The Ghost and Waiparous areas have become our favorite places for ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. They are extremely remote areas, accessed only by long, often rough drives along several kilometers of dirt roads and dry or frozen river beds. Except on weekends, when more climbers come from nearby Calgary, climbing there is often a solitary experience. The setting is unmatched: those open valleys at the foot of the Rocky Mountains offer kilometers of steep limestone walls and an incredible concentration of top-notch frozen waterfalls.
The area does not receive as much snow as places like Banff or Lake Louise, and is frequently very windy, particularly in the South Ghost, where cold westerly winds funnel in from Banff over Lake Minnewanka. This, and the plentiful sun and frequent Chinooks, quickly reduces the amount of snow on the ground, leading to generally low avalanche danger, except for a few days after storms. It unfortunately also means there are plenty of huge truck-eating snow-drifts in which to get hopelessly stuck on the way in. The Waiparous is far less windy and is not subject to as much drifting. The drive there however, involves two stream crossings which can be problematic if incompletely frozen or flooded (sudden water breaks from upstream can melt and flood those crossings without warning, even during the most bone-chilling cold snap).
Climbing here can be a committing experience. The closest paved road is over 15km away and approaches can take up to 3 hours. An accident here could have dire consequences.
The climbs are some of the best to be found anywhere, which such famed classics as The Sorcerer, This House of Sky, Rainbow Serpent, and Hydrophobia, to name only a few. So if you're ready for great waterfall ice in a beautiful and unique setting, pack your 4WD truck, don't forget the shovels and chains, and hope you can make the drive into these great areas.
Note: detailed and accurate instructions for driving into the Waiparous area can be found on Will Gadd's site at gravsports.com. Look for the link "Approach Beta for Hydrophobia from the Waiparous".
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The Ghost and Waiparous Areas, AB
|Views of the South Ghost.|
|The sign at the top of the Big Hill marks the entrance to the Ghost.|
|Chaining up, a frequent reality for small-vehicle-drivers in the Ghost.|
|The gorgeous slot canyon of Valley of the Birds.|
|Warming up while camping near Sentinel Crag.|
|Walking back along the Ghost River after climbing Phantom Falls.|
|Crossing the Ghost River near Sentinel Crag.|
|Parked on the Ghost Riverbed near GBU.|
|Incredible sunset, South Ghost.|
|Horses in the South Ghost.|
|Walking off the top of Malignant Mushroom. Ghost and Minnewanka lakes in the background.|
|Camping at Devil's Gap, South Ghost.|
|Sunrise in the South Ghost.|
|Steep limestone walls all around (seen from Lacy Gibbet)|
|Sunset silhouette on Ghost Lake (hiking back to the car after a day on Aquarius/Rainbow Serpent).|
|View of Phantom Crag from Wicked Wanda.|
|One of the Ghost mega classics, The Sorcerer.|
|On the approach to Kemosabe, Waiparous valley.|