The BIG ONE - Polar Circus

Today I realised a dream. I climbed probably the most iconic and one of the toughest ice climbs in the world - Polar Circus (V, WI5 - 700m). Located on Cirrus Mountain in the Icefield Parkway, this route is steeped in history, offers literally hundreds of meters of classic ice climbing and is in a stunning location. To say I am stoked would be an understatement.

I was not sure that I would get the chance to climb this route. Above are no less than twenty starting zones for major avalanches, all of which drain onto the climb itself. With the recent warm spell and snow last week, it was always going to be touch and go regarding safe conditions. However, pouring over the forecast I noticed Tuesday would be a mostly cloudy day with slightly lower temperatures than normal, low winds and a few days since the last snowfall. This late in March these were the ideal conditions to go for such a big objective. Adam, my main climbing partner for the past six weeks was easily convinced and so it was go time. Time to perform.

We left Canmore at 4am, getting to the climb around 6am.  There was one car already there which didn't phase us and we managed to bypass them on the approach ice. After soloing about 100m of rambling snow and ice we got the the first pitch proper. We roped up and Adam set off. 

We alternated leads for the entire climb and what a climb it is! We moved efficiently and were at the top half of the route after approximately two hours. The hardest 250m of the route lay above us. I set off on the first pitch of the upper tiers and felt solid. Moving quickly and with security. 

Probably my proudest achievement is that I lead my first grade 5 ice pitch on this route. To do this on such a classic climb is something very special to me. It has been the culmination of a lot of work and progress, mostly on the mental side of climbing over the past month. 

In all we completed the climb with a car to car time of around nine and a half hours. Pretty respectable and not bad for two Aussies! I won't say too much more about this stellar climb. Rather I invite you to watch this little video I put together of it. Unfortunately the battery died just before the final pitch which Adam led. A superb cap on the world's greatest ice climb.

Pursue your passions, follow your dreams. Be confident in your own capabilities. The time is now!

Josh Worley