Location: Mount Patterson, Banff National
Description: A spectacular route in a high-energy environment, Rocket Man is comprised of an unlikely looking series of drips and daggers hanging down the steep cliffs on the north side of the amphitheatre that is usually visited by climbers wanting a shot at Riptide (see the guidebook WATERFALL ICE). Rocket Man is at least half again as long as Riptide but has a slightly shorter approach. Altogether there are nine pitches of climbing, the first two of WI3 providing a warm-up for the steep M7 and WI5 pitches above. By fortunate geological coincidence, the bedding planes of the local limestone slope down into the cliff, resulting in many positive edges for enjoyable drytooling .
Access: More or less the same as for Riptide. Park at at a roadside pullout on the west side of the highway about 7 kilometres north of Bow Summit (this is a short distance beyond the bottom of the long hill). The route is somewhat obvious on the steep cliffs at the north end of the amphitheatre along with another icicle to the right. From the pullout ski down and across the bottom of the valley, then up an open streambed onto a small circular plateau. Continue between a pair of moraines and branch right to avoid what may be a remnant of glacier. Ditch the skis at the base of the huge slope under the climb and slog on up to the ice. At time of first ascent (March /April 99) this slope was stable but numerous slides come down onto it from the steeper slopes above. Expect morning sun to bring down chunks of cornice. The Snowbird Glacier hanging on the cliffs between Riptide and Rocket Man is not frequently active but when seracs do fall the detritus can spread out over a huge expanse (affects approach only). Note that there is also an avalanche slope feeding directly onto the top of Rocket Man itself. All in all this is not a real safe place to climb. Given average conditions, expect the approach to take from 2-2.5 hours. There is a protected alcove in which to gear-up on the right side of the snowslope across from the start of the ice.
Pitch #1: 50m. WI3 Climb 25 metres of
fat blue ice, then swim up the snowslope to a two-bolt belay at a small
rock band directly above. The bolts are on the left-hand side of the right-facing
corner under a small roof and may be obscured by spindrift. There is also
a belay on the rockband at the left side of the base of this pitch, which
may also require some excavation.
Pitch #2: 50m.
WI3 Move right and then either climb a sloping, right facing corner on
thin ice with good natural gear or continue right and go up a steep snowslope
to the bottom of the next icefall. Move left here and climb 10m. of thin
ice which leads to a short steep pillar. At this juncture (before you
climb the pillar) a single bolt is visible to the left. Move past it into
a small alcove with a two-bolt belay.
Pitch #4: 25m. WI5 Move right from the alcove on a steep curtain, then go straight up to a two-bolt belay at the top right-hand side of the ice. A thinner and somewhat rotted ice flow, farther right, could also be attempted as a variation of pitches #5 and #6.
Pitch #5: 40m.
M7 Move right from the belay and go up into a steep corner, then move
right again to access a narrow vein of ice (8 bolts). Continue in a beautiful
right-facing corner (M5) with narrow discontinuous cracks on the left-hand
wall for pins and some small friends and tcu's. The ice will take medium
screws and stubbies in many places but the rock gear is reassuring. Four
pins were left in situ on the lower section.There is also a bolt where
the difficulties diminish at a small sloping ledge. Stop at a two-bolt
belay on the left-hand side of this ledge. This is an excellent pitch.
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Copyright © White Spider, 1999
Copyright © David Thomson, 1999