More of Canadian Ice memories after a wild weather day.

The Terror the axe that helped change ice climbing for ever!

The ice axe above on the left is the famous Hamish Mc Innes Terrordactyl  known as the “Terror” by a generation of winter climbers. The other was a cut down Gully axe, that climbed many famous routes. The Terror  was a a great invention and it was nowhere used more proficiently than in Canada where Bugs Mc Keith used them to the their full potential on vertical ice, using them for direct aid, very brave! This was the late 70’s

He writes “On two previous occasions faced by pillars of vertical ice and lacking the guts to front-point up them. I had attached old slings to my the shafts and found I could relax even on vertical ice and spend as much time as I wished clearing the rotten ice and placing each axe alternately to my complete satisfaction.”

I went to Canada in  winter in 1982 one of the first trips ever by Scottish climbers. It was a trip into the unknown and there were less than 100 winter climbs at that time in the area.  We took some other axes with us and used the Chounaird Zeros a wonderful axe and hammer see below. The “hummingbird was another it was awful and nearly wiped me out on Guinness Stout! I left my axes at the top of Guinness gully the local guide brought them back to the Alpine Club when he found them, what a great guy. The picture below is a pair of bamboo shafted Zeros, worth a few pounds now, the thud and the judder of them on good ice was so reassuring. Nowadays they look so primitive and when I climbed with a pair with a pal a few years ago a young gun asked if I had made them myself!

The famous Zeros

Nowadays you hire a 4×4 we had a normal car not much room with 6 of us. It took 2 trips from Calgary to Canmore to get us all to the Alpine Club hut where we stayed. I said it was long walk back from climbing each day, we all climbed in different areas to get as many routes as possible, it was wonderful. We climbed in very cold temperatures and the locals could not believe it as after minus 30 few ventured out. Not only was it very cold but the ice became so brittle, we just climbed. Protection was basic and as we had little cash we used old screw in and drive in ice screws, not the state of the art “snargs” ice screws of the day! Getting them in and out was wild!

Our wee motor Pete Kay looking at Mount Kidd Falls high up the mountain what a route.

Six plus kit in that car! Pete Kay looking at the route big avalanche bowl above Mount Kidd Falls, care needed.

Mount Kidd Falls, the late Cheeky Sinclair and Mark Richford in action, three on a rope cold climbing! The crack in the ice where his feet are went right across route!

We abseiled off most routes from bent aluminium tubing, bought locally. I was sent first as the lightest,no chance now, there were few abseil points set up, now its all there bolts etc.  We had some parties with the top men, Bill March Rusty Bale, Guy Lacelle and Chic Scott who is still a great friend today. Bill and Guy are no longer with us, nor is Mark or Big Al. Guy used to solo beside me putting in my gear, he thought all  Scots were great ice climbers till he met me! He enjoyed the wildness of us all, looked after me and the parties we had at the weekends were legend at the time!

Pilsners Pillar – bonkers on cauliflower ice!


Frostnip - no more climbing for a while? All that way for one days climbing, look after your hands and feet!

Frostnip – no more climbing for a while? All that way for one days climbing, look after your hands and feet!

Frostnip – no more climbing for a while? All that way for one days climbing, look after your hands and feet!Look after your hand! ALWAYS CARRY SPARE DRY GLOVES?

What route is this?


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
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