Ease of access, variety of terrain, length and position combine to create a singular route. Among the best, if not THE best, ice climb in the Canadian Rockies.
Polar Circus offers nine pitches of ice, with the crux pitch last. The bottom pitches are separated by some gully walking, which can be strenuous if the snow is deep. Eventually you will reach the Pencil (WI6). When formed this is a free-standing, 150' tall icicle. A most impressive feature. Usually, however, the Pencil will be broken off near the top, and this being the case, climb up and right on easy ice to a bolted belay station. While it may be possible to climb a couple pitches thin ice up from the anchors, most parties will continue up right, to some small trees that can be used for running belays. After the trees, cut back left, and traverse an exposed snow basin back to the gully below the main falls.
As you climb each of the upper tiers in 2 pitches. Bolted anchors/rappel stations exist at the base of the upper two tiers, and at the top of the last pitch. There is also a bolted station mid-way on the right of the last pitch. You will also likely find some in situ v-threads
Be aware of snow conditions and avalanche hazard!!!
The route is 27km north of the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11). Park just before crossing a small bridge over the drainage . Follow the well-marked trail up the drainage to the base of the first ice. At this point, if snow conditions allow, climb up a steep slope on the left for several hundred meters, and then make an exposed traverse (avi hazard) right to the base of the first WI4 pitch. Otherwise, climb ice and snow up the gully to the base of the WI4 pitch.
The descent involves between 9 and 11 rappels, depending on where you left your packs. After rappelling the upper tiers, you can descend the drainage to a rappel anchor at the top of the Pencil, rather than backtrack the snow slopes. This will save about an hour and it is an exciting rappel. Be sure to check the rappel anchor carefully!!
Ice screws . . . all the way. Bolted stations exist but can be hard to find on the lower pitches. Bring cord for v-threads.
pencil, from above on the traverse around, the pil...
Traversing the snow basin to the base of the upper...
Congratulate ourselves, take a few photos, enjoy t...
Polar Circus. November 2012.
last pitch of polar circus, March 2011
BETA PHOTO: first pitch of polar circus, March 2011
somewhere in the middle 2005
The Pencil from below, broken off as usual.
Wes Bender getting ready to lead the last pitch.
Deep, steep, scary snow while turning the Pencil. ...
Climber on finishing pitches, 1/19/15
BETA PHOTO: Polar Circus from the road. The upper tier is vis...