My first multipitch ice climb proper was a 120m WI2 called Two O’Clock Falls in the David Thompson area of Alberta, Canada. It was a wonderful, relaxing day (yes, that’s totally possible climbing a frozen waterfall!)
Parking at the road around 9.30am we made our way in through pines, following a footpack from previous climbers. We knew there were historical and spiritual landmarks that would make it obvious we were going the right way. Being able to see the falls from the road also made access easy.
After a little kicker of a slope, weaving amongst spindly pines, we were at the base of the climb. We had the entire place to ourselves on a serene, final Monday of 2013.
I was keen to lead though I knew Dikko was itching as well and, afterall, it was his turn! We racked up, roped up and agreed he’d lead the whole climb.
That decision had me doing a little jig on the first belay, staving off creeping cold and mentally cussing my husband to hurry up. Soon a shout came from above and I stopped my shallow squats (more like silly knee bends) to grab my tools, wait for the rope to go tight and start up the first section.
I swung my frankenstein ice climbing tools happily: on the right, a Grivel Lightwing hammer with makeshift purple sling leash (used to cut our wedding cake, seriously). On the left, a Black Diamond Venom hammer with a fixed leash. Not the most technical tools but this wasn’t what I’d call a technical climb. I’d prefer to climb leashless but, being my first multipitch I didn’t want to risk dropping a tool. Plus our arrangement was the leader always got the leashless Petzl Quarks with their weights, hammers and squishy plumbing tape grip.
Avoiding the dripping and running sections of the falls we topped out in snow and enjoyed the view. It was nothing stupendous or exposed but it was sweet. Our first multipitch, without nerves or fear or too much challenge, in perfect peace. Though the soft chocolate bar from my inner jacket pocket was probably the sweetest part!
It was a great introduction to a routine we hope to perfect on harder climbs in future trips. A routine involving avalanche and weather research, access considerations, gear, conditions and grade, descent options, time, location etc.
I ‘led’ the way down, deciding where to rappel, making an ablakov and cutting old tat (that’s cord or slings previous climbers have used to descend that’s getting a bit old and worn). Back at our bags we packed efficiently, leaving crampons and empty harnesses on for the walk back down the short slope.
Stopping later to remove crampons I looked around me. The trees were quiet, the snow was firm, the ice had been blue and beautiful and we’d successfully and more importantly, safely, climbed and descended our first multipitch ice route Two O’Clock Falls. Highly recommended for beginners, especially on Mondays.