Dragon Venturer Canice 18

Each day is a summation of the thoughts of the individual climbers (6 x male CFAVs)

Canmore Junkyards – Grade 2 Single Pitch

It’s hard to believe that we are in Canada standing below an icefall and our introduction to ice climbing.  I was intimidated about the levels of experience amongst the group but the introduction was a great learning experience which has given me heart about my ability. Adapting to a new environment is always hard, what kit do I pack and what will be right for the location?  Getting used to the rhythm on the ropes, dialling in to using new tools, freezing hands but an overwhelming sense of euphoria at getting to the top of first route.

Eye opening cold, thought it would be tough compared to the UK but the dry intense cold hits the bones differently.  Frozen screw gates, refusing to turn.  My kit held up well.  Walk-in scenery was very new, different to the snow at home and different again to the Alps, like a postcard.  A memory that will be taken home.  Can’t be explained in words.  Excellent climbing, intense and enjoyable.  Good teamwork, encouragement, talking a team mate through the moves.  Bodes well for the week ahead, looking forward to the challenge.

Nervous about the cold after seeing the temperatures online.  Pleasantly surprised that good layering works, stayed warm.  My crampons and boots only been on a couple of times, terrible at walking on the flat but once on the vertical ice today I felt comfortable.  Learning about movement on the varying angles of terrain was an important grounding and gave me great confidence.  Kept thinking I couldn’t do the first climb but loved it as soon as started on the ascent.  Cold hands at the top but that was soon replaced by taking in the amazing view over the national park.  Looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Very apprehensive about first climb but applying the preliminary teaching made it possible.  Today has been petrifying but an amazing learning curve.  Cold fingers from gripping tools too hard, lesson learned on the second route.  Better experience than going to Everest base camp.  Bigger achievement.

Always wanted to go to Canada, always wanted to ice climb, two ticks straight away.  Intense cold.  The huge scale of the scenery was awe inspiring.  Unnerving never having used the ice climbing tools before.  Learnt about using the equipment correctly.  Amazing to watch instructor go straight up the first route.  Amazing feeling having a good group around you for mutual support.

Evan Thomas Creek-Grade 2+ Chantilly Falls

Day two was extremely cold -22° C compensated with bright clear blue skies. The day began with a long walk into the start of the climb. Very beautiful with great views as the track to the climb took us along a river bed, with a small stop for some photos. My hands felt like they were going to fall off with the cold on the first pitch of the climb! Very challenging day for my hands!

My day started with the walk into the climbing area. Leaving the vehicle you could feel how cold it was. Walking through the woodlands, we stepped out onto the river basin and WOW! This is what I signed up to do with a spectacular mountain backdrop. The climb was exhilarating. The second pitch had my heart pounding! A little fear is good, it makes getting to the top even more rewarding!

When I first heard we would be doing a multi-pitch on day two I was rather taken aback, apprehensive. The planning session in the morning did much to steady my nerves. The walk in was truly beautiful, never ending forest with the youngest trees bent by the snow. The climb proved to be very manageable, with a great view from the top. The abseil down proved to be the scariest but I quickly got back into the confidence developed during my basic rock climbing courses.

Very apprehensive due to the previous night’s comments of a 100m multi-pitch route! I’m very much a trekker so the approach to the climb was great this morning. Scenery and sunshine was amazing. The climb today was better than expected, Middle hump on the 2nd pitch I found a little tricky but I stuck at it and cracked on. Graham was a great inspiration again today, a few more tips picked up. Really pleased with myself for completing today and my confidence has grown using the crampons and tools.

Stunning walk in to the climb, slight apprehensive at what was to follow after an amazing scenic walk. Felt more at ease once geared up and set off. At each belay stance I enjoyed how the scenery changed. At the last stance, I thought that this would be the most challenging part of the climb, thoroughly enjoyed being beyond my comfort zone and getting on with the climb. Things I would do differently, I’d wear thinner gloves on the walk in and keep my mobile phone inside by my body so I can take more photos of the days experience.

Having spent some time learning the skills needed to become a good second within the ice-climbing world, I feel it’s now that need to start leading at the sharp end of the rope. The day started with blue skies and sunshine and the crispness of my foot pressing on the dry snow leading to the start of climb! As I was walking in, I could see the changing colours of the sun through the trees and the shadows that were being made. Thinking of home as I approached the climb, it made feel as though I was super lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity, how truly blessed are we to enjoy such fantastic surroundings!

Grotto Canyon – Grotto Falls Grade 3 & Hers Grade 4

Today was fantastic!  The location, walk in and scenery were my wow moment.  Every direction you looked was worthy of the cover of a magazine.  I learnt to put more faith in my crampons today; I’m getting into the habit of dropping my heels.  I experienced some good “toffee” ice, and now understand why it’s so sort after.  Both climbs were challenging but it gave me a good deal of satisfaction completing them.  Confidence in abseiling also built, no spinning this time.  I’m hoping to work on this further and to improve my axe strike too.  Taking arty photos of the other guys whilst they climbed also gave me a good deal of satisfaction.  I feel that communication is building and all three climbing teams are working well together.  Best day so far!

Good start to the day, well prepared, not tired.  Yesterday the layering was wrong and my sweat got through the down.  Today was better.  Use of belay jacket and gloves to keep warm when not moving.  Impressed by scenery and by walking on water in the canyon.  Magnificent climbs, enjoyed the grade 4 route more than I thought, pumped for getting to top – today’s high point.  Looking at building tactics on the ice and planning moves as we go on.  Good to know about avalanche information, would like to use the kit.

Perfect walk in today, not too far, not too sweaty.  Canyon itself was excellent, easy paced walk, taking it all in and taking our time.  Seeing the two pillars as the canyon opened up was awesome. First climb was absolute heaven, loved placing the picks in the ice.  Second climb was not as stressful.  A little disappointed at not having a go on the harder route, wanted to be pushing the grade.  Learning outcome for today was trusting tool and crampon placement as well as my own ability.  First climb was the wow factor.

Fantastic day, most challenging day, outside the comfort zone.  First climb looked easy as the more experienced went first.  Start time came quicker than desired but good support from everyone made it happen.  Getting to the top was the real wow factor.  Second climb was also challenging.  Got myself stuck moving across to the ice screw.  Screw retrieved and continued with route.  Would like a knee crampon.  Learning point one, is to work on grip on the axes to prevent fatigue.  Second is to develop the “frog” position.

Walk in was absolutely fantastic, seeing the two ice pillars was great.  Multi-pitch route was my favourite, great experience.  Abseiling down was good too. Toffee ice was the major learning point.  Want also to build up awareness of other climbers.  Good progression from yesterday, built confidence.

Another good day, spectacular views on the walk in.  Wow factor was the lead climb on the second pitch.  Spent a lot of time visualising the route and watching the instructor.  Good to revise stance management.  Good to be fast with the changeover skill and drills.  The best ice is toffee; you just knew you weren’t going to go anywhere.  Nice to play with the ice screws.  Great feeling working so close with a tight group of people who were strangers only a few days ago.  Lots of trust, great feeling.

Haffner Creek- Icefalls Grade 3/4

Never had any avalanche training previously and enjoyed that. Enjoyed the walk in to the creek, amazed to see the ice climbs ahead, 1st one was tiring, 2nd one got into it and enjoyed. Nice to be in the sunshine.  Great day climbing and felt elated to get to the top of all three routes.

Tired from the previous days, enjoyed the avalanche training first thing and enjoyed the practical session at the end of the day.  Location and the ice falls were spectacular, like seeing the world in HD.  The climb was emotional, felt very tired, determined to keep going, felt as if I was going to fall off but went for it and got to the top.

Enjoyed the avalanche session this morning. Enjoyed the walk in, not too far not too steep. Walked into the canyon and saw the waterfalls hoping that it was the one we were going to climb.   Three quarters up the first climb and felt that muscles were pumped.  I loved the climb but was also fearful.  Exhilarating to get to the top of the 2nd climb which felt harder than the first but I liked the toffee ice at the top. Really enjoyed the challenge of all 3 climbs, third one was like heaven, every move I felt in balance, lots of placements for tools and crampons. Best day so far.

Mixed bag day, tired this morning. Lacked a little bit of motivation and had a few issues with harness and ropes. Fingers felt really cold and effecting things. Liked the avalanche training this morning. Just had an off climbing day. The end of the day was good to relax with others and to hear others stories

Great journey in, scenery amazing again, seeing the fire damaged trees was sad to see. Great to explore the avalanche training, and putting it into practice was very worthwhile. Disappointing day today with the ice falls, Grade 4 and almost vertical.  Two attempts but had no energy left in my arms to the degree that I felt at risk of falling off with each move.  Will put today down to an off day, really pleased that the others managed to climb to the top of the routes.  Will put this behind me and look forward to the next couple of days before it plays with my confidence. Looking forward to tomorrow, fresh day fresh challenge.

Lake Louise Falls Grade 3

An adventure to be sure. Conditions opened eyes to pitfalls of ice climbing.  Precarious first stance, second pitch, nice ice, toffee ice. Scottish winter climb from there, topped out and abseiled out. Great climb.

Looking forward to another multi pitch climb, stance management. Enjoyed the walk in to the first location through trees, used winter skills, to get up incline. Disappointed that we could not climb the intended route but understood from safety point of view why we didn’t climb here. Possibility of someone getting hurt, take step back to review training needs.  Impressed with Lake Louise falls. Got cold whilst waiting to set off and climb. First pitch went well and the second pitch had good ice. Everyone enjoyed the climb, with a good team spirit. Abseil was mint, I like long abseils. Good day for me, apart from the cold toes.

Probably best day so far, in terms of the walks in’s.  I enjoyed first walk in through obstacle course and steep ramp, very nice. Seeing the climb I thought I’m not looking forward to this. Pleased with decision to go elsewhere. When Lake Louise was mentioned I wanted to visit it in winter.  When we got to Lake Louise falls at the bottom of the ramp and looked up at the climb, I just wanted to do it. Didn’t like the first stance, as it was so small. Both pitches were great, the second pitch as you come round the bulge and go up with the mixture of ice was interesting, a good experience. The top out was an experience, looking for hooks instead of banging in tools, being delicate. The view was fantastic, the abseil was good, with the free space really enjoyed it. Walked out via the frozen lake on my own and really enjoyed it.

The best day so far. Glad that yesterday went, got my mojo back today. The alpine walk in was great, I looked at the first climb and hoped that you would say we won’t do it as I wasn’t looking forward to climbing it.  Climbing to first pitch on Lake Louise falls was good and sitting on ledge. Didn’t know what to expect on second pitch.  Went around the corner and saw a rope continuing for a couple of miles. Interesting ice climb and the abseil was great. Scenery was fantastic, best day so far.

Enjoyed the walk into the first area.  The walk up to the second pitch involved using new skills. Glad we didn’t progress with the climb and when the decision was made to go elsewhere that was good.  Lake Louise falls was on a personal wish list. I found the walk in past the hotel a bit surreal, but the walk to the climb was great. The climb was brilliant, I enjoyed the first pitch and the small stance, and when I set off on the second pitch it was brilliant. Setting off around the overhang was amazing and the pitch was great. Climbing the second pitch was a different type of climb but superb and reaching the abseil point and seeing the route off was brilliant.  Overall the day was just the sort of day I really liked and ticked many boxes for myself. Best day so far.

The team would like to thank the Ulysses Trust for their generous financial support towards the cost of this unique expedition.  It surpassed our expectations and completing the Introduction to Winter Climbing qualification was the icing on the cake.


With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

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