Their trip may have been overshadowed and foreshortened by the small matter of a grizzly bear attack (UKC News Report), but this didn't stop Nick Bullock and Greg Boswell ticking-off some stern-looking lines whilst climbing in the Canadian Rockies.
They began with The Real Big Drip WI5-6 M9 - an impressive 5-pitch mixed line featuring a hanging fang of ice, located in a steep cirque in the Ghost River area. Having scoped the access and line of the climb the previous afternoon, they were ready for an attempt the next morning.
Greg wrote in his blog:
"The wind was still in full force and the hanging ice above seemed to shudder with every powerful gust that ripped around the cirque. But we geared up and got ready for battle all the same."
After struggling with a blank rock section on the first pitch which had come about due to a recent rockfall, Greg decided to down-climb back to the base and let Nick suss it out, working the thin moves through the roof after suffering from hot aches. Greg attempted the pitch again with success. He wrote:
"What an an amazing pitch! This pitch was originally graded Canadian M7 but is now thought to be more around the M9 mark due to all the rock fall and holds breaking off."
Easier ice pitches followed, but not without danger, as a huge gust of wind broke off a fang of ice which narrowly missed Greg:
"I heard a yell from Nick and in that split second I was certain the wind hard plucked him from the wall. As I looked up and got ready for my harness to get pulled tight, I realised Nick was still attached to the wall, but the huge fang that loomed above wasn’t! I watched it crash down into the exact place that I had decided not to use for my belay, despite the guidebook's recommendation and then topple off the ledge to the ground below."
Next on their list was Dawn of the Dead M8+/ WI6, 140m on the Stanley Headwall featuring a mix of face climbing, roof pulling and a technical, teetery ice section high up. Greg wrote in his blog:
"The route was really fun and I was super psyched to get on such an interesting and varied climb. It goes at M8+/ WI6, 140m, and I’m told by locals, that it has spat off a fair few climbers over the years, so I was psyched to get the onsight on this striking line, despite having to have a few stern words with myself when I was teetering about in the very thin and brittle ice high on the first pitch."
The following day the pair had a rest day before returning to the Stanley Headwall. This time the neighbouring route Nightmare on Wolf Street M7+ WI6+ was on the cards, including two big steep ice pillars, started and intersected by mixed rock walls. Greg commented:
"This was another outrageously good route and it’s amazing how many world class lines the Headwall has to offer. I can’t wait to go back sometime in the future for some more mixed madness!"
Unfortunately their next objective - Dirty Love M7, 12 pitches, ca. 500+m - was foiled by the unexpected arrival of a grizzly bear which attacked the pair and severely injured Greg, as widely reported in the mainstream media. Greg required hospitalisation for deep wounds in his lower leg and thankfully escaped from the ordeal with quick-thinking assistance from Nick.
Nick described the climb and gave a gripping account of the attack in his blog:
"After Nightmare on Wolf Street, we thought we would try going big and attempt the second ascent of a climb called Dirty Love. Dirty Love is a five hundred metre, twelve pitch Alpine climb, high on Mt Wilson which is off the Icefields Parkway, the road that runs from Lake Louise to Jasper. No coffee shops, no people, wilderness, emptiness, alone… almost!
"Greg was behind. “Bear, aaaaaaargh.” I spun to watch Greg sprint past me and in hot pursuit was a Grizzly. The bear bounded, pulling and pushing the snow with powerful legs. The snow lapped its belly and didn’t appear to slow it. Greg ran out of sight and the carnivorous freight train passed me, snorting and growling and bounding, dusting me with spindrift – it looked at me for a second, and for a second I thought this is it, this is really fucking it, but in that second the bear had spotted Greg had fallen."