"The Sorcerer" was one of our "dream" climbs. Ever since Lucie read about it in a Rock&Ice magazine the year we started ice climbing, she kept raving about it. And I have to admit, the real thing is even better... "The Sorcerer" is one of the best WI5 lines anywhere - a gorgeous climb, long and steep in a remarkable setting. It sits high in a cirque surrounded by golden Dolomite-like walls in the North Ghost.
After climbing in the Valley of the Birds, we hiked out early to set up camp near the start of the approach to "The Sorcerer". We went to scope out the approach first. It looked good and followed packed tracks along an old roadbed. We then found a nice camp spot on the river bed and set up the tent on a smooth patch of fine river gravel, some distance away from a "kitchen" area with a fire ring. We used the old Preying Mantis (an odd-looking tent made by Quest) - boy is this thing complicated even with color-coded poles! But comfy once erected.
We found a stash of old 2x4 pieces nearby and used it for firewood. Only the second time ever we have a fire while camping (first was below the Incredible Hulk in the California Sierras). This time we're burning ugly waste wood though, and our ring will be washed away by the river in the spring, so this was a near-zero-impact fire. The way they should be (or not be at all).
The night was relatively mild, but the fire felt good nonetheless. For dinner, we had three cans of beans with sausage, usually a pretty safe bet, but this one was BAD! Can't believe how much sugar they put in this crap. We rinsed it down with a bit of Tequila… it helped!
After a long night (the longest of the year) of sleep and a hearty breakfast, we left half-an-hour before sunrise. The approach to "The Sorcerer" is about 90 minutes long, pleasant and easy to follow. We followed a cut-line to the first Johnson Lake, and then contoured the lake and hiked through steep timber to reach the Sorcerer cirque.
Once we reached the base, we rested for quite a while as Eric was feeling a bit down (he would be coming down with the flu a couple of days later), then finally decided to go for it. We could always rap down if Eric did not feel up to it.
We climbed "The Sorcerer" in 5 pitches. The first pitch is short and pretty easy (about 30m) and leads to a belay and an ice anchor on the left. The second pitch follows a short WI4 pillar to easier terrain, passing a bolted rappel anchor where the gully narrows.
From there, the standard route goes up right to a large cave (obvious on the photograph at left), halfway up the upper curtain, then traverses left out of the cave and up the final curtain. Eric was feeling better at this point so we decided to take a more direct and nicer line up the left side. That line (marked on photo at left) follows a shallow depression on vertical ice for two pitches, with a few overhanging features thrown in for added entertainment. The downside of that choice was the difficulty in finding an adequate (protected) belay before the last pitch.
Lucie led a 3rd pitch (WI3) to a small cave on the left side, at the base of the steep curtain. The two pitches of WI5 from here to the top were amazing (they are about 35 meters each)! Steep and on good ice, some of the hardest sustained climbing we've done. Eric had a hard time finding a protected belay at the end of the 4th pitch. He initially traversed a bit to the left hoping to find good ice to establish a belay anchor. Unfortunately, the ice was chandeliered and he was unable to find a decent anchor. He finally traversed a few meters to the right and chopped a stance below a small overhang that would offer protection from falling ice on the next pitch. Another steep WI5 pitch leads to the top of the wall.
Three full 60m raps brought us down. The top two rap anchors were double Abalakovs (we only had to set one Abalakov for each anchor; the other was already in place). The third anchor was the bolted anchor located on the cleft on the left where the gully narrows.
We were back down just before dark and made our way back to the jeep by headlamp. There was another party camped right at the parking area who would probably attempt the climb the next day. We went back to our camp on the river bed, dismantled the tent and took off. A long day but one of the very best climbs we've ever done!
The Sorcerer, North Ghost, AB
|Enjoying a good fire (on gravel river bed, brought the wood, dismantled ring).|
|One of the best looking routes we've seen (note similarity with "Bourgeau Left"). Our route in red.|
|Short WI4 pillar on second pitch.|
|Lucie on the 3rd pitch...|
|...which leads to a nice, protected belay.|
|Following the fourth pitch (very steep and continuous).|
|Foot, foot, tool,...|
|It's a long one!|
|Taking out the last screw.|
|Traversing to the hanging belay.|
|View of Black Rock Mountain.|
|4th belay (hanging).|
|Starting up the 5th pitch.|
|Another steep one!|
|Finishing the last (5th) pitch.|
|Views from the top (looking southeast).|
|Back to comfort after a long day.|