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Mixed Mecca
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The Canadian Rockies
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Mixed Mecca:The Canadian Rockies
Abby Watkins establishes on the ice of Haffner Creek's Half and Half in M7 conditions.
Photo: Jimmy Chin
Why would someone want to mixed climb? It is a cold and sometimes dangerous activity; however, Abby Watkins moved from her native Australia to Canada because of this peculiar winter dance. "Sometimes when I am scratching around on rock with sharp implements strapped to my hands and feet in the freezing cold, I think to myself 'What on earth am I doing? How is this related to climbing?'," she questions, but continues, "There is nothing more satisfying than following a tenuous weakness in the rock to the gift of a smear of ice and somehow putting it all together. Mixed climbing engages all of my senses and skills, and allows my eye to expand to the most unlikely lines of ascent."

In the early 1980s, ice climbers were already getting bored with the tediousness of vertical ice and craved something more dynamic in winter climbing. The logical progression was to seek thinner and thinner ice routes until sections of rock were used to link these discontinuous smears. This was already occurring on big Canadian Rockies' north face routes like the Andromeda Strain, Grand Central Couloir and Humble Horse but it wasn't until the late '80s that people started practicing it on smaller cliffs.

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