By Ross Ballard
On December 27th local mountain man John Crowley and I pulled into the rest stop beside the Little Lost Lake trail head. We shouldered our heavy packs loaded with enough rope, steel and snacks for a day of climbing. Our objective was the beautiful waterfall that feeds the lake and surrounding streams.
First climbed by Eric Hoogstraten in 1986 the 100 meter climb was named "Bonnie is a Babe" and was given a grade of WI2/3. Bonnie is climbed very rarely due to the huge avalanche slope above her; she is also south facing which can make her hollow and unstable for much of the year. John took a hike up to the falls on Christmas Day and found the climb in fat shape. Two days later the temperature had gone from -27 to -7 and we knew the time to finally climb her was here.
Shallow snow made easy walking with no snowshoes and we worked slowly up the steep trail. As we near the falls the approach steepens severely and we take focused footsteps; falling is not an option. We arrive at the base of the falls to find her in amazing condition. John cannot believe how much the ice has grown in two days. Two wet strips of blue streak down the falls revealing freshly formed putty ice. I rack up all twelve screws and start up the widest blue streak. The low angled ice makes easy climbing but is a brutal calf burner. Whenever I place a screw I stomp a good rest in. I climb on as the route gradually steepens and with just two meters remaining in my seventy meter cord I place a two screw anchor and put john on belay. Surprisingly this is Johns first technical ice climb. He has done a ton of mountaineering and alpine climbing though and he takes to the motions naturally. At the anchor John clips in and with around twenty five meters of gently sloping ice left he takes the lead. I show him how to rack up ice screws and he climbs up and right of me. He climbs with confidence placing six screws and is soon at the trees. On belay I climb up the soft ice one swing at a time. This is the nicest ice I have climbed all year; in a hundred meter pitch only a few small shards of ice came off the wall. I find john in a comfy stance at the top and we shake hands; a job well done. While I reorganize our gear John makes a backpack coil with the rope and we trudge uphill to the right and down through the forest to our packs. We eat a few chocolate balls and a butter tart and John melts the ice out of some bunged up screws with his lighter (genius!) we decide to climb the steeper right hand side now and once again John racks up to take his second official ice lead. The first half of the climb is low angled and calf burning, but it soon steepens increasing in grade dramatically. I am impressed with Johns climbing. He works methodically through the steep ice and makes an anchor about sixty five meters up the wall. I start up the climb rejoicing in the single swing sticks of the perfect ice. As I pull each screw from the wall I tap it on the back of my ice tool to knock the ice out of it. After eight screws I reach John. Having cleaned and racked the screws nicely on my way up I clip Johns anchor and keep climbing. The ice is steep and nicely featured and I find great tool placements on my way up to the trees leaving five screws for John to clean. At the top John clips in and while he reorganizes the gear I backpack coil the rope for easy transportation. Once again we hike down right through the forest and arrive at the packs minutes before dark. We discover we both forgot our headlamps so we quickly grab our gear and hit the steep descent before total dark. Once we are back on the main trail we shed our crampons and scoot downhill to the Dodge. We drive back to town totally stoked with our success and park at the Three Ranges for a well-earned pint.
It turns out Bonnie is a Babe!