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Fatigue has set in throughout my limbs but I've come too far to give up now. With a second wind I breathe through the pain and keep kicking and swinging up the wall. I top out and grab the anchor in triumph, bagging what I consider my first real ice climb route.
While the Coast Mountains have some of the most plentiful snowfalls, when it comes to the ice, the Canadian Rockies hold all the aces.
"The best place in Canada and arguably the world is in the Canadian Rockies in the Bow Valley area," says McSorley, who lived in Banff for 10 years before moving west and settling in Squamish.
"The consistent cold conditions at high altitude give you a super long season from late September all the way through April. The quantity of ice is a factor too, there's thousands of waterfalls and still many unclimbed cascades.
"The nature of the Rockies themselves are more suited to the formation of ice. There's a lot more porous rock such as limestone instead of the granite that we have here on the coast."
Porous rock means that water will slowly creep through it, as well as flow over it. This leads to reliable ice formations with excellent structural integrity, at the right temperature.
But we are not without ice climbing hot spots here on the coast. Lillooet is a hub for numerous ice climbing locations such as Marble Canyon, Seton Lake and the plethora of routes along the Duffey Lake Road. Whistler and Squamish also get the occasional formations during cold snaps, but routes can be fickle and often a blend of rock and ice — termed "mixed climbing" — is required.
"We get about one or two weeks a year when the ice forms at sea level," says McSorley.
"When the ice does form you get amazing mixed climbing and unique formations that can use rock climbing protection. That's the new school thing, a modern approach climbing a mix of rock and ice."
Climbers have been exploring coast mountain ice for almost four decades. In the winter of 1978, Shannon Falls near Squamish froze and on December 31 it was ascended by two groups, first by John Knight and Malcolm Macfadyen followed closely by Don Serl and John Wittmayer. The mid '80s saw an upsurge in interest with new routes opening up along the Cayoosh River and the Hope region with many first ascents credited to long time Squamish local Bruce Kay. In 1993 Don Serl — along with Kay — published their guidebook West Coast Ice and the average Vancouver climber came to realize the ice climbing potential within a day trip of the city. Cold winters in the mid '90s led to the creation of 60 new routes with familiar names such as John Chilton, Jia Condon, Eric Pehota, Trevor Peterson and Rich Prohaska leading the charge.
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