After a forced break from the ice because of heavy snowfall and a failed attempt on "Kemosabe" (not in condition), we're itching to climb. We're just not sure what. We need a climb with minimal exposure to avalanches, so we surf "Live the Vision", a message board used by lots of Canadian climbers, in search of an idea. Someone has just posted a note about "Lacy Gibbet", a long route in the South Ghost with a steep top pitch that rarely forms. It is supposed to be "in" and fat! Off we go!
The guidebook mentions a long approach but puts it at about 1.5 to 2 hours. That's pretty common by Rockies standard, so we're not too worried and only start the approach at first light. As it turns out, that approach is much longer than advertised... From the parking area in the South Ghost, one has to cross the first and second Ghost Lakes then go up a drainage for several hundred vertical feet, most of it in loose drifted snow. Quite a hike! By the time we reach the base of the climb, we've been at it for three hours. We're in a bad mood (damned sandbaggers) and now worried about being able to complete the climb before dark.
The bottom pitches of "Lacy Gibbet" are nice but nothing special - the last pillar is really what you came for. Better hope it is formed as you don't get a good view of it before you reach it.
Anyway, after resting for a while, it's almost noon and it's really time to go! In the interest of going fast and hopefully climb the top pitch, we decide Eric will also lead the two WI4 pitches I had intended to lead. He starts up the first pitch. The climbing is steep in places but the ice has been sunbaked and is nice and plastic. He reaches the top in no time and I soon follow. We then leap-frog the two and a half pitches of rolling terrain (WI2/3) that lead to the second steep pitch. Eric fires up this pitch again. I quickly follow, then drag the ropes up the snow slope to the base of the final pillar. It's only 2:30PM so it looks like we'll have time to climb it after all, and be back at the base before dark. After a short break, Eric heads up the beautiful free standing pillar. It's awesome! Fat and plastic. What a change from the brittle and difficult ice we've been climbing for the past couple of weeks! Nothing like South-facing climbs for easy, soft ice! The first 30m are steep but the angle eases off toward the top. Nice WI5 climbing! Eric takes a little longer to lead this pitch but it still looks like we won't have to rap in the dark so we both relax a bit. I have fun following the pitch too.
After taking some time admiring the views from the top of the climb and snapping a few pictures, it's time to rap down. Six raps and a two and a half hour walk separate us from the car... We make it back to the base of the climb just before dark but it's by headlamp that we make the long walk back to the car. It's a beautiful night in the Ghost - full moon and lots of stars. Helps ignore the pain in your feet. The wind is blowing. The steep limestone walls cast impressive shadows under the moon. The place is ours - we have not seen a soul all day!
It's late when we finally reach the parking lot but we don't care. We're tired but we had a great day. We're at the house in Canmore two hours later where we enjoy the company of our roommates and 4-legged friends.
Lacy Gibbet, South Ghost, AB
|Crossing the first Ghost Lake.|
|Enjoying a peaceful sunrise.|
|Lacy Gibbet as seen from the approach.|
|Hiking up the charming (but long and steep) canyon leading to the climb.|
|Taking a break before starting the first pitch.|
|Eric leading the first pitch (WI4).|
|Nearing the top of the pitch.|
|Eric, two and a half rope lengths further (starting the 4th pitch).|
|Placing his first screw.|
|Heading up the snow slopes leading to the final crux pillar.|
|Eric starting the beautiful pillar (this pitch apparently rarely forms).|
|Placing his first screw and...|
|...having a good time.|
|Finishing of the steep section.|
|Rapping down the last pitch.|
|Steep limestone walls all around (from the top of Lacy Gibbet).|
|Eric back at the base of the final pillar (WI5).|
|Resting on a tree stump at the first Ghost lake after a long day.|