This House Of Sky -- Mar 29, 2008

Elevation Gain: 150 meters (492 feet)

Climbed by: me, MarkL.

This was to be the first "real" ice climb I'd been on. Mark had taken me up some single-pitch stuff at King Creek, the Junkyards, and Heart Creek, but this was supposed to be 500m of ice climbing and hiking. My work-related travel kept this from happening (for me) til nearly April, but Mark had been out on the same climb the weekend before.

Mark and I had both looked at the weather forecast and determined that there shouldn't be more than a couple centimeters of snow in the Ghost. Mark, as I mentioned, had been there only a week before, and the conditions were free of snow. We got out there, and there was at least 35-40 cm of fairly new snow. The snow made it impossible for me to see the obstacles in the riverbed at the bottom of the Big Hill, so we were in the process of turning around to go home when a couple guys in a full-size Toyota truck came down the Big Hill. The driver opened his window and said "What, packing it in already?". I explained the issues in driving my truck through the riverbed without knowing where all the big rocks were, and he said he'd go first. That certainly improved my confidence. This way, if one of us got stuck or otherwise incapacitated, at least there'd be someone else there to help out. The two guys were heading south, and we were heading north, so we soon parted ways, but they stuck around until they saw that we were at the top of the berm in the middle of the riverway. Thanks guys!

It didn't take long before we were at the marker for "kilometer" 39 -- the markers are most certainly not 1km apart, so I don't know what they really mean, but we stopped before crossing the creek, which is the important part.

Mark debated for a while about whether to walk through the creek. I wasn't exactly "for" the idea, as I didn't relish the thought of spending the day with wet and cold feet. So we found what might have been the trail on the hillside to the left of the creek, and slipped our way partly around the first bend in the creek. Mark declared that it was unsafe to stay as high as we were on a trail that may or may not even exist, and may or may not be covered in ice, and was definitely several meters above the creek -- a slide and fall into the creek would be bad news. So we slid and skidded down the hill before the official end of the trail. We had to walk across the creek in a couple places, but it was low and there were rocks not too-deeply submerged to use as stepping stones. No wet feet! The gaiters probably helped a lot (thanks Mick!)

We found the cut-line and trudged down it to its end, then walked up the valley toward the base of the climb. All the while, we remarked to each other that the snow sure was deep! In places, it was almost two feet deep. We finally reached what Mark reckoned was the bottom of the climb, and geared up.

Mark solo'd each of the pitches that we did, then set up a top-rope for me. The plan was to use bolts rather than building his own anchors, but we never did find any bolts. We assume that they were buried under the snow.

The snow kept coming down, almost the whole time we were out. The higher we got, the deeper the snow got. It was piled up quite high where it had slid off the walls of the gully, but we managed to plow through it. Eventually, though, the snow got too deep. Just before what would have been our fourth pitch, we were turned back mostly by the clock, and partly by the 8-foot accumulation of snow we had to get through. We plowed most of the way through, but it was tiring work. It certainly made us both wish we had brought back-country skis, or at least some snowshoes! Mark said if it had been windy, we'd have been in "full on" winter conditions!

I had a blast. My boots kept my feet warm, I had some thin thermal underwear on, extra socks, two light jackets (one fleece and one waterproof semi- breathable jacket over that), and good (though wet) gloves, so I was comfortable. If we'd have got an earlier start, or rather if we hadn't spent so much time at the bottom of the Big Hill, probably we could have climbed a couple more pitches, but as it was, I was happy to turn around when we did because it meant the drive home would (probably) be before the sun set. We didn't know if the Big Hill would be passable with all the new snow, but it was just fine!