On February 23, we're driving to the South Ghost to attempt "The Candle Stick Maker", a climb that sits high in a bowl on the East Face of Orient Point. The drive in is uneventful - we don't even have to put chains on this time - and we're below the cliff at sunrise. Not knowing if the climb is formed, we scope it with binoculars. We can barely make out the crux pillar, but we can clearly see a snow pillow just above the route that we really don't like. The upper part of the climb is and will remain in the sun for a couple of hours. We both have a bad feeling about it. Bad vibes... so we decide to drive to the North Ghost instead and have a mellow day out on "This House of Sky".
"This House of Sky" is one of the most popular climbs in the Ghost. You can expect several parties on it most week-ends. It is a long and mellow climb with short steps of WI3 ice between long sections of snow. The canyon is beautiful though, similar in feel to the Valley of the Birds. The approach is great too - only 10 minutes if you can make it to the "official" parking spot. Otherwise, expect 30 to 40 minutes from your car if you park near the GBU.
The river is not frozen today so we make it across easily and are able to drive all the way to then end. A short walk up the canyon (take the right fork - the left one leads to Phantom Falls) and we're at the base. It's kind of late (9AM) but it is mid-week and we're the only party there.
Not knowing what to expect, we're carrying ropes and lead gear up the climb but we end up soloing the short steps. It's actually really fun to climb side by side and we're having a great time. Several short steps and a lot of snow slogging in between and we reach a huge bowl. This is the end of the "official" climb - most people rap or walk off from here.
But what's the rush? It's still early and we see a couple of steeper and longer ice steps high in the bowl. We decide to go check them out. After 20 minutes walking up snow slopes, we make it to the base of the first step: a short but sweet WI4 pitch. At least, we did not carry the ropes for nothing. We rope up and I lead the step. It's fun climbing on virgin ice. I place two screws and bring Eric up. From where we are, we enjoy beautiful views of Devil's Head. Above this first step, more snow slogging leads to a longer WI3/4 pitch. My lead again. I end up the pitch just short of the base of a hidden gully. Eric goes up to take a look but finds only snow - it seems it is the end of the climbing for today.
Two raps down and some downclimbing bring us back to the bowl. From the bottom of the bowl, you can either follow the flagged descent to the right (climber's right that is) or rap and downclimb the route. We chose the latter option, downclimbing most of it. I am a bit more of a chicken than Eric, so I end up rapping two steeper sections. Note that there are tree anchors and Abalakovs all over the place so rapping is not a problem, although it is probably quicker to walk off. On the drive back to Canmore, we enjoy one more beautiful Ghost sunset. A fun day in the mountains.
This House of Sky, North Ghost, AB
|Beautiful sunrise over the steep limestone cliffs of the South Ghost.|
|The official parking spot for "Phantom Falls" and "This House of Sky".|
|Approaching the base of "This House of Sky".|
|Going up the first step.|
|Taking a break.|
|More soloing short steps...|
|...up the beautiful canyon.|
|Lots of snow slogging in between step.|
|More of the same.|
|It's fun to be able to climb side by side.|
|Trying to catch up with Eric.|
|Reaching the top of a longer step at the end of the "official" climb.|
|The climb "officially" ends in a scenic bowl. We kept on going finding two steeper and longer pitches high in the bowl.|
|The first of two steeper pitches higher in the bowl.|
|Starting up the pitch...|
|...and placing my first screw.|
|Nearing the top of the first step.|
|Nice views of Devil's Head.|
|Above my first screw on the second of the upper pitches.|
|Higher up on that pitch.|
|Near the top.|
|On our way down.|
|Enjoying the sunset on the drive home.|