Today is Saturday - not a very good day to spend on the Weeping Wall. We decide to take a break from the crowds and go check out several lines in the Beauty Creek drainage. This drainage is a short drive away from the "Big Bend" where we spent the last couple of nights, so we don't start too early.

It is unusually cold for this time of the day when we arrive at the trailhead but we decide to hike up and take a look at the climbs anyway. "Shades of Beauty" and "Memorial Falls" can be seen from the parking lot, high on a cliff band on the right side of the Beauty Creek drainage. "Stanley Falls Senior" is another waterfall located across the valley from the other two (can't see it from the trailhead). The approach to the climbs takes about 90 minutes - gentle at first, wandering along a pretty canyon, then follows steep slopes up and right to the base of the climbs.

The weather is not improving - it's really cold and windy. We seek shelter by a small rock outcrop while we get ready. My hands are so cold that I can barely feel them. I have to resort to heat packs for the first time since we started the ice season in Canada. I tuck them inside my gloves on the back of my hands. This provides a few extra calories to the blood flowing to the fingers.

I set off to lead the first pitch. The heating packs are helping; I am starting to feel my fingers again. After a first steep section, the first pitch follows low angle ice to a good ledge. The climbing is easy but the ice is very brittle and "dishes" all over the place. I get it over with quickly, set up a belay and bring Eric up.

The second tier is only about 20m long but it is much steeper. The ice is not very straightforward. It's the hard stuff - cold and brittle - nothing like the plastic and even wet ice we experienced on the Weeping Wall two days ago. I place two screws and reach another big ledge where I belay.

For the third pitch, I pick a line more or less in the middle of the curtain. This last tier is longer and more sustained (about 50m). It ends at a bolt anchor on a broad ledge below a steep rock wall. Not aware of the anchor, I end up belaying Eric off screws at a small stance on the ice just below the ledge.

To descend, we rappel the last pitch from the beefy anchor. From there, it's an easy walk around the right and back to the base of the climb.

Back at our packs, we're shocked to find that the top pockets of our packs have been unzipped and that all the contents are scattered around. Of course, the food is missing - all our GU's are gone, as well as a zipper bag containing Ibuprofens! The very same thing had happened a couple days earlier at the Weeping Wall. That day, we had found our first aid kit and all its contents scattered on the snow. We'd never seen anything like it! What animal could have caused that? Whatever it is, these little rascals are heading for an Ibuprofen overdose...

We gather our things, empty all pack pockets, and open all zippers, then get ready to climb "Memorial Falls", a narrow, single pitch line just right of "Shades of Beauty" that rarely forms. It seems to be in excellent shape so we head up.

Eric's lead. He climbs a few feet on low angle ice and sets up a belay at the base of the narrow flow. From there, it's a full pitch on steep ice to a fixed anchor. The climbing is pretty hard because the ice is so cold and brittle again. At the top of the pitch, Eric is afraid to touch anything - every tool placement releases large dishes! He finally makes it to the anchor and belays me up. I hook a lot, trying to swing my tools as little as possible to avoid breaking more ice. A double-rope rap brings us down.

Coming down, we can see ravens circling above our packs and we literally run down making as much noise as possible. As unreal as it may sound, ravens have learned to open zippers! We later found out that this has happened to many other climbers in the area; warnings of zipper-savvy ravens are posted on the web!

A quick stroll down the steep slopes, then down the canyon and we're back at the car. On our way back to the "Big Bend", we stop to look at "Curtain Call", another of the Rockies' famous classics, reputed to be very hard. It looks really steep and, if the ice is anything like in the Beauty Creek drainage (i.e., very brittle), this could turn out to be pretty nightmarish.... so we're just content to scope it from a distance.

Shades of Beauty & Memorial Falls, AB

March 6, 2004 / WI4, 120m & WI5, 55m
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Roadside winter camping on the Parkway at the "Big Bend".
 
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The Beauty Creek trailhead. "Shades of Beauty" and "Memorial Falls" are visible near the center of the picture.
 
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Hiking up the beautiful canyon.
 
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"Shades of Beauty" is on the left, "Memorial Falls" on the right.
 
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Hiking up the steep slopes leading to the climbs.
 
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Lucie starting the first pitch of "Shades of Beauty".
 
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Almost through with the steep section.
 
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Looking across the valley toward "Stanley Falls Senior" (WI4).
 
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Placing a screw on the second pitch...
 
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...and another.
 
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Nearing the top of the second pitch.
 
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Lucie starting the last pitch of "Shades of Beauty".
 
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Stopping to place a screw.
 
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Higher up on the third pitch.
 
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Almost there...
 
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Walking around the right (facing down) after rapping the upper pitch.
 
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On the way down to the packs.
 
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The short but sweet "Memorial Falls" (WI5).
 
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Eric all bundled up on the low angle ice leading to the start of the climb.
 
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Starting the real business.
 
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Placing a screw higher up.
 
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Taking a break.
 
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On the steep section just before the top.
 
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Looking back at the route.
 
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Another Rockies classic, the famous "Curtain Call" (WI6).
(high res. images are about 300KB)