A day after our failed attempt on Wicked Wanda (the climb was a river...), we drive to Field to attempt Pilsner, perhaps the most famous of the "Beer Climbs". Since we are the first car there, we decide to drive around the loop to take a look at the pillar with binoculars. It looks steep but not that desperate. By the time we get back to the pullout, there is a party of three getting ready to go! Shit! Turns out they are going for Carlsberg… Good!
The approach to Pilsner is short but steep (about half-an-hour). Once at the base, we study the route. There is a reasonable looking pillar on the left, then a short sloping ledge to traverse back to the main central pillar about half way up. That's our line; shouldn't be harder than WI5 or so by the looks of it. We get ready, eat, drink, and go.
Ouch! This thing is way steeper than it looks from the bottom: slightly overhanging for a few meters on the left pillar; fairly broken ice, but good hooking. A pump fest! The ledge halfway up is a welcome break... There I get some rest, clip an Abalakov, add another screw at the base of the upper central pillar and go up steep ice again, this time pretty virgin. Hard! I get to a good stance just above the pillar with good screw placements and a fixed Abalakov, and only a few feet of rope to spare. Lucie follows, finding it pretty pumpy too.
Above the first pitch, a long snow slope (70 meters) leads to the base of a short (35 meters) step. It looks pretty mellow from below so I suggest that Lucie leads it. She's a bit tired though and declines the offer. I start up the pitch but it's harder than it looks again; I'd say WI4/4+, with tricky cubed ice making foot placements difficult. At one point, while swinging my right tool, both of my feet dislodge at the same time… whoof. Hanging from the left arm! Scary for Lucie but I barely have time to notice. Close call...
Above the second pitch, more deep snow slopes (maybe 40 meters) lead to the bottom of a really good looking mushroomed and chandeliered pillar at the right edge of a wide curtain. Looks like about WI5. I lead it a bit slowly, starting to feel tired from the previous two pitches. The climbing is really fun though, more technical than pumpy. The ice is good on the first half, then tricky above.
From there, you get to the bottom of a long section of rolling ice. We debate for a while whether we really want to go on. The hard climbing is behind us, the rest looks a little wet, and time is ticking (3PM). Only 2 hours until dark. Ah, what the hell, Lucie's ready to lead one so she goes up a short WI3 steps to a steeper and longer WI3+ step above. She almost whines out of the second step but goes for it after all. A good job. Pretty steep and not-so-friendly ice.
OK, now we're looking at a pitch or so of very low angle (WI1-2) and extremely wet terrain above. Nah. Let's go down.
A few raps from abalakovs and trees and some belayed downclimbing and we're back at the packs before 6PM. A quick walk down brings us back to the car.
Lucie had spotted this little café in Field, the "Truffle Pigs" on our first trip through the small town when we climbed Carslberg. It looked like a cute place and we wanted to try it. Not sure it's open for dinner but we'll find out. We get there 20 minutes before closing! And yes, they are still serving. Really cool place: small and "trendy". We have Elk Burgers, served with roasted potatoes, a vegetable brochette, and a sour cream sauce, plus all kind of tasty spices… Yummy! For dessert, we have the "Million Berry Crumble" and a lemon cheesecake. Delicious! Great draft beer and wines as well. Highly recommended! The guest book is full of praises. Many other delicious looking options on the menu, and reasonable prices (~$15CDN for entrees). After a 1.5 hour drive, we make it back to Canmore - tired but feeling good.
Pilsner Pillar, Field, BC.
|The "Beer Climbs" on Mount Dennis, by Field, BC.|
|Pilsner Pillar is known for its hard first pitch but continues far above.|
|The infamous first pitch, in very fat conditions.|
|Ready to hit the steeps?|
|Going through the crux.|
|Changing to the right-hand pillar after a rest on the ledge.|
|And on to the top.|
|Sunrise across the valley.|
|Second step; harder than it looks.|
|Third steep pitch - fun and technical.|
|Lucie heading up the last pitch.|
|Dazed and confused...|