Polar Circus (V, WI 5) is one of the most amazing icelines in Canadian Rockies. It has about 500 metres of ice. I do this route with Michał Dorocicz in January 2015.

The name oryginated from Charlie Porter, who on FA (when tangled with messing equipment), complained "This is nothing more than a Polish Circus!". But Bugs McKeith later adapted this statement do the present name.

Polar Circus from road. Photo: Damian Granowski

First ascent (fixed ropes, aid climbing) in December 1975 take 8 days. When Bugs McKeith, Charlie Porter, Burgess Twins descending, Eckhard Grassman, Mike Lailey and Laurie Skreslet do second ascent in 5 day with aid limited to one 5 meter section on the final pitch.

For several years Polar Circus remained the pinnacle of achievement. Today good teams than this route in 10-12 hours from car to car.

Rappeling from Pencil. Photo: Damian Granowski

Dificulty: V, WI5 (or WI6 if you do Pencil)

Height (drop): 700 m (500 m of Ice)

Pitches: 9+/-

Time: 5-8 hours

Gear: Ice Screws

FA: 1975 - Bugs McKeith, Charlie Porter, Burgess Twins

Getting There

Parking (UTM 11U 05005 57761). Parking is about  14 km from Rampart Creek Hostel. Walk throught little forest to obvious drainage. You can go climb by approach ice (about WI3+) or across the gullly from the left.


About 9 pitches of ice climbing.

WI4 (50 m) - Nice ice climbing (on the right is less steep).

WI3-4 (50 m) (If You do Pencil, then WI6). Pencil you can do on 2 pitches (belay at the base of Ice Collumn). Belay is protected from flying ice. If you do not do Pencil, then climb on the right.

Mike Dorocicz on Pencil. Photo: Damian Granowski

WI3-4 (40 m) - variable ice on the right of the Pencil. Traverse snow slope about 100 m , and then go about 200 metres back left into the upper basin.

WI4 (70 m) - narrow ice. The bolt belay is on big ledge with rock roof

WI4 (40 m) - Steep narrow pith (The Ribbon). Bolt station you can find on the right. You can link this pitch and next one, but second must start before you reach belay.

Me on "The Ribbon". Photo: Michał Dorocicz

WI4 (45 m) - Climbing on icea, and then you go on snow slope to the right to belay

WI5 ( 45 m) - Usually the most simple is on the right. Bolt belay on the ledge.

Me on pitch WI5. Photo: Michał Dorocicz

WI5 (50 m) - Final Pillar. Belay on the right.



Rappeling from fixed belays, or V-thread (Abalakov). Be prepared, that some of them can be covered by snow.

Descent from Polar Circus. Photo: Damian Granowski