Mélanie, Dave and I drive west from Calgary on the TransCanada, then south on the Kananaskis Trail (Hwy. 40) past Wasootch, Mount Lorette Ponds, and the Fortress Junction Service Station to park roadside at Grizzly Creek. We don helmets, harnesses, ice climbing boots and crampons and begin the approach directly up frozen Grizzly Creek.
Initial pitches are on easy grades and as we progress up into the canyon the slopes increase in angle and length. We gain elevation aggressively, one small ice waterfall at a time. The ice takes the axes and the crampons nicely without shattering or excessive penetration. Dave is the most experienced ice climber and leads to set rope where a safety belay is required. Mélanie and I stage with bottom or top belay. It is a perfect, clear day. We can hear the water running under stable ice.
Following are a few photos for the day. Off the steep pitch, Dave, after creating an ice screw anchor, is top belaying me and both of us provide a top and bottom belay for Mélanie, so there are no photos of her descent. We are busy ensuring she stays in the air.
To rappel off the top of the steep, long waterfall Dave rigs an Abalokov Sandwich. This is a technique used for final descent, when there is no alternative but to anchor into ice, and to leave minimal trace. Ice screws, far too expensive to leave, are used to create a V-shaped channel into the ice. The screws are extracted. A small piece of 7 mm rope is inserted down into one channel and a sharp hook grabs the end at the bottom of the V and the rope is pulled out the other side. The anchor rope is securely knotted into a small loop and the climbing rope is passed through this small loop, evened and thrown over the side to complete the rappel. At the bottom the climbing rope is pulled through leaving only the small loop in the ice.
Ice conditions can be widely variable from one season to the next. Local ice climbers post current conditions they have experienced on Gravsports and these reports can be checked before commitment to a location. They provide a valuable service as well as a link for avalanche conditions which MUST be checked. The site is an invaluable source of information and a donation is always appreciated to defer the cost of providing the service.