Today we were joined by another American student. Nino is a sponsored climber and personal chef from California looking to possibly do a career move and become a certified Mountain Guide. The four of us drove to the trailhead of Johnston Canyon near Banff. The trail is very popular with tourist and Eric warned us that there would probably be spectators. We hiked for about 1.1 miles (for some reason the trail sign measured in miles and not km) to the upper falls. The trail for the most part was in good condition with some slippery spots. An elevated boardwalk wrapped around the walls of the canyon treating us with splendid views the entire away.

The upper falls was quite a spectacular site. A large frozen waterfall towered to the left with water still flowing beneath it into the partially frozen pool. The flowed the the canyon walls and massive icicles dripped fro the overhangs. Paradise. We climbed over the boardwalk railing and onto the shoreline of the creek to gear up. Then we headed across the frozen creek to the giant ice flow. Eric handed me several Black Diamond Express Ice screws and six screamers. No top rope this morning. I was leading.

Jeanelle put me on belay. I chose a route that looked neither too steep or two low angle. I moved slowly, but very deliberately up the route. It was long and a few times I felt a quick wave of panic, but I thought of Alex Honnald and just slowed my breathing. According to Eric, who met me at the top) I did everything right expect for the fact that I elected to run out the last couple of meters. Typical of me when I get over confident. I tend to do the same on rock. I have gear… so i ought to place it!

After Jeanelle completed the route I led and cleared the screws we spent the rest of the day going over multipitch ice. Mostly the anchor building for hanging belays is like rock… except screws are used. It was also discussed the Personal Anchors are, in Eric’s opinion, not needed. Just a clove hitch will do since the rope is the strongest thing you have and if that goes you’re done for regardless. Also, went belaying from above drape the rope long ends to short if you are swinging leads… but short to long if there is one leader. We also went over making and inspecting V threads and rapping safely. The first climber rappels down with an autoblock and with the rope threaded not only through the V Thread perlon, but also through a carabiner on a screw (22 or 19cm) in case the V Thread fails. If the rapping climber makes it safely the upper climber removes the screw and prepares to rap. The upper climber does not use an autoblock since the lower climber will keep him or her on a fireman belay. If there was an injury to the rapping climber an autoblock with stop them from ever reaching the lower climber. With the fireman belay the lower climber could get their injured partner down safely.

Nino and I paired up and practiced our newly learned skills. We split one pitch of ice into two short pitches and swapped leads in-between. I hope to climb with him sometime in the future. He is very precise and safe… all good things in the alpine. I learned a lot of little trick from him… but by now it was getting very late. The light was dimming and we hadn’t eaten all day! We packed up our gear and headed out of the canyon.

Tonight Jeanelle’s friend from Calgary is coming to visit… and tomorrow is our final ice day.

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