Canadian Rockies - This House of Sky

November 21st, 2004

After a somewhat failed attempt to climb ice on our first full day the day before, Micah and I decided to try and drive his van into the Ghost River area. I had read that This House of Sky (WI3) was in and that the agressive bear closure for the area had been lifted. We set out from a Canmore, freshly drapped by an inch of snow, arond 7 am. It is best to drive most of the way south on HW 1. HW 1A, which we joined via HW 1X (a cross over road) is slower and windy. There is another cross over road from 1 to 1A further south than 1X, but I don't know what it is called. Once you turn onto the HW 40 (?) the book's directions to the turn off are easy to follow. Open the gate and drive down the dirt road, staying with the road (there are lots of spur roads, but it's obvious) until you get to the sign at the top of the "Big Hill". It is about 10 miles from the gate.

Vehicle traffic was not recommended until the road met Micah's van!

The big hill was snow free, but some medium sized rocks needed to be moved out of the way of the van. All in all a pretty easy descent into the valley. Take a right and drive the rough, rocky road until you are right next to a wall called "The Sentinal". There is an obvious river in the way here.

Getting ready to drive across the first river.

As it was still early season, the water was low and we decided to try and cross the river with the van. (The base of the route is about a 45 minute walk from here, so don't worry too much if you can't cross.) With some testosterone we blasted through the first river! It was a little deep, but no real problem. Then, driving across what would better be described as a "gravel bar" than a road, we came to the second, unexpected crossing. There were tire tracks on the other bank, but the water looked deep and just getting past the rocks on shore seemed hard enough. However, we found a slightly shallower and easier way through to the left, so we were back on. The route starts about 5 minutes up the obvious gully from the parking area. Our necks were starting to feel a little red, but alas it was time to start climbing.

The upper steps on This House of Sky.

Micah starting the route.

The ice was so fabulous. Welcome to the Rockies!

The ice steps kept comming...

and comming...

and comming...

... it was just plain porn. Photo by Micah

Micah styling some steeper ice.

We though it would never end, but unfortunately it did.

Above the last step is a wide bowl that has several lines climbing nearly to the ridge crest. At the back of the bowl we saw a couple steep pillars that looked fat enough to go up and check out. They seemed really far away, but before I knew it we were right below the first one. It was steep, but not very long. The ice looked good too so I gave it a go. Fantastic to be getting on a grade 4 pillar first day of the season!

Micah rapping down the first pillar on our way back down.

Micah leading the second pillar. Wow!

We did the walk off route, which was faster than downclimbing, but sucked. It might be better with more snow, but if the route is not busy I would rather downclimb and rapell the route. You'd get twice the ice that way too. The descent was sparsely flagged with tape and leads down the steep hillside climber's right of the climb. As you top out into the bowl, head right immediately. Follow tracks/tape down through cliffbands and steep moss. It took us about an hour to get back to the van.

Of all the routes we did over the next week, this was by far my favorite.

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