After two aborted attempts (illness the first time and being scooped by another party the next), we're ready to give Kitty Hawk another try. This time, we decide to forego the overnight stay at the Shunda Creek hostel and instead drive straight from Canmore the morning of the climb. It's a long drive. We leave at 4:50AM, without breakfast, hoping to catch something along the way. We stop an hour later at the Lake Louise bakery for a breakfast sandwich and a coffee.

We make it to the parking spot along the DT highway at 7:25AM. Right on schedule. Nobody there. We go up the approach, which has a nice packed trail. Straightforward but steep. An hour later, we're at the base. The climb looks in good shape, fat and dry. Looks like we'll finally get to climb it!

From the entrance into the narrow gully, we simul-climb 1 ½ ropelength of snow and WI2-3 to the base of the WI4 pitch (passing a bolted rap anchor on the right wall along the way). To our surprise, there is a perfectly protected belay stance at the base of the pitch, under an overhang and behind an ice curtain. Good, our main worry about an unprotected belay stance in this narrow funnel was not justified (the protected cave may not be there all the time though).

The WI4 pitch looks easy from the base, as usual, but turns out to be quite steep in places and extremely long. I run the ropes to their very end and still can't make it to the base of the WI5 pitch… 15 meters short. Lucie leads a short pitch to reach the far left side of the upper pillar. This should keep her out of harm's way (we hope). The next pitch is very hard: a 20 meter section of dead vertical ice with technical overhanging mushrooms gets you nicely pumped, but at least the ice in that section is pretty good, and takes screws quite well. Past that, the angle relents to just under vertical but the ice turns to the worst dishing festival we've ever been on: cannot touch anything without an explosion, and it takes 3 or 4 tries to get a decent placement almost every time. Very hard ice; just impossible to get much penetration. Again, this pitch goes on for ever. I stretch the 60 meter ropes to the limit and just barely make it to a small ledge at the top of the pillar, and 30 meters from the top of the climb. I belay Lucie up while worrying about building-sized rock overhangs that seem to just cling to the vertical wall by some miracle. Spooky; once you start thinking about these things, it's hard to get them out of your head. Lucie leads the last pitch to a bolt-and-piton anchor on the right.

One short rap brings us back to the ledge at the top of the pillar. Two long raps down the bulk of the climb and we're back in the snow gully. A bit of walking down to the bolted anchor and one last, long, low angle rap bring us to our packs (this last rap could be avoided by simply downclimbing the WI2/3 section). We hike out and make it to the car before dark. A hard day, mostly because of very difficult ice but the climb is worth it.

Kitty Hawk, David Thompson Hwy, AB

January 21, 2004 / WI5, 200 meters
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Kitty Hawk, the "jewel" of David Thompson highway.
 
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Our route in red.
 
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The perfect belay cave at the base of the long WI4 pitch.
 
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Reaching the top of the WI4 pitch.
 
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Lucie belaying at the base of the WI5 pitch, after moving the belay up about 15 meters.
 
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The steep upper pitch (WI5, 60m)
 
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Starting up the WI5 pitch.
 
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Near the crux.
 
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Lucie on the last pitch.
 
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Views of Abraham Lake from the top of the climb.
 
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Rapping back down the easy first pitch.
 
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On the walk back to the road.
(high res. images are about 300KB)