Local history was in the making. We could all feel it as local ice climber Ross Ballard started placing screws, leading the very first ascent of one of several as-yet unclimbed icefalls in Tete Canyon near Tete Jaune. Two weeks ago I ran a profile of the canyon. It amazed me how such an amazing gem could be so unused by local outdoor enthusiasts. Not only are the icefalls beautiful, the canyon walls are a spectacular display of rock faces and minerals during any season of the year. Now the Robson Valley can officially call itself a newly discovered ice climbing destination.
It may surprise some to know that ice climbers have been accessing icefalls in the area for many years. On the East side of Kinbasket Lake there are several known ice climbing areas including Bulldog Canyon. Closer to Blue River, Bone Creek and Serpentine Creek drainages both contain what have been described as unbelievably stunning icefalls and climbers have started to flock there. However, what the Robson Valley has lacked to become a true destination point for ice climbers is a more accessible, easier climbing area. The East Canoe Road down Kinbasket Lake is rarely ploughed in recent winters. Likewise, Bone Creek and Serpentine Creek both usually require snowmobiles to access the icefalls. Jasper National Park is a known world-wide destination for ice climbers, mainly because Highway 93 makes so many higher spectacular icefalls accessible with only a car. But Jasper also has many smaller local gems such as Maligne Canyon and Short Falls. Both are located just a few hundred metres from parking lots, and only a few kilometres from the townsite of Jasper. To have a vibrant local ice climbing culture, you need such an easy-access playground at your doorstep.
The Tete Canyon is just this kind of place. When Ballard first approached me after seeing the photos I took of the ice falls, he had guarded disbelief in his eyes. As he would later say, “It looked too good to be true”. We made our way down into the canyon and the icefalls started to present themselves. The main question everyone is obviously asking is “How the heck has this secret remained for so long?” At the end of the day, it does not matter.
Ross Ballard made the first ascent of “King Tete” on Jan. 29, 2011. To find a 200 foot icefall only 300 metres from your parked vehicle and then be the first to climb it is a privilege Ballard could barely believe. In his own words the Tete Canyon and his being able to claim the first ascent are “fundamentally awesome!”
Written by Joseph Nusse
Photos by Noemi Horvath
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