Bourgeau Left and Right are two classic lines rising up the cliffs above the parking lots of the Sunshine ski resort, near Banff.

Bourgeau Right is the longer of the two, with several steps separated by snow gullies. The ice is often thin on this route but we found it in unusually fat conditions.

We left Canmore at about 5:30AM and got to the Sunshine parking lot around 6AM. It was still dark and no other climbers were around yet, so we waited a bit before starting the approach. The climb looks close from the parking area, but the hike is very steep and quite strenuous, finishing with scrambling up a snowy rock band just right of the drainage.

We started the first pitch at about 8:30AM, when we saw another party arriving at the base behind us. The second pitch was amazing: 60 meters of fun WI4 on excellent plastic ice. It had been sun-warmed just enough the last several days to be a bit porous. The rest of the climb is easier, with various steps of WI3 to 4, leading to a last slabby pitch of thin, hollow ice.

Snow threatened all day, and fell on and off during the climb. Just before the last pitch, it started snowing hard with a stiff wind. This had us worried about wind loading on the massive slopes above... We moved fast on that pitch. Wondering about the slopes we would have to cross on the descent, we were first tempted to rappel the route. With as many as five parties below us however, this would have been a long and painful affair. We tried the walk off instead.

The descent starts with 600 feet of ascent (!) up wind-loaded slopes to the upper rock band, followed by a rightward traverse to a long ridge that leads back down to the parking lot. Except for a short section in a massive gully near the top, when it got too steep to stay on the ridge, the whole thing is quite safe and easy going, mostly through large trees. We were back at the car at 2:30PM. Not a bad time for the first long climb of the season.

Bourgeau Right, near Banff, AB

November 16, 2003 / WI4, 310 meters
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The classic "Bourgeau Right" (WI4).
 
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Eric on the third pitch.
 
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Not a clue where this is.
 
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Starting the 5th pitch.
 
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Somewhere up there... (?).
(high res. images are about 300KB)