The REAL Big Drip: M7+, WI7, 200 metres

Location: Ghost River, Alberta

First Ascent: Dave Thomson, Kefira Allen, Eric Dumerac, Sean Isaac. Nov 1998-Jan 1999

Access: Easily visible from the top of the "Big Hill" in a large cirque about three kilometres to the southwest (sticks out like a sore thumb). Descend the Big Hill, cross a dry riverbed and drive about three kilometres south, gradually gaining the west side of the valley bottom. Stop at an obvious seismic cutline which goes steeply up a glacial terrace on the side of the valley. (A four-by-four is handy if you are driving beyond the top of the Big Hill, which is steep and rutted and littered with loose rock. Beware of innocent looking snow drifts down in the valley bottom.) Hike up the cutline for ten minutes, about one kilometre, then bushwhack south through open pine forest to the creek. Climb above the south bank of the creek where it is intersected by a well used horse trail. As the trail levels out at the top of the terrace it splits in two. Follow the right fork and then look for red flagging tape as the trail quickly peters out in the forest. Follow the flagging another kilometre or so into the cirque. The Big Drip itself is visible from many points along the way and provides an impressive backdrop for the last part of the hike. Finally, scramble up gently sloping rock bands to the climb. Given sufficient snow and a solid base, which is more likely in late season, it is possible to ski up the creek instead of bushwhacking. Time required for approach is about one hour to one-and-a-half hours in reasonable conditions. See the guidebook WATERFALL ICE by Joe Josephson for more information.

Real Big Drip

The REAL Big Drip is 200 metres long and is best done in five or six pitches.

Pitch #1: Climb about 27 metres of rock past about 15 bolts to a rest behind a hanging drip. Pull onto the ice and climb another 10 metres to a two-bolt belay under a small roof. Double ropes should be used to avoid drag. The grade of the ice may be WI6 or WI6/7 and a little care must be taken to avoid knocking it down.

Pitch #2: Move left from the belay and climb 25-30 metres of interesting ice formations, finishing at a roomy ice ledge with a two-bolt belay about 3 metres above it on the right. This belay may be covered by ice. On the first ascent of this pitch the left most line was taken, the crux being a WI7 mushroom roof. In fat conditions an easier, more direct line may be possible.

Pitch #3: The second rock pitch takes a line to the left of the large ice ledge, beginning with an upward traverse and then going straight up into the huge right-facing corner above. There are about l3 bolts. The crux is a small roof quite low down but the climbing is more sustained than the first rock pitch. Pulling onto the ice after the last bolt was straightforward during the first ascent but may be more exciting if the ice dagger gets really fat and blocks the way. To avoid rope drag use double ropes or reach back and unclip some of the bolts from above. After gaining the ice, belay in a small cave behind the dagger. This pitch is M7+, 30 metres. The belayer should beware of rock or ice being knocked down by the leader.

Pitch #4: Climb steep WI 4 or 5 ice for a few metres and then continue over easy ground to a small cave behind a curtain a few metres above the large half-way ledge. About 40 metres.

Pitch #5: From the small cave climb left and then up a groove for about 40 metres on WI 5 and WI 4 ice.

Pitch #6: Climb WI4 ice and WI 3 for 30 metres or so until difficulties ease to WI2. It is possible to follow further short steps of ice if more climbing is desired (not too likely).

Descent: The route is best descended by rapelling off ice anchors, although three two-bolt belays can be found on the upper part of the route.The first of these is at the top on the right but it may be covered with ice. The second is 45 metres straight down the cliff from here under a small roof. It should be free of ice and is visible while climbing the fifth pitch. Another is located on the half-way ledge,straight down again, but it is likely to be hidden by snow. Do not rap off this belay but move left several metres and rap down the ice, making sure that the ledge below (at the top of pitch two) will be accessible. Do not rap off the bolt belay at the top of pitch two. This will not provide access to the belay at the top of pitch one, which again is located several metres to the left. Instead, rap off the ice below the first bolt on pitch three and then do one more rap to the ground. Alternately, one can walk off the top of the route by traversing sloping ledges up and right into the cirque immediately to the north. From here it is straightforward to rap the WI3 ice-climb called The Joker and then hike down the valley to the cut-line.

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Copyright White Spider, 1999
Copyright David Thomson, 1999