For our first trip to the Ghost, we chose to go the North Ghost. If the "road" is passable, you can drive all the way to one of the most popular areas, the Valley of the Birds. This charming little canyon has several single and two-pitch lines from WI 2 to WI 5.
Just getting to the Ghost is an adventure in itself as it requires driving on rough road and through car-eating snow drifts. We had heard lots of stories of trucks getting stuck so we came prepared. The first obstacle is to drive down the infamous Big Hill, gateway to both the North and South Ghost. Most cars make it there fine though, even two wheel drives. From the bottom of the Big Hill, it is a 4 mile drive on rough terrain to reach the climbs. A few snow drifts and three river crossings get you to the base of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (GBU).
Leaving Canmore early, we got to the top of the Big Hill just before sunrise. At the bottom of the Hill, after almost getting stuck in deep snow, we put the chains on all 4 tires and got through the rest of the way without a hitch! We did not even have to shovel once... it was a bit exciting in places but not nearly as bad as we had expected. The river was low and not frozen so we forded it without any problem and actually drove right to the base of the GBU! The entrance to the Valley of the Birds is a couple hundred meters further.
A blue WI2 step guards the entrance to the Valley. After negotiating several more small steps, the first climb you come across is Dead Bird (WI3, 60m), reputed to be a pleasant gully climb with a Scottish atmosphere. We moved on to the next climb, Yellow Bird (WI4, 100m) one of the better climbs in the valley. Eric led it in two pitches. After rapping off from trees, we hiked further up the canyon and passed Seagull, another good looking WI4 climb. Seagull looked pretty wet so we continued on to Albatross (WI3, 100m). After climbing Albatross, it was getting late and we started hiking down the canyon toward the car. We made it back to the top of the Big Hill before dark without trouble. Another 90 minute drive brought us back to Canmore.
On December 21, we drove into the Ghost again, this time for a two day, one night camp. We had considered trying The Sorcerer that day, but got seriously stuck in a snow drift after Eric delayed putting the chains onů We ended up digging frenetically for 45 minutes. Even after that, we only got out of the hole once we managed to get the chains on the front tires.
By then, we were too late for The Sorcerer so we decided to go back to the Valley of the Birds for an easy day and climb this mega-classic the next day. We still had to climb The Eagle, a gorgeous WI5 pillar we had scoped from the top of Albatross, and maybe Seagull, another WI4 pillar that is apparently always wet but looks pretty nice anyway. When we parked at the mouth of the Valley of the Birds, another truck was already there. A party of three was just starting into the valley, up the short WI2 ramp into the canyon. Since we had at least two objectives, we'd just do whatever they weren't on. After hiking in, we found them climbing a WI2 on the left, between Seagull and Albatross. We passed the WI4 pillar, which looked even wetter than the first time, and decided to just go for the plum: The Eagle.
We found the pillar in great looking conditions: fat and featured. It looked quite steep but manageable and shorter than it had appeared from far away - only 40 meters or so. A great climb, continuous and on very good ice. A bolted anchor at the top (on the left side) makes coming down a quick, convenient affair. After a bit of lunch, we walked back down the canyon to check out Seagull one more time. We scrambled up the awkward step to the slopes below the pillar, only to find it raining down all around. Not worth getting everything wet for this so we hiked out early to set up camp near the approach of The Sorcerer that we intended to climb the next day.
Valley of the Birds, North Ghost, AB
|Parked on the river bed just below "GBU" and "Angel Eyes".|
|The Valley of the Birds is a charming little canyon.|
|The approach along the canyon has a number of small steps.|
|"Yellow Bird" (second pitch).|
|Climbing the upper pitch of "Yellow Bird" (WI4)|
|Lucie between a rock and a hard place...|
|Interesting ice formation (2in diameter by 2ft).|
|Lucie leading "Albatross".|
|Hiking down the Valley of the Birds (ice slab in background is the first pitch of "Yellow Bird")|
|The impressive "Eagle" (WI5) seen from the top of "Albatross".|
|Lucie in front of "The Eagle".|
|Starting up the gorgeous pillar.|
|Putting in a screw.|
|Almost done with "The Eagle".|
|Rapping off "The Eagle".|
|"Seagull", WI4 (did not climb).|
|An unnamed WI2 flow between "Seagull" and "Albatross" (did not climb).|