Ice Aint Just For Drinks

Guest blog by Jonathan Dean Urness, photos by Dave Mai

Last year, entering into my house, I stumbled on a step and smashed my toe on the door jam. The result… a broken toe. Needless to say I didn't climb a lot of ice that season. The thought of driving (front pointing) my boots and crampons was nauseating. So, I settled in for a relaxing winter, substituting ice for cheeseburgers and bourbon. Trust me… it wasn't a bad compromise ;) 

This December, with my toe no longer screaming bloody murder, my mind and heart were back in the game. I could feel my hands seeking to hold tools as my eyes began scanning the horizon for the trickling evidence of ice lines. Ice (and not just cubes) was back on my main menu.

This season is nothing short of redemptive, both personally and in contrast to last year’s ice conditions. Early cold temperatures caused the normal established ice routes to flow thick and fat, while allowing numerous smaller and ‘new’ lines to form and fill our minds of glory.


Adam Tutte on seep at Bear Creek. Photo Dave Mai

Bear Creek and Crawford Falls
Bear Creek and Crawford Falls are in the best shape that I have witnessed in 18 years of climbing ice. Fat, thick, wide… everything a beginner could dream of for learning and playing. (Photo: Adam Tutte on the Bear Creek seep.)

Christie Falls
For the more experienced ice climber, Christie Falls is in unfathomable form. Whether you decide to ski in (as some have), or sled in (as I only would), you will be greeted with an ice cone, worthy of a spilling valley glacier.

Although hard to approximate, the cone diameter at its base could be as much as 30m wide, which has produced a circumference of approx 95m. Totally huge… utterly unexpected. In layman terms, this would be similar to seeing a tricycle outfitted with mountain bike tires. (Feature photo: Adam Tutte climbing the cone on his route, Phenom.) 

Tim Emmet, Fireball 101, M10, Christie Falls, Kelowna

In addition to the massive ice flow (35m WI 4+ to WI 5+ ) with identifiably separate climbs on the right, centre, left and behind the formation) are two mixed lines. Set by our own very own Adam Tutte, both are hard, rated M10 and M10+ respectfully, and have seen FA’s this year by Tim Emmett on January 28 and 29, 2017. (Above: Tim Emmett on Fireball 101)

Tim Emmett, FA on Rumble in the Bronx, M10. Photo by Dave Mai

All I can say ladies and gentlemen is that Adam, Tim and I had an amazing couple days and all of you should consider going. Conditions are perfect and an easily accessible fixed anchor can be reached for top roping if you’re uncomfortable leading harder ice. (Above: Tim Emmett gets the FA on Rumble in the Bronx, M10)

Deeper Creek

Deeper Creek in Okanagan Mtn Park is the local hard man dry tooling crag. Most lines have now been repeated now to confirm grades, however two remained unclimbed... so get out there! Most lines are fixed. Bring 10 draws for some of the easier lines (routes range from M5-M11). The WI2 falls is not in as of January 30.


North of us, the Vernon Cirque, has been in  form since December and has little evidence of running away anytime soon. Being roadside it's claimable 24/7. Ever climbed at 2am? Full moon is on February 10.


Enderby is the host of the deliciously beautiful WI6 route, Mythological. While its usual lifespan is 2 weeks, Mythological has been in for over 5 weeks! Numerous groups from the Coast to the Rockies are making the drive to climb this utterly remarkable route.

Adam Tutte and I climbed the ice formation this year. Adam, his second time on the route, generously gave all the leads to me, and I managed to grab a continuous FA ascent, all documented by Dave Mai via camera and drone footage (soon to be released).

We did the route in -21 January temperatures and, with the aid of “a lot of Fireball on board”, served notice that those from the Okanagan are not just fair weather rock fiends.


The Sicamous/Malaqwa ice climbs on the north side of the TransCanada (on the Cambie Solsqua Road) formed early. Unfortunately, by late January these south-facing lines became rotten and unadvisable. Likely the only sore note to date. This area had a plethora of new seeps and potentially new mixed lines but warm temps dashed everyone’s hopes. If temperatures drop they could potentially reform perfectly so keep your eyes on the thermometer. 


The usual suspects in the Lumby area (Dennison Falls) and the Kamloops area (Yukon Jack) are in perfect form. Our southern buddy Penticton has generously produced numerous, albeit easy, ice flows for individuals to tap away.

It is wonderful to see the growing ice climbing community here in the Okanagan. For those who have started, keep up the pursuit. Winter, in particular ice climbing, offers experiences that are both unique and transformative.

For those who are curious, dispose of the cheeseburgers and bourbon… the rumour is true. Ice ain’t just for drinks. 


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