20140125: Meltout & Shades of Beauty (Jasper)

 “Emerald slopes became so tall they touched the clouds, and showers painted diamond waterfalls that sluiced down cliff sides – Victoria Kahler

Attendees: Alex, Gerry, Andrew, Brian, Joad

All week we’ve been watching the avy bulletins and the forecast finally dropped to Moderate-Moderate-Moderate. Ice weekend is a go! The plan is to head to Jasper National Park and do Meltout on Saturday, overnight at the Beauty Creek Hostel, and head to Shades of Beauty on Sunday. I’d seen some amazing photos of the area and was raring to get some multipitch in a gorgeous setting.

There she is! Meltout.
Coming up over the second pitch of Meltout with Icefields Parkway in the background
Coming up over the second pitch of Meltout with Icefields Parkway in the background

Fantastic day to lounge around in the sun and snow…


Once the sun dropped it got cold, and quick. By the time we finished up the stars were out and it was getting chilly. What a beautiful night, Jasper is a dark sky zone and the stars were simply amazing.

It seems we were the only group at the hostel since December; there is no staff in the winter and no guarantee of heat. But we could see our breath and were adamant about getting the furnace going. It was a bit of a struggle (understatement) and we ‘may’ have started the BBQ in the kitchen for some interim comfort. Gerry’s carbon monoxide detector kept going off… We attributed it to battery error; Gerry changed the batteries and it was quiet. For a short time, anyway.

in the dark
Andrew and Brian, trying to figure out the furnace instructions

Finally the furnace lit, Alex and Brian were our new heroes, and we got the lights on. I’d forgotten my food bag! No wonder there was so much room in my duffel…  We had a toasty communal meal that included the best way to warm up after a day on ice – Tea & Spiced Rum, aaah. Thanks Joad for introducing me to my new favorite drink.

Alex and Joad relaxing after dinner
Alex and Joad relaxing after dinner

We hit the hay around 10pm. In the bunkhouse the hostel carbon monoxide detector was going off. So we took the batteries out. Then Andrew found a dead mouse, leading us to contemplate what would be the best way to die?

  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • exposure to cold
  • hantavirus

We did open the window and turn down the furnace. And as it happens in these situations some of us were freezing that night, and some of us were uncomfortably hot.

Overnight, it snowed. Honestly, the next morning I wasn’t looking forward to the 90 minute approach to Shades of Beauty, but it turned out to be a decent hike at a reasonable pace, led by Alex.

Then we heard Alex call back, “You’re about to get real warm in 5 minutes, if you aren’t already…” and we started the up up up we went to the base of the first pitch.

Shades of Beauty
Shades of Beauty, first two pitches

The second pitch is supposed to be the crux, but I didn’t find it too bad. The ice was much more brittle than yesterday’s and maybe it was just a matter of warming up and getting my climbing legs/arms, but I found the first pitch somewhat more difficult.

Cleaning the 2nd pitch
Me, cleaning the 2nd pitch
Shades of Beauty, third pitch
Shades of Beauty, third pitch

We ended up running out of time to do the third so we did our “airy” rappel. It was a good call as we didn’t get back into Calgary until 10pm. But what a satisfying weekend.

Walk down to rap point
Walk down to rap point on climber’s left

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