After an aborted attempt on Wicked Wanda a month earlier (when we had found the climb horribly wet), we're back to climb it. It has been very cold the past couple of days so we're hoping to find the climb reasonably dry this time. We stop at the top of the Big Hill to put chains on all 4 tires as we anticipate quite a bit of snow from the recent storm. We manage not to get stuck (these little Jeeps really lack clearance in deep snow) and make it to Devil's Gap in exactly two hours from Canmore. Today is Sunday so we're there before dawn, hoping to beat the crowds from Calgary.

We follow old boot tracks to the base of the climb. The approach is easy and relatively short, taking only 45 to 50 minutes from the car. Wicked Wanda is about 60m long but is usually climbed in two pitches. Since the base is in a very narrow funnel, climbing the route in one pitch with a 60m rope would force the belayer to move right into the line of fire as the leader approaches the top. Not recommended.

The first pitch follows 70 to 80° ice to a good belay cave with a fixed piton anchor on the left. The second pitch is usually harder. It also looks genuinely "wicked" as the high winds common to this area blow drips out and create unique overhanging mushrooms and caves.

We take our time gearing up at the base: there is nobody else around yet and it is quite cold. Eric quickly leads the first pitch, finding horrendously hard and brittle ice (about the worst we've ever encoutered). He sets up a belay in the protected cave on the left. When I'm almost done following the pitch, I see another party arriving at the base. We won't have the climb to ourselves after all! After a short break in the cozy cave, Eric heads up the second pitch, following the left edge of the ice flows to circumvent the giant overhangs. It is steeper than the first pitch but turns out to be more straightforward because of the much better ice.

From the top, we have great views of Phantom Crag. "Malignant Mushroom", a great long pitch we climbed a while back, looks striking from here.

A full rap brings us down to our packs. A nice stroll down later, we're back at the car. We still have plenty of time for another climb but it's the week-end and every climb is probably taken by now. Besides, we're planning a longer climb for the next day so we're leaving the Ghost early after an easy day. We drive back to Canmore, stopping at the Big Hill again to remove the chains and talk about our next goal.

 

Wicked Wanda, South Ghost, AB

February 8, 2004 / WI4+, 60m
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Early start at the South Ghost parking area (Devil's Gap).
 
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Wicked Wanda as seen from the approach...
 
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...and from much closer.
 
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The "wicked" looking second pitch. Easy on the left or right edges though.
 
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Getting ready at the base.
 
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Eric starting the first pitch.
 
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Higher on the first pitch. This pitch was unbelievably brittle.
 
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Approaching the belay cave. Note that the climb could just be done in one full pitch but this would severely expose the belayer to ice fall; not recommended.
 
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Taking a break in the comfy belay cave.
 
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Lucie following the 2nd pitch.
 
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Removing the last screw.
 
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Views of Phantom Crag across the Gap from the top.
 
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Hiking back down.
 
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The sign at the top of the Big Hill marks the entrance to the Ghost.
 
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Ghost routine - taking off the chains.
(high res. images are about 300KB)