Thursday, February 26: We attempt to climb "Nemesis" today: get up early and drive to the trailhead, but it is snowing and foggy. We wait for an hour at the parking area but the weather does not seem to be improving… and finally give up. We go back home and are not sure what to do next. We're worried about new snow above the route but at the same time fear that if we do not climb the route soon, we may not get another chance as we're supposed to leave for the Icefield Parkway soon. Lucie gives a few phone calls to the wardens. It appears there may not be that much new snow after all. We get the gear ready just in case. At 5 PM, she calls the avalanche forecaster, and he reassures us that conditions on the route and above should be safe tomorrow. We're going for it.
The next day, we repeat the same scenario: get up early, and drive to the trailhead. The sky seems a bit cloudy when we leave the car but at least it is not snowing. We start the 1h45 min approach at 7:30 AM. Good thing we brought snowshoes. There is no established trail and we would have sunk in hip deep without them (most people bring skis but we did not feel like carrying our ice-climbing boots on our packs). Lucie is kind enough to break trail most of the way allowing me to save some energy for later (which I will really need...).
After gearing up at the base and resting a bit, I start up the first pitch at 10:30 AM. The first pitch is fun and technical but long and steep. I feel OK but the going is slower than usual. It takes me almost an hour to lead the pitch. I'm not able to reach the ledge I was hoping for in one shot and end up stopping at a very uncomfortable stance. I set up a belay and bring Lucie up. She's doing all right but is also climbing much slower than usual.
By the time I leave the belay, it's been two hours since we left the base. I make a short second pitch to the ledge. I have to climb straight up above the belay as the climbing is even steeper on the left. As a result, Lucie is directly in the line of fire. Not for long though, as I soon traverse right along the ledge. I set up a comfortable belay on the ledge and bring Lucie up. She's making good time on this pitch.
Problem is, at this point, we still have two steep pitches to go and - as I will find out later - I really used a lot of energy on the first two pitches. As soon as I leave the belay, my forearms start cramping and as a result, I have to stop often to shake off. The ice is unrelentingly steep (in some places slightly overhanging). Lucie shouts words encouragements from the belay, but I feel too tired to go more than half a pitch before setting up a new belay and bringing her up. She asks whether we should call it a day or keep climbing.
After a quick deliberation, we decide to keep going. I make another short pitch (pitch 4 by our count) to a small ledge just shy of the top.
I can now see the top. I'm only about thirty feet below it. I'm exhausted and cramping like crazy. Eventually, I fight my way through and reach the top of the climb and bring Lucie up.
It's 5:30 PM. We snap a few pictures, put on our headlamps, anticipating that we may have to finish the raps in the dark. It takes us a while to go down. We have to build our own anchors each time and this from very uncomfortable stances. We make the last rap in the dark. We're back at the base a little less than two hours after starting the descent. We're tired but happy to have made it after all. We brew some hot chocolate before heading back to the car.
|"Nemesis": it's a steep one.|
|"Nemesis" lies in the back of the valley, on the Stanley Headwall.|
|Some of the great mixed climbs on the Stanley headwall.|
|On the approach, with "Welcome to the Machine" (1st flow) and "Nemesis" (2nd flow) in the background.|
|Close-up view of "Welcome to the Machine".|
|Lucie breaking trail on the 2 hour snowshoe approach...|
|...with "Nemesis" in the background.|
|Gearing up at the base.|
|And now we're in for 3 pitches of unrelentingly steep ice.|
|Eric starting the first pitch.|
|Higher on the first pitch.|
|...and higher still.|
|On an interesting section high on the first pitch.|
|View from the first belay.|
|Eric starting our short second pitch.|
|Higher on the second pitch.|
|Views from the belay atop the second pitch.|
|Starting the third pitch.|
|Taking a breather.|
|Higher on our third pitch.|
|...and higher still.|
|Views from the belay.|
|Eric on our short 4th pitch.|
|Views from the belay atop our 4th pitch.|
|Starting our 5th pitch.|
|Fighting cramps near the top.|
|Enough energy left to smile?|
|Views from the top.|
|Back at the base - brewing some hot chocolate.|
|UFO coming down the approach slopes...|