Climbing for me is about many things, adventure is certainly one of them and going into the Ghost always adds an extra layer of it.
Whether you are a local still discovering what the Bow Valley has to offer, new to the area, or traveling from abroad you have to experience the Ghost. The Ghost is one of the last vestiges of what Canada represents to so many around the world – Rugged open beauty. You may even see the odd “Bob & Doug” look alike cooking bacon, shooting guns, or selling Mary Jane… I mean if that’s not Canadianna then I don’t know what is.
Other than some 4×4’s you will not see much in the way of civilization. On that note, you WILL require a 4×4 to get to this climb without a fair bit of hiking and wading through the river crossings. A Subaru is sufficient for Devil’s Gap and South Ghost but this climb is in the North which is a little rougher. On that note, we took one family home who’s ‘lite’ 4×4 swallowed water via the intake when crossing one of the rivers, so buy, rent or borrow a vehicle that has some clearance with about a 50 degree approach so you don’t damage / rip off the skirting below the bumper. Toyota 4 Runners are a good example.
Getting there might be a bit difficult but trust me, it’s worth it. As approaches go its fairly short approach at about 35 minutes’ish and you can see the main features that represent the start from below – photo in the guidebook is pretty clear. The hike is a bit steep but its 35 minutes so really one can’t complain, we’re climbers in the Canadian Rockies after all. For this quality of climbing I’d that’s a great bang for the buck other than perhaps driving there that would make it a longer day if you’re not camping.
The first pitch is a soft 5.8 and I didn’t place more than a few pieces, but that’s my take. After the first pitch you have a couple options which is the first point where things ‘could’ get more adventurous. My partner Ian Greant decided to take the corner almost directly in front of us – a solid 8 or a bit harder with a couple layback moves at the top. Definitely fun and if you’re looking to make it a more sustained day out with good rock I’d suggest this path. The original is on the left going up a chossy looking corner system that looks like it would take you off route. It doesn’t though, curling back to the right past a mini ledge system to hook up with the pitch 3 (5.6).
This of course is where the topo isn’t the greatest as it seems like taking the 5.8+ option takes you to another route – it doesn’t – in fact it’s quite direct but the topo doesn’t really reflect that. Rather the topo shows a number of potential options that all seem to spin off from that ledge including starting on a completely different route(s).
The “options” to basically stick to Consolation are straight up the open corner 5.6 OR thinking we were off route – see spin offs above – went left (5.6’ish – 30 m’ish) to find ourselves at some mid 5.10ish bolted pitch. Aahh adventure, and what would climbing be in the Rockies without getting a little lost? Ian was the “lucky one” to lead that and did a great job on the thinner slab moves.
That takes you left and a little higher than where you should be but the roof is straight ahead with yet a couple more options. That bolted route seems to continue but not quite clear where it goes or stopped especially once getting to the roof and looking down. I opted to initially go a little further right and ran it out on 5.4-5.5 terrain to get to the roof. The rope drag having to get creative with some features sucked so built an anchor at the roof. The actual anchor ended up being 10-15 meters further left (light scramble). If one stays on course you’d end up just doing a gradual scramble/climb to the left traversing at the roof to that anchor but we of course did things a little different.
So… Now we’re back on course and I’m the lucky one that gets to do the ‘famous’ traverse pitch. The exposure almost from start to finish is awesome including the last few moves to get you around the corner. It’s not difficult climbing, really just requires some decent head space and shuffle feet sequencing. It’s all there, bolted, and the rock is great. The only trick to this pitch is to almost ignore the topos description that makes you think to climb down from the wrong ledge. Just remember to GO UP ONE MORE to what’s more of a perch that takes you around a corner for more exposure. Ian took us out for the last pitch to the top which is a great pitch in its own right with a few solid moves right at the start followed by great gear placements in the crack system. So great way to finish.
Getting out – Rapping took a little searching around as there are a number of exit points with tat – I would be fooled by such things on the 2nd. The 4th or 3rd rap if you do things right had the belay anchor quite a bit to climber’s right – way right – with another false rap anchor to the left that was awfully tempting considering the correct one is quite hidden. Other than that it’s straight forward and really just added to the adventure.