AdventureSnow Sports

Ice Climbing the Rainbow Serpent

Alberta, Canada

Alpinist Jess Roskelley climbs the final pitch of the 100 meter WI6 Rainbow Serpent in the Recital Hall near Alberta, Canada. (Photo: Ben Herndon)
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The Ghost River Valley Wilderness Area near Banff National Park, Alberta, is known for its stark, expansive beauty. In the winter, windswept clouds of dust and snow float through the alpine valley, which is how the area got its name.

In February 2014, alpinists Jess Roskelley, Wayne Wallace, Ben Erdmann, and I set out to document one of the more dramatic, otherworldly ice climbs in the Canadian Rockies. After a predawn three-mile approach, we began climbing the ice steps and pitches that come before this climb.

After topping out on the 60-meter route Aquarius, we arrived at a vast rock amphitheater called the Recital Hall, which is home to two challenging ice climbs, Fearful Symmetry on the left and Rainbow Serpent (pictured) on the right.

We had originally planned to rig ropes en route so we could shoot down on the climbers. Turned out climbing approach pitches and rigging lines on a 100-meter route was asking too much. I opted to shoot the route from across the amphitheater as heavy winds whipped through the valley, creating a cracking sound I'll never forget. 

TOOLS: Canon 5D MkIII, 16-35mm, 1/100 second, f/5, ISO 125  

Filed To: Ice ClimbingAlberta
Lead Photo: Ben Herndon
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