On November 23, we drove to Field, about 1.5 hour west of Canmore to climb the "Carlsberg Column", a classic WI5 pillar and one of a group of climbs known as the "Beer Climbs". We left Canmore around 6AM, and got to Field at sunrise. No other climbers were there yet. We drove around a bit to get a look at the climb and locate the approach. All looked good.
The approach was short but steep, on scree with just enough snow to cover features but not enough to support one's weight. We traversed into the climb from the right as suggested in the guidebook (class 3 or so, with some ice). An alternative is to climb a series of easier ice steps directly under the pillar. The ice on those steps was wet so we opted for the dry traverse instead.
The pillar was fat, quite chandeliered but had one line that had received traffic and did not look that hard (maybe 4+?). The ice was good, although a little chunky (ice cubes) on the first pitch to the nice bolted anchor on the right. The climbing was relatively easy, with lots of hooking, but sustained. The second pitch was even nicer, with less broken ice, but a bit wet. This leads to a large snowy and slopy ledge and a bomber tree anchor. As we found out on the way down, it is about 55m from the base to these trees, so the entire pillar could be done in one pitch.
From the ledge, we could see small WI3 steps leading to a snow slope and a short (maybe 15-20 meters) WI5 pillar up to trees. The pillar looked somewhat chandeliered, had received little or no traffic, but looked pretty solid. We decided to lead it in one pitch from the big ledge. Climbing was sustained and steep on brittle ice, real WI5, although short. Near the top, a large plate of ice detached from the pillar. Although we thought the belay was safely out of the way to the left and protected by the snow slopes above, a large piece of ice bounced on the steps and hit Lucie hard in the left knee. She got hurt enough to scream and was left unable to bend her leg. I quickly finished the pitch and set up a rappel from trees to come down and help. I started down, taking screws out, and reached the base of the pillar, only to discover I left my tools in the tree above... So I climbed back up the ropes with prussiks, retrieved the tools and came back down.
Lucie was very cold and in a lot of pain but able to walk slowly on a stiff leg. We rapped down the pillar in one shot, from the tree anchor. From there, we walked down and left (facing down) a bit to another tree near the edge of the lower cliff. We then rapped to the snowy slopes where we had left our packs. Lucie started slowly down the slope on her butt, while I retrieved the packs, then left them in the woods lower down to help her negotiate the flat section to the road, over many hidden branches and other traps. Back at the road, I went to get the car, and got Lucie seated and warming, then went back for the packs.
Lucie did not want to go to a hospital to check her knee. It was swollen but not looking like anything was broken. Probably just a serious bruise. We drove around to check other climbs in the area. "Pilsner" looked absolutely awesome, with slightly overhanging chandeliered pillars on the first pitch (solid WI6 is my guess). The rest of the climb was huge and looked easy. "Guiness" looked a bit thin on the first pitch but was being climbed. All the other lines on the mountain were also formed.
Carlsberg Column, Field, BC.
|The "Beer climbs" near Field.|
|"Carlsberg Column" is on the left, "Cascade Kronenbourg" on the right.|
|"Carlsberg Column" (WI5) in fat conditions.|
|Eric placing a first ice-screw.|
|Higher on the first pitch.|
|Looking down at the railroad tracks from the belay.|
|Starting up the steep second pitch.|
|Almost at the top.|
|Climbing up a bonus pitch above the standard finish.|
|Eric leading the final pillar (WI5).|
|The intimidating "Cascade Kronenbourg", just right of "Carlsberg".|