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Canadians Pluck Plum Lines in Icefall Brook

Audrey Gariepy on Northwest Passage (WI5+, 600m), which she established with Ines Papert in Icefall Brook, Canadian Rockies. An international team that included Gariepy and Papert made the first ascents of nine other lines in the area from March 11-19, 2008. [Photo] courtesy of Caroline George

In under ten days Audrey Gariepy, Caroline George, Jen Olson, Ines Papert and Jon Walsh blasted ten remote ice (up to WI6) and mixed (up to M12) routes, likely all new, in Icefall Brook canyon, Canadian Rockies. After taking a helicopter to the remote area, the five set up base camp within an hour of their farthest objective and climbed from March 11-19.

“Beautiful limestone walls rose hundreds of meters around this pear shaped canyon, and dozens of waterfalls seeped through the highly featured stone,” Walsh wrote in a report. “The potential is there. If the area was more accessible, the routes there would be really classic.”

Walsh said that Icefall Brook lies miles away from any road, and is inaccessible by snowmobile. According to Joe Josephson’s Waterfall Ice, the area had fewer than twenty established routes before the team’s arrival, many plum lines untouched.

“Reluctant to leak out information,” Josephson’s guidebook explains, “the main activists in the area sadly reported that Icefall Brook ‘sees rainfall every day of the year, especially in winter, has year-round grizzlies and winter mosquitoes six feet tall!'”

Besides a little rain on the first day of their trip, the climbers encountered none of the grizzlies or man-sized mosquitoes that supposedly reside in Icefall Brook. Walsh said that ice conditions were great, and that the unsettled weather and minimal new snow kept avalanche danger low.

The five established seven WI5/WI6 routes and three mixed lines ranging from M5 to M12 during the trip. They include Happy Birthday (WI5, 120m, George-Olson), Blue Lagoon (WI5, 200m, George-Papert), High Five (WI5+, 200m, Gariepy-Olson-Walsh), Northwest Passage (WI5+, 600m, Gariepy-Papert), Keep On Smiling (WI6, 60m, Gariepy-Olson-Walsh), Fossen Falls (WI6, 170m, Gariepy-Papert-Walsh), Happy Hours (WI6, 240m, Gariepy-Papert-Walsh), Jusqu’au Bout (Til the End: M5 WI6, 200m, Gariepy-George), Supernatural B.C. (M7 WI6, 600m, Olson-Walsh) and Into the Wild (M12 WI5, 100m, Papert).

The most difficult, Into the Wild (M12 WI5, 100m), was one of the trip’s highlights. Papert accessed its crux 40-meter roof traverse by climbing the existing Ice Palace (WI4+, 60m), then swinging up a small pillar from a belay in the back of a cave. Walsh said that Papert bolted the crux pitch on lead and redpointed the route on her second try. “Ines’s lead was outstanding,” Walsh said. “She was upside-down most of the way and hyperventilating, but she hung on.”

Sources: Caroline George, Jon Walsh,, Waterfall Ice (Josephson)

The team’s base camp with Icefall Brook in the background. Their camp was only fifteen minutes to an hour away from all the climbs. [Photo] courtesy of Caroline George