Ice Box Canyon

This is described in the guidebook as “a major mountain crag with some of the best extreme climbing in the region” but unfortunately it lies in the Samazar Valley. We’d written off this whole area because it is accessed via a 45min dirt road drive, and the prospect of losing a sump with no phone reception in a remote hinterland just didn’t bare consideration. Luckily, we bumped into some Brits stopping at the Ksar guesthouse, who not only endorsed the outstanding climbing in Ice Box Canyon, but also pointed out that you can access it from the Afantinzar Valley via a 10mins walk to a ridge above the road then an easy scramble down to the foot of the routes. Doh! Thanks Pete and Dave (from Plas y Brenin) – great recommendation!

The choice was cemented when Pete reckoned that the climbing was similar to, and as good as, that on Red Wall (his favourite crag, and possibly mine too)

Here’s the view from the ridge down to the crag with Samazar Valley spread out behind.

… and a shot of Jake and I, wrapped up warm, and ready to head down into the Ice Box.

First objective was Arctic Monkey, a 3-pitch 110m E3 which came highly recommended. The crux first pitch starts with fairly easy but bold climbing, with a succession of slings draped over chicken heads being the only protection. Thankfully, the gear improves as the route steepens and the crux moves to join the final crack are protected by a decent wire.

The second pitch was another biggie at over 50m. Given 5b but much more like a Gogarth experience – more loose rock and a rather committing undercling flake to finish. Could easily warrant E3 in its own right. Here’s Jake approaching the stance

P3 is a crumbly chimney and then it’s quite a scramble to the top.

Next up was Ice Breaker – also E3 but much more straightforward. The first pitch was outstanding – some fingery climbing up the initial black wall…

then a glorious jug-fest to the final tricky bulge.

P2 looked quite intimidating but the steep rock is excellent and it’s more like E1 5b. Perhaps the two best routes we’ve done all trip, and a few more great looking lines to come back for.

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