Big Corona

Grade & Length: WI5+, M7, A0, 500m

First Ascent: Jay Mills & Dave Edgar – March 2009 – Blog post from first ascent

Location: David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11) near Nordegg and the Sask. River Crossing.  The route is visible from the highway when it’s formed.  It’s across the N. Saskatchewan River on the North Face of a mountain that is unofficially known as Triangle peak due to it’s shape.  It’s the next peak East of Mt. Murchison and just West of Corona Ridge.

Big Corona mixed climb Triangle peak
The ice is just visible near the top of the wall in middle of photo.

Route Description: An awesome but very serious route that seems to form every 2 or 3 years.  It’s by far the hardest route on the David Thompson Highway and is likely unrepeated as of 2022.  It occasionally appears to have much more ice on it which could make the crux pitches alot easier.

Approach: Park along the highway across from the peak.  Ski or wade across the river and then bushwack (skis or snowshoes may be helpful) for a few hours to the base of the wall.  Plenty of good bivi sites in the trees. 

Route: The climb starts well left of the ice and follows the only major weaknesses (obvious chimney & corner systems) up through the lower two cliff bands with 5 pitches of climbing up to 5.8. Traverse right along a big scree/snow ledge for 10 minutes until below the ice. To get onto the hanging dagger would involve overhanging blank rock with zero gear, so instead we aimed for a narrow ribbon of ice on the left.

The pitches on the upper cliff band were as follows:
P1: (50m, M7, W5) Start up a few ice mushrooms then climb up and left following weaknesses on the rock for 30m to reach the ice. The first 20m is a bit rotten but has decent gear and isn’t too hard. Above this, the crux moves are not very well protected but the rock is good. The last gear is about 10 feet down behind a suspect flake but it may be possible to get a piton in higher up. Above the crux, make a strenuous pull through a small roof onto the thin strip of ice and follow this to a rock belay under a roof.  If the ribbon of ice came a few meters lower (which it looks like it does some years) this pitch would be much easier.
P2: (35m, M5, W5+) Pull onto a very steep iced up arête (never seen anything quite like it before) and climb to the top of the ice. Continue up a steep and exciting chimney to a belay on a small perch.
P3: (55m, A0, W4) Lower or downclimb to the right until you can pendulum across to the main ice flow. Climb nice grade 4 until out of rope.
P4: (60m, W4) Follow the ice to the top.

Gear: Cams to #4 camelot, nuts, 6 or 8 pitons including at least 3 KB’s, small Tricams and a large hex, 8 or more screws including stubbies. There are no bolts on the route.

Descent: Rappel the route or walk off to the right if you haven’t left anything at the base.

The Big Corona mixed climb
Closer look at the ice. Many years another similar looking bit of ice forms further to the Right and remains unclimbed.
Climbing on Big Corona
One of the many "approach" pitches on the lower mountain.
Crux of Big Corona climb
Looking up at the crux pitch. It gains the narrower ice on the left. From the top of this ice the next pitch pendulums over to the right hand ice then up to the top.
Triangle Peak Big Corona crux
Jay Mills climbing the crux pitch of Big Corona.
Ice climbing on Big Corona
Dave Edgar leading some steep ice high on the route.