North American Classic Climbs

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The Sorcerer

(Ghost River Region)

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The Ghost River Valley and Waiparous areas offer one of the highest concentrations of long, classic waterfalls to be found anywhere. These are very remote areas, accessed only by long, often rough drives along several kilometers of dirt roads and dry or frozen river beds. Except on weekends, when more climbers come from nearby Calgary, climbing there is often a solitary experience. The setting is unmatched: those open valleys at the foot of the Rocky Mountains offer kilometers of steep limestone walls and an incredible concentration of top-notch frozen waterfalls.

The area does not receive as much snow as places like Banff or Lake Louise, and is frequently very windy, particularly in the South Ghost, where cold westerly winds funnel in from Banff over Lake Minnewanka. This, and the plentiful sun and frequent Chinooks, quickly reduces the amount of snow on the ground, leading to generally low avalanche danger, except for a few days after storms. It unfortunately also means there are plenty of huge truck-eating snow-drifts in which to get hopelessly stuck on the way in. The Waiparous is far less windy and is not subject to as much drifting. The drive there however, involves two stream crossings which can be problematic if incompletely frozen or flooded (sudden water breaks from upstream can melt and flood those crossings without warning, even during the most bone-chilling cold snap).

Climbing here can be a committing experience. The closest paved road is over 15km away and approaches can take up to 3 hours. An accident here could have dire consequences.

The Sorcerer is perhaps the best known and most popular long climb in the region. It offers 5 pitches of thick, steep ice, with the long and steep third and fourth pitches providing most of the challenge. Other classic climbs in the area include This House of Sky, Rainbow Serpent, and the more difficult Hydrophobia. If you are looking for superb waterfall ice in a beautiful and unique setting, pack your 4WD truck, don't forget the shovels and chains, and hope you can make the drive into these great areas.


Snow & Ice (frozen waterfall)




North Ghost Region, Alberta, Canada



G16, I9, W24, W30




Route Descriptions & Maps:

See recommended guidebook.

First Ascent:

K. Doyle, I. Stewart-Patterson, Feb., 1983


Trip Reports:

Ponslet 12/03