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The ice-climbing season 1995-96 in North America

By Q.-Tuan Luong © 1996

This winter was characterized by exceptional conditions across the continent. The activity at the high end was widespread, with several repeats of testpieces, as well as a significant first ascents. At a more modest level, several ice-climbing festivals were quite a success. This page summarizes all this activity and points to a number of first-hand accounts of some of the most remarkable climbs.

In New England, the legendary Omega, a line said to be the ultimate technical and emotional local statement saw several ascents. Read the inspirational report of Mark Moran. Latter in the season, Mark introduced WI 6 grade in New England with his new line Call of the Wild at Willoughby. This was about time for this breakthrough, since many of the hard WI 5 climbs in this area were established in the mid 70s. Further north, the Ice Fest at Orient Bay, the oldest ice festival in North America, went well as reports Everett Fee.

In Northern Colorado, Jeff Lowe's Octopussy, the first and so far only ice-climb to receive a grade 8, formed relatively easy at the end of the season. See Wayne Trzyna and Bob Cordery-Cotter's account of their ascent. In Southern Colorado, the first Ouray ice festival was quite a success, thanks to the newly created Box Canyon site, a man-made ice-climbing area.

The Canadian rockies classics also formed fat this year. In particular, the Sea of Vapors, originally a V 7+ climb, lost its fearsome reputation with many repeats, although a huge fall occured on its key pitch. Read my personnal account of a trip there ending with the 4th repeat of that climb, as well as a complementary viewpoint by Wayne Trzyna.

An area which saw a lot of new activity this winter was British Columbia. This started in December with the ascent of The Gift (240m, IV 5). Good conditions persisted through the winter, and several new routes were established, which confirmed the potential of the area for WI 6 routes. The most significant of them was The Theft (240m, V 6R), establised by rec.climbers in two attempts. Read my summary, as well as a spectators view by Eric Hirst who inspired this climb.

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