EMPLOYEE FAVORITES: Roger Strong, Fearful Symmetry (WI6), Canadian Rockies
Here at Black Diamond, the inspiration to innovate is driven from within. When we're not at the office, our dedicated crew of employees is out cranking at the crags, putting in miles on the trails and questing around the mountains in search of untracked descents. In this ongoing series of posts on the Journal, we'll be highlighting some of our employee's favorite rock and ice climbs, ski descents and trail routes.
This month's favorite comes from our Northwest Sales Rep, former crab boat captain and ice/mixed ninja Roger 'Roj' Strong, who recently made his return to climbing and skiing after a ski accident last spring. Right on Roj!
[All photos by Kolin Powick]
There's something about winter that I can never really get enough of. There are so many ways to indulge and enjoy a skiable snowpack, a climbable ice line, or the chilly refreshing hike through a dynamic wintery landscape. Although the movement of skis sliding through snow can be intoxicating, my deepest passion gets pulled to the beauty of frozen water trickling over the most vertical terrain, and the challenge of how it can be climbed. The natural creation of an icefall, curtain or pillar always intrigues me, as its medium is constantly changing, unlike a classic, and relatively unchanging and 'predictable' rock route.
My favorite place anywhere on the planet for winter bliss is easily the Canadian Rockies. There are multiple lifetimes of routes to play on at any level for the aspiring winter junkie. From the easiest of ice to a plethora of new routes yet to be climbed in the alpine and mixed arena, there is something for everyone.
The Rockies have a huge list of routes that either rarely form or have only been climbed a handful of times. Joe Josephson's Waterfall Ice guidebook thoroughly will whet your pallet with detailed stories, route beta, and striking images that inspire adventure. One of my favorite routes that had been on the list for over 15 years is the notorious Fearful Symmetry, nestled back into a visually stunning amphitheatre called the Recital Hall. When Josephson and Brad Wrobleski found and completed the first ascent of the opposing Rainbow Serpent, it wasn't long until they finally ticked the colossal, double-tiered pillar.
A few years ago the rumor that Fearful had finally formed again brought excitement along with my usual inner torment of 'do I have what it takes to send that rig.' This was going to be a wonderful trip as my friends Kolin Powick, Will Mayo, Jim Ewing and Ian Parnell were visiting the Rockies and keen to make the iniquitous drive into the Ghost, long approach and try these dream routes.
The drive was unusually uneventful as I and many others have experienced epic scenarios of getting stuck in stream crossings, icy mud bogs and snow drifts...all part of the Ghost experience. A beautiful clear day made the hour-long hike to the approach pitch of Aquarius pleasant. Since we were a crew of 5, the boys allowed me to solo ahead as they simul-climbed to meet me at the base of the Recital Hall. I hadn't been here in 8 years since climbing Rainbow Serpent, and I nearly forgot how the awkward circular shape of this box canyon produced its own windy climate. The day prior, the late and wonderfully great Guy Lacelle had climbed Fearful for its 2nd ascent. An ice climbing master and mentor to me and so many others, Guy was glowing when he shared his experience of finally getting to climb a long standing dream of his. A few days after our ascents of both routes, Guy would come back to Fearful and solo it with the calm, cool and graceful style he was so well known for.
For me, the movement of gingerly swinging and hooking up the consistently overhanging and unprotectable ice was the most satiating feeling of that season. After a full 60 meters of rope, there were 3 worthless ice screws separating me from Ian, finally ending with the security of the belay. Bringing Ian up, I was able to watch Jim and Will work their way up Rainbow Serpent with focused precision. It was odd not being able to communicate with them, despite the close proximity. The whipping wind made unusual sounds and occasionally mimicked familiar voices, adding to the surreal exposure of the Recital Hall. After the free hanging rappel to the base, we trade routes with Jim and Will and share each other's experiences on the hike out. An hour and a half drive out and we were rewarded with Canmore's Grizzly Paw Brewery and food...