal detector and almost threw down the hill, only to stop and to think that it will be rubbish left behind and give bad rep to climbers. Tim Emmett and Klemen Premel were waiting for us at the viewing deck having monitored the progress on our quest down the Helmcken Falls cauldron. They've also made the journey here to try their luck with conditions, only that ours was 7000km long, only to see that the crag had no climbable ice.

Some people said we were fools for even trying, but once you've put all that effort, the only thing to do is to at least try. I wasn't going to cancel my flights just because some people said it was warm despite a decent forecast. We trained really hard, got really motivated and planned every bit of logistical detail. We weren't going to give up that easily. So when we stood at the bottom of the black rock face of Helmcken Falls, the reality came crashing down. The dream was over. Perhaps the naysayers were right after all.

The process of letting go was a difficult one, specially because I felt responsible for the team who had committed money and time to come with me in this trip. It wasn't their idea to come, it was mine after all. So to stay happy and keep pulling the motivation wagon wasn't easy. But soon we were on our way back to Canmore to re-asses plans and do some climbing. I had a few ideas of things I wanted to do in the Rockies, so as soon as we hit the Bow valley I was buzzing with motivation again.

The other project for this trip was to do Musashi, the world's first and most iconic M12. The plan was for Viki to fly in to Canada for two weeks when my two weeks with Pete and Simon were over. But now with the extra time we headed to Cineplex, home to the hardest Canadian mixed routes. As soon as we got down there I got to work. I jumped on the route and worked the moves bolt to bolt. The Pete had and Simon had a go too, but not getting to the curtain. Next go I took ice screws and gear to prep the ice curtain. It was fairly tiring getting across the roof. cleaning the ice and putting all the screws in for the top out. Again Pete and Simon had their goes whilst I had a little talk to myself. I somehow channeled all the frustration from the past days in one attempt and send the route in relative ease. It felt almost like an anti-climax, I thought it would pose more of a challenge, but again, I've been training really hard and the drytooling grades in UK are not a give-away. I have to say that Musashi felt a whole lot easier than most M11's in UK, so that's maybe some food for thought.

With my project out of the way I had to think of more objectives. I've done most of the routes I wanted to do in the Rockies. There are a few I still want to do, specially in Stanley Headwall, but we didn't have skis or the right trad gear. Nopobhia is hard and cool, but mostly a drytooling route and I've done enough drytooling this season. Jimmy Skid Rig sounded interesting but as soon as I found out it had drilled holds and it was all drytooling, I was just not interested. I had been eyeing out some possible new routes with easy logistics. There was one in particular that really caught my eye, so much so that I didn't believe it wasn't climbed. But having not found anything on internet or in guidebooks we decided to go and have a look armed with drill and bolts.

This line in particular is left of Curtain Call, and I've recently seen a formation of interesting ice blobs that could be really cool to climb. Having climbed Curtain Call and Call of the Curtain previously I thought this was a logical next step. We lugged all our gear and ropes at the base and I led the first ice pitch on the apron next to Curtain Call. As soon as I set up belay, got in sight of the next pitch I scanned the rock for bolts, and to my amusement I did see the bolts. The route had been climbed. A bit disappointed but then ultimately relieved that we didn't have to equip the whole thing. We got to a nice ledge and I bolted a new belay more in line with how the ice was formed now. I went up to have a look and it was obvious that when it had been climbed it had more ice. I had to work the drytooling moves and then kept going to put some gear in. Simon went up to have a look and then Pete went next and added a new bolt in a run out section where you could potentially deck. I went up next and put the gear all the way to the top. We went up the next day and me and Pete both lead the route clean, it was pure fun. We found out that the route was put up by Raph Slawinki and Eamonn Walsh and they called it "Cyber Pasty Memorial", we thought it was around M7 Wi6 grade. I'm glad that after our ascent the route has seen some attention and has seen a few repeats, all thanks to Facebook.

Now I'm focusing my attention on having fun with Viki and climbing as much stress-free stuff as I can. I got involved with hard route, but going at M13+ I doubt I'll get very far, specially considering the worlds hardest mixed routes are M14. Sounds ridiculous, but it's great fun to try it whether I sent it or not, all it that matters are the laughs at the end of the day with a glass of wine in your hand.

As always, we were welcomed by the glorious Rockies scenery, which never gets old even on my 6th trip here.

The team psyche was high, once we've forked out $700 to kit Pete's car with winter tyres so we can actually make it to the falls.

The Helmcken Falls, certainly an impressive location, but I think through my tinted vision of disappointment, it all seemed slightly over-hyped

The EDGE. That's the name I baptised Pete's car with, since it kept us living on the edge. When it wasn't the ever growing cracks on the windscreen, it was the exhaust falling apart or the radiator spewing pink liquid. The Edge eventually provided us with a whole lot of entertainment and dutifully got us everywhere we wanted to go and clocking 5000km in 2 weeks. Not bad for a soccer-mum van.

Peter and Simon in miniature version walking the ice deck at the bottom of Helmcken Falls

The Helmcken Falls, a pretty wild place, but not as intimidating as I thought it was going to be. I think climbing on collapsing chalk sea-cliffs and British trad prepares you well for this sort of thing. 

Alpkit send us a prototype synthetic jacket for the occasion. Fortunately I got to test it under a shower of immense proportions and can say it keeps you warm in wet conditions... But unfortunately I didn't get to test it in -30 degrees there.

Despite the naysayers labelling us fools on Facebook, we weren't the only ones trying our luck with the conditions at Helmcken. Tim Emmett and Klemen Premel also came to check it out, so we couldn't be that much of a fools. It's interesting how people judge differently punters and pro-climbers.

Back in 2007, on my first trip to Canada, I was inspired to see Neil Gresham trying Musashi. 8 years later I managed to send the route in a day. This was a very special day for me. Working, prepping and putting all the gear in Musashi M12, and then sending it. 

The finishing touches of Musashi. It's really special to find a hard mixed line that has ice on it, in Europe most M12 are generally drytooling routes.

The crux of Musashi. I stuck the move first go. It's a pretty much identical move to my M10 route "Substantial Losses" in Masson Lees, so I suppose I still had muscle memory from that.

Simon got really close to getting Musashi, only stopped by an injured arm. I suppose all that White Goods training has been paying off then

Peter going DTS in Musashi. He also sent Musashi on his 3rd attempt in the same day

Peter hanging out on the ice curtain of Musashi

Crista-Lee, our lovely host in Canmore, working Orgasmo M9 at Cineplex

I found it odd that one of the world's premier mixed climbing venues hasn't got a topo. So I went and made one for other people not to have to waste their energy in the wrong route, like it's happened to some people.

This little route in Cineplex, Orgamso M9, gave me a run for my money

After the intense day at Cineplex sending Musashi in a day we thought we take a rest day. But being climbers we get bored on rest days, so we entered a drytooling competition in Canmore. I was surprised to win it against a strong field of climbers. The funniest thing was going into the finals not really caring and by then I had a few beers, only realised how pissed I was when I pulled on the start of the route, and I think that's why I did well, I was relaxed and did it just for fun.

Discussing potential new lines. I had a few ideas on new lines, but as it turned out they had all been climbed, they were too good to be true. I wish there was an modern guidebook to the area. We went and repeat one of them nonetheless, "Cyber Pasty Memorial" M7 Wi6 was a fantastic experience.

The alternative first pitch of "Cyber Pasty Memorial" M7 Wi6. Not being in the guidebook we didn't know it had a mixed start that can be seen on the right of this pic, we only found out on the abseil when we saw the bolts. We went back and tried the first pitch but the ice wasn't climbable.

The Curtain Call wall is just so awesome, we spotted a few (potentially new?) mixed lines, some very Scottish. The orange line is the route we climbed, which is the first pitch of something we don't know what it is and second pitch of "Cyber Pasty Memorial". 

Here I'm having a whole lot of fun

Just finishing the M7 drytooling section on "Cyber Pasty Memorial"

Peter getting involved in the ice blobs in "Cyber Pasty Memorial"

Bolting a more comfy and convenient belay station. Some of the older bolts are not really inspiring so we thought adding a new belaying and an extra bolts to me make it more appealing for future repeats.

Pete likes living on the edge

And now Viki is over here and we are having fun doing mixed cragging

 A fairly pumpy fun route on Bear Spirit crag, great place for pure mixed fun

The End Game

Hard Graft