This House of Sky (WI2-5, 12 pitches) in The Ghost

This House of Sky. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Grade: WI2-5

Length: 10+ pitches, 500m (1,640 feet)

Gear: crampons (duh), ice tools (duh), ice screws, anchor building material (many of the pitches’ tops have chains, but not all), one 50m rope

Remarks: Have fun!! (And don’t fall, duh).  Many climbing parties end the climb at the amphitheatre.  If you’re fast enough you can get in some climbing in the amphitheatre.  Also, though make sure avy conditions are safe for climbing here.  In the slot canyon, there’s isn’t avy concern.  Also though, be sure to accurately take into account how long the 10 raps + some downclimbing will take to get down.

I knew it was going to be an interesting day to say the least when Jason told me we would shoot to be in the vicinity of The Ghost around 9am that way if the car gets stuck there will

Driving through The Ghost. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

hopefully be other people there to haul our car out.  Oh yeah, adventure here we come!  The second indicator, a climb with 10 raps + some downclimbing.  This House of Sky is a classic Canadian Rockies ice climb. It’s 500m (for those who are counting, that’s 1,640 ft of elevation gain!) of climbing (10-12 pitches up and 10 raps down), with breathtaking views.  The grade ranged from WI2-5.  This House of Sky weaves it’s way through a slot canyon.  It’s located in The Ghost, a region that is lovingly referred to by the locals as The Wild Wests.  It promises and delivers wild adventures; it’s remote, often with an unpredictable approach and is notorious for being a car-eater.  As the Canadian Rockies ice climbing guide states – the Ghost is all about quality adventure.  Cars frequently get stuck going in or out due to very high snow drifts and many people don’t even make it all the way in due to these difficulties.  The Ghost is a beautiful place, so as long as you get in and out in one piece, enjoy the adventure.

Due to the near impossibility of finding a copy of The Canadian rockies ice climbing book, it’s out of print, here’s the directions into The Ghost:

Instructions on Getting to The Ghost.

Getting to The Ghost

If you plan to head into The Ghost don’t forget to bring a sturdy shovel and be prepared to do some digging.  Also, be sure to bring supplies in case you have to spend the night in your car due to not being able to get out.

Our approach had a little excitement, high snow drifts forced us to have to dig the car out once. And the “road” once we turned off the main roads looked more like we were off-roading it than actually on a road.  Jason masterfully maneuvered the SUV through snow that perpetually threatened to eat the car, around and over rocks and dirt mountains, and dodging trees.  We ended up parking 2km from the climb (instead of the standard 1km) because it was too questionable as to whether or not the car could make it the last 1km.  The hike to the base of the climb involved 3 river crossings.  At -15 deg C, it was so cold that if any water slashed on you it instantly froze.

Again, due to the difficulty in finding the Canadian Rockies ice climbing book (and my dis-interest in reinventing the wheel) here’s the details on the approach:


Details on approach.

This House of Sky meanders through a slot canyon. The grades vary widely throughout the climb, from WI2-5.  There are plenty of good spots to pass slower teams, so if it’s crowded don’t necessarily be deterred.  The ice, on this particular day, range from bullet hard, to brittle, to slushy-like (soft, wet with water cascading down).  Whether you prefer the term slushly or slurpee-esck, either way that ice is unprotectable because screws won’t reliably hold.  Plus, tools and crampons can blow more easily, making it difficult to lead up.  Jason used great care when leading this pitch and we safely made it up.  I loved that around every turn, as  we wound our way through the slot canyon, was a surprise at what we would find.  It’s one interesting climb.  The views of the rugged mountains in the background were incredible. Here some snapshots from This House of Sky.

Digging out the car. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.


Hiking to This House of Sky. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

An amazing ice climb we saw as we hiked in The Ghost. This area abounds with quality climbs. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Hiking in the Ghost. The peak off in the distance is one that dominates the lanscape of Banff. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Entrance to the slot Canyon of This House of Sky. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Jason leading the first pitch of This House of Sky. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

All smiles on pitch 2. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Climbing through the windy slot canyon. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Another nice vertical pitch. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

More slot canyon action. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

On pithc??. At this point I started to lose count. It was going to be a lot of raps. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

More awesome climbing. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Last pitch of This House of Sky before the amphitheatre. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

It was so cold that Jason's umbilical wasn't very umbilically or bendy. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Beautiful views from the top of the climb. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.


The amphitheatre at the top of This House of Sky. Unfortunately between questionable avy condtions and a lack of time we couldn't explore the climbs above This House of Sky. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

And then it was time to rap. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

...and rap.... Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

...and rap x 10. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

This House of Sky was a great climb!! It took us a total of 13 hours to get into The Ghost, climb and get back to civilization.  The Ghost lived up to it’s name as the Wild West, delivering on adventure, fun and great climbing!  I highly recommend this classic climb.

Day 2 of my time in Canmore, involved a little less mileage, but the trade off was learning some great lead ice skills at King’s Creek and Grotto Falls.

~ by Genevieve Hathaway on December 10, 2010.

4 Responses to “This House of Sky (WI2-5, 12 pitches) in The Ghost”

  1. […] Elliot Left-Hand Gully III WI 4 200m: David Thompson Highway, AB [link] [link] […]

  2. […] This House of Sky […]

  3. […] Check out Barry Blanchard’s Top 10 Fat Ice Moderates in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a great list of great climbs.  And I’ve checked off one of them: This House of Sky. […]

  4. […] The busiest day of the year was December 13th with 101 views. The most popular post that day was This House of Sky (WI2-5, 12 pitches) in The Ghost. […]

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