Nightmare On Wolf Street: M7+, WI6+, l80m.


Location: Stanley Headwall, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

First Ascent: Dave Thomson, Sean Isaac - April 1997 (pitches 1,2). Dave Thomson, Kefira Allen - Jan/Feb 1999 (pitches 3-6).

Description: Nightmare On Wolf Street is the route that the route next to it,The Day After Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot, always wanted to be. It starts about 20 metres to the right of that climb (see the guidebook WATERFALL ICE) and takes a plumb-line to the top of the cliff. With the exception of French Reality, it is the most obvious icicle on this part of the Stanley Headwall and can be easily seen at the left end of the ledges as a long steep drip broken in two places by short sections of overhanging rock. The lower drip is quite narrow and typically ends in a dagger, while the upper, more massive icefall may form a dagger or a curtain. This one is often broken off at the roof after the first cold snap. Considering the short distance these two drips hang above ground it is surprising the climb never forms as one continuous icefall. Nightmare intersects Mr. Hulot where that route traverses a ledge beneath the second drip and is eventually joined from the right by another rambling aid line not included in the present edition of the guidebook. Despite its unwieldy name, Mr. Hulot is a challenging, excellent route that has likely seen only two complete ascents. The second of these was reportedly done free of aid.

Access: Not the easiest of routes to get to, Nightmare requires a 350-metre traverse of the steep ledges beneath the headwall. The safest time to climb here is usually in November before heavy snowfalls come or at least before the temperature plummets and the snowpack is corrupted by depth hoar. At this time the ice is fresh and often plastic as opposed to brittle and detached later in the season. The first ascent was done in February with an exceptionally heavy accumulation of snow on the ledges and numerous slab avalanches and sluffs set off as a result. Access was made less stressful by a 10-bolt running-belay along the bottom of the cliffs. These bolts will only be accessible with a 5-metre base of spindrift from which to clip them. They begin at the right side of the ledges exactly where the trees end. Getting to this point was done on skis, taking a winding zig-zag route up through the fire-burn from the popular Stanley ski trail and over the obvious shoulder; then traversing through the band of trees beyond. There are several bad slopes to cross on this last section from the shoulder. (See the guidebook WATERFALL ICE by Joe Josephson for alternative access straight up from the valley floor.) The time of approach to the base of the climb from the parking area at the trailhead is about two hours, but this can be cut down to one-and-a-half hours in good conditions.


Pitch #1: M7+, 20 metres. Begin at a two-bolt belay below and just to the left of an obvious right trending, right facing corner with the dagger hanging above. Climb a short section of face to access the corner and continue past 9 bolts to gain the ice briefly before reaching another two-bolt belay behind a narrow free-standing pillar. As the ice section on this pitch is short and fairly straightforward it is not necessary to bring more than one screw.

Pitch #2: WI5+, 45 metres. climb the short pillar, which may be a bit fragile, and then a narrow stringer of good quality ice to the prominent ledge where this route crosses Mr. Hulot. Stop at an obvious two-bolt belay.

Pitch #3: M7+, WI6+, 25 metres. Climb an easy, pyramid shaped protrusion of rock to a bolt and then go straight up to the roof before pulling left onto the drip. There are five bolts before the roof and two after: one is just over the lip with a sling on it and the other is about 3 metres up from there just slightly to the left. Both of these may be covered by ice. The last bolt was installed to prevent a groundfall as the ice through this section sounds hollow enough to collapse. The rock wall here and above is very steep with many small roofs, so there are few places for the ice to get a decent grip. (In 97/98 the drip broke off about l5 metres up.) Climb gently and continue another l0 metres to a two-bolt belay in an alcove immediately to the right of the main pillar. This is the last bolted belay and it too may be covered by ice if the drip is exceptionally fat. (OOPS! Forgot to tighten the nut on the left bolt. Bring a small adjustable wrench and turn clockwise.)

Pitch #4, #5 and #6: A total of 85 metres of climbing on WI5 and WI6 ice. Good belays are to be had behind and to the right of the upper pillars. The first of these belays is about 40 metres up. After this point the quality of the ice improves and the difficulties diminish, relatively speaking. The last two pillars can be climbed as one pitch. (Spelunkers note: There is an interesting little cave behind the base of the upper pillar.)

Descent: Getting down is reasonably straightforward. Use ice anchors for the first two raps, which will reach the bolt belay on the ledge at the base of pitch three. From here, double 60-metre ropes will reach the ground. Alternately, break this into two short steps by stopping at the bolt belay at the top of pitch one.
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Copyright White Spider, 1999
Copyright David Thomson, 1999