Waterfowl Lakes Gullies

By Raphael Slawinski, Ph.D., and Will Gadd, Bs.

Joe Josephson's excellent Waterfall Ice mentions the gullies above Waterfowl Lake, but writes them off as poor climbs that rarely form. The next edition of Waterfall Ice will need an update! There is some tremendously fun mixed climbing in each gully, generally on excellent west-facing rock. Approaches are fairly short with minimal avalanche danger as there are no slopes to load above the gullies, and the sun generally melts the snow in the gullies shortly after it falls. If the lake is frozen you can walk out onto it and get a better view of the hidden step/cave at the top of each gully.

There are three main gullies on the face. The farthest right (south) is directly above the Waterfowl Lakes viewpoint. It looks like a mini-Polar Circus from the road, hence the name One Ring Circus. The next major gully left is the Finishing Hammer gully, and the final major cleft north is the Polish Gully. Between these gullies is a bewildering array of high-quality smears and smaller gullies.

The route faces south and the views of Howse Peak and Mt. Chephren are unbeatable. Take a small mixed rack of cams, pins and screws.

Approach: Drive approximately 60 km up the Icefields Pkwy and park at the Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint for One Ring Circus, on the shoulder directly below the middle gully for Finishing Hammer, and below the left-most gully for Polish Question.

Polish Gully: FA unknown, II, 4. A really nice moderate gully climb.

Finishing Hammer Gully: A nice 200M WI3 gully ramble to a steep headwall (optional) with three excellent routes, M7- to M8+.

One Ring Circus Gully: A 45 minute approach, one grade five mixed pitch on gear, then a headwall with a nice M8, one M7-, TWO M9s. Very cool place.