Eye of the Storm

 

Lower north face of Storm Mountain. Photo Maarten van Haeren

Eye of the Storm (700 m, M6 WI5) – FA October 16, 2019 Maarten van Haeren and Ethan Berman

Eye of the Storm Topo. Photo Maarten van Haeren

Approach: Hike to Upper Twin Lake, following hiking trails from 93S or Castle Junction (both 2:30-3:00 hrs). Hike N shore of the lake and approach route (1:00-1:30 hours from lake).

Rack: Cams to #3, hexes, pins (two angles, 4 KBs, 3-4 beaks), 10 screws (short and long), 12-14 draws. We thought we had 60m ropes, but they turned out to be 70s.

P1: WI3 70m: Climb easy ice to below steep pillar
P2: WI5 M6, 70m: Climb steep ice for 30m, pull a brief overhang (could be pure ice in good year) and continue up an aesthetic ice goulette, stretching the rope for a sheltered belay.
P3-5: WI3+ snow, 180m: Continue up snow and ice till below the next long ice drip (and a deep chimney on the right)
P6: WI3 M5, 70m: Climb a slanting groove (sustained at grade) on the R side of the ice, gaining the ice flow. Belay here or continue to the end of the ice.
P7: M5, 60m: The one scrappy pitch. From the end of the ice, follow chimney on right. Step onto a ridge notch, then step back left to continue to another ridge (good ledge/ridge belay). The upper corner should be visible from the belay.
P8: M5, 50m: Traverse right from belay and start up the striking quartzite corner. Belay on obvious ledge on right (save a 0.4 cam for anchor).
P9: M6, 60m: Continue up the corner on more great climbing and gear, through a small overlap. Exit corner, move up and R to small ledge and views of the NE face proper.
P10: M4 70m: Step right and continue up the blunt ridge.
P11: M5 70m: Follow a snow/ice gully on right to east ridge of Storm mountain.
Descent: As for east ridge of Storm Mountain. From top out, scramble briefly north and make one 30m rappel (slung block). Walk towards lower Twin Lake (traverse high skiers left), then meet lake at north end.

Maarten starting up Pitch 2. Photo Ethan Berman

After much discussion over thanksgiving dinner at Jim Elzinga’s house (and some primo beta from Ian Welsted), Maarten and I walked to Upper Twin Lake to have a look at an unclimbed line on the lower north face of Storm Mountain. Conditions seemed really good, shin deep snow and a light freeze overnight at 2000 m. Plus, our friends Max and Paul had made an attempt on the route two days prior, and there was a track straight to the base of this unclimbed route! You don’t get that everyday after morning coffee…

Following the upper runnel of Pitch 2. Photo Maarten van Haeren

They had bailed after a pitch and a half, simply “not feeling it”, which Brandon would later attribute to their “west-coast-ness”, being in touch with their feelings and what not. Not a bad attribute to have if you ask me. Being simply 3 hours from the road, why not bail if you’re not feeling it? Our generation has nothing to show in the realm of alpine masochism.

Pitch 4. Photo Maarten van Haeren

Anyways, Maarten led us up two fantastic pitches of ice (WI3/5), complete with a mixed finish (M6) with bomber gear above the “not feeling it” equalized bail anchor. Above was a beautiful thin runnel of ice, steep but with good stems, which was what dreams are made of. We were fired up.

Pitch 6 mixed. Photo Maarten van Haeren

I led past steps of WI3 ice and deep snow, slogging to the base of the hanging ice pitch, which was the most distinct feature from the base. It ended up being a fantastic, sustained pitch of M5+ o quartzite into 30 m of WI3. A 70 m rope stretcher.

Maarten on the scrappy pitch 7. Photo Ethan Berman

Maarten took back over, leading through blocky terrain to the upper snow band and the land of steep long dihedrals. We hummed and hawed, wondering about the time committment of the terrain above. A classy “traverse” was proposed to the ridgeline, but after a bit of encouragement Maarten stepped up for two pitches of incredible corner climbing. The left wall was polished slab interspersed with perfect edges and ledges, and the right wall gave good gear and hooks. The position and exposure were phenomenal.

Maarten starting up the corner pitch 8. Photo Ethan Berman
Maarten starting up Pitch 9. Photo Ethan Berman
Exposure at the top of pitch 9. Photo Ethan Berman

There was no question that I was to take back over up front, leading two 70 m pitches of moderate mixed up to the ridge proper. There was no longer any thought of the summit, as darkness crept in, wind picked up, and snow stated to fall. The east ridge heading up didn’t look enticing either, and would have definitely been a change of style from the 700 m of new terrain we just climbed. We marched down to Lower Twin Lake, making one rappel off the ridge and unfortunately getting lost and cliffed out above the lake (cut skiers left hard!!!).

Starting Pitch 10. Photo Maarten van Haeren

After 16-ish hours on the move, Maarten, being the gentleman that he is, prepared two freeze-dried meals and saved me from a Snickers dinner. We drifted off into the night and woke under a blanket of fresh snow and a soaking wet tent. We hiked out and were back to Canmore by noon, myself to Calgary for a work conference starting that evening. With bad weather on either side of our ascent, the eye of the storm certainly delivered. Solid crew…much more to come.

Pitch 10 belay. Photo Ethan Berman
The route caked in fresh snow the morning after. Photo Maarten van Haeren