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Ghost Road Conditions - winter 2019/2020

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  • Ghost Road Conditions - winter 2019/2020

    Well with the first snowfall behind us and rumours already coming in, here we go with the 2019-2020 season. This thread is posted each year to track driving conditions in the Ghost and is also full of info on access that you should familiarize yourself with before venturing in there. Always be prepared, always carry beer as currency to buy help.

    As in previous seasons, lets keep road conditions in one thread. Once again I'll summarize the access situation and pertinent pointers for both a reminder and for climbers not familiar with the area.

    Access to #39 is relatively status quo. It's important to note that driving up to #39 is year round but then you're supposed to park and walk from there until 1-December. At that time it will be legal to drive back to Claw Creek until the seasonal access closes on 31-March.

    Keep this in mind when posting road conditions. While I welcome reports posted on road conditions observed on foot, nobody is allowed to drive back there until December so please make it clear you didn't drive when posting before December.


    Formal access is officially unchanged. For the more specific access info see these threads at the links below:
    >> Ghost Legal Access Information FAQ <<
    >> Ghost Access Regs - Discuss Here <<
    These threads are about legal access not approach beta. Approach beta and road conditions are right here in the thread you're currently reading.


    Nobody wants to damage vehicles in there including AESRD so avoiding busted oil pans or other fluids spilled is a good thing to protect access. In the meantime it is still recommended that driving into the Ghost should only be done with 4x4 and good clearance. Stock vehicles may safely navigate some sections but the more clearance you have, the better your chances. The north Ghost area requires significant capabilities currently (ie lifted vehicles are preferable).

    As I noted previous years, we should try to make the track in there well defined and use one trail. The reasoning is fairly simple - access is contingent on traffic following a defined track, thereby reducing braiding of trails and off track damage. As climbers it is also better to have an established track where errant rocks will not damage your vehicle. Losing an oil pan will not make for a stellar day, and no doubt would not sit well with any environmentalists who might want to cite it as reason to close our access again. We have to be seen as stewards of the area, not irresponsible yahoo.
    And remember - walking beyond #39 is legal, driving beyond #39 is legal after 1-December, posting observations of conditions/problems before 1-December is welcome if you were walking, and posting that you made it to Claw Creek in your Smart Car at any time is just plain unbelievable unless you carried it in.

    Last year I posted some info to better orient someone to the area. See last years post for original details but below is a summary for everyone and the map.

    The Ghost has three areas according to JoJo's guide.

    North Ghost is basically beyond Wulley.

    Devils Gap is Wicked Wanda/Malignant Mushroom and west.

    South Ghost is Orient Point, Big Drip, Polaris, etc.

    River crossings change during the season and can dry up or become immensely challenging. Here are the current crossings you'll encounter prior to #39

    Big Hill crossing - bottom of the hill.

    Crossing #35 - so named for the old marker that defined a track over to Blackrock but the marker was lost in the 2013 flood and we got a river in its place.

    The Ice Maze - between 35 and the Wully crossing the river meanders and changes each spring. As it freezes and floods extensive ice sheets develop. Sometimes it makes for flat easy driving, and other times vehicles break through and get screwed up and/or stuck. Crossings can vary throughout the winter creating a maze.

    Wulley crossing - fords the river aiming you at Wulley Wall/Canyon.

    #38 plus crossing - the old diversion structure and intersection is #38 and this crossing is a short way beyond it.

    The Ramp crossing - just after #38+ another crossing leads to a ramp into trees.

    To reach Devils Gap now the PMF berm is finalized, the way to approach Devils gap is from the base of the Big Hill, cross the flood channel towards the west side then turn and head south. A relatively flat track winds its way through the remnants of old berms, but instead of veering right towards the PMF berm, you'll see a big pile of gravel debris. Probably fair to call it a small hill. Stay on the east side of the hill and once past it and with the south end of the PMF berm to your right, there is a track hooks back to the right towards the PMF berm. This track passes between some large boulders at the berms south end, turns right again and over the berms smaller SW leg, and heads north up the far side of the PMF berm. A hundred meters or so up there are some more boulders and a left turn into the trees immediately before them. A marker bearing the designation of 26 is at this turn. The track in the trees leads to the kiosk at the Banff Park boundary where you park and walk.


    >> Link to the map <<

    ...or click on the image for a full size map



    I hope that last info and terminology helps clarify information for posts this winter.
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  • #2
    5-Nov-2019

    If you're heading into the Ghost in the next few days use caution. I heard from a couple sources that it was icy on the TransAlta road and a Jeepers group posted a pic of a pickup that went sideways and hit a tree. I couldn't definitively tell which hill it was but the word was low gear and roll it out, don't brake and slide.
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    • #3
      17-Nov-2019

      Generally good driving to get in there right now. TranAlta road was either bare or icy packed snow. As we left on Sunday there was very light rain which might make for some slippery conditions. It was slick here and there but unless you drive like an idiot you'll probably stay on the road.
      Down in the valley it was an easy drive to Devils Gap and the track through the trees was easy. Decent clearance is good for the ruts but stock 4x4 should handle it. No drifts. I've heard of vehicles going off the PMF berm and following the old track where the creek used to flow. This might be an alternative if the track in the trees were drifted but despite being an existing disturbance and previously sanctioned trail, its not technically the current official trail. I heard there was some drifting this way after the last snowfall too. Probably ok at the moment.
      |'ve seen reports that driving to #39 is currently in good shape for stock 4x4 with no problems noted.
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      • #4
        North Ghost:
        The weekend between xmas and new year had a party trying to get into the north ghost. Drifting on the TA road and in the valley. Both cars made it to the Wully crossing but while on rig with 6" lift on 35" tyres made it through with difficulty and breaking an ice crust, the second party declined to commit. Ice dams had raised the water level. The same weekend another party driving solo had made it to the diversion dam however given the drifting and lack of other vehicles they also turned around.
        New Years day saw a Jeeper group attempting the run to GBU. I don't believe they went all the way to GBU because the group included a few stock vehicles. What was interesting to note however is the difference in their vids to the climbers who tried just a few days previously before the chinook. The Jeepers had no problem crossing the Wully crossing following the summer track and crossing Wully on a diagonal. Ice dams had obviously gone, and water levels had dropped. Ice shelves were easy to pass. The snippets of vid showed some drifting with ruts but also some areas where the snow was blown off the cobble. In short it looked like conditions had improved.
        I rounded up a team head in but one of our group went awol. No answer on his phone and no second vehicle to tag team. We resorted to the south ghost as we knew others who were heading in there.

        Sat 4-Jan-2020
        *TransAlta road has been ploughed to the Enviro's turn off. They are awesome folks.
        *Beyond there decent tracks were in but subject to getting filled in. I drove in without chains but kept them on for the drive out.
        *We drove to Stumpland where we came upon friends pulling a truck with camper out of the drifted road. I stopped to chain up here. We offered the camper folk a shuttle but didn't have room for them all. Looks like they decided to head elsewhere.
        *With chains and good clearance I made it through Stumpland and caught up with the other two Tacomas. There passage involved some digging. Once back on the road proper they elected me to break trail. A drift on the hill between Stumpland and the big hill involved me pulling both vehicles through with 2x30ft recovery straps.
        *From there to the PMF berm there was no digging or pulling but be judicial in avoiding random drifts. The track that cuts left at the middle of the flood channel seemed preferential over the one going straight and up the small rise before turning south.
        *Some drifting on the west side of the PMF berm but chains and high clearance was ok yesterday. New drifting may change that.
        *The track through the trees was ok until the open areas. Once in the open drifting had vehicles getting stuck again. I made it through one deep section but the other two got stuck there. Meanwhile I ended up in my own DEEP deep drift. I needed to resort to winching to get myself through but it was over 1m deep. With no trees to winch the return I found a short bypass and returned to the others where the plan became to back up to a small open flat area to stage and walk from.
        *We left as a convoy of three but fortunately the exit involved no digging or pulling. A lot of wind had partially filled in ruts here and there but travel was good.

        Travel into the Ghost right now is better with lifted vehicles and chains. You'll need to be fully equipped for extractions but what the road needs is traffic to keep it open.

        If anyone is considering a mission to the north ghost next Saturday let me know and perhaps we can form a convoy.



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      • #5
        The drift that needed winching.
        Attached Files
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        • #6
          Saturday 18-Jan-2020

          *TransAlta road was a little slippery on a couple hills pre-dawn but seemed ok around dusk as we left. Most of the potholes are smoothed over. Drifting throughout the logged areas is deep in some spots but the road has been ploughed by EWS. It makes a decent drive albeit with only one lane some spots.
          *After the EWS turn the drifted sections have well packed ruts. These ruts are deep in spots so a lifted rig is a good idea. Stock could high center or drag the diff.
          *We had two Cherokees, both lifted 4.5" (33" tyres) and 6" (35" tyres). We chained up halfway in and never had to dig, pull, or winch, all day.
          *Stumpland was mellow and easier than the regular track.
          *Valley bottom was the same story with deep ruts but no issues.
          *All crossings were frozen up till #39. We drove across the Ice Maze without issue but a number of spots showed signs of past epics. Even the Wully crossing was bridged and a non issue. However warmer temps could weaken and lead to break throughs. You'll have to use your own discretion on route finding but we found it very easy today.
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          • #7
            Drove to house of sky today. No issues on the way in although it was a bit gnarly in the deeper snow.. The warm temps and high winds were making things more interesting on the way out. Stuck once between THOS and GBU. Friends driving out later said they had to tug two other trucks out.
            Owner - 51North - Digital Marketing Agency
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            • #8
              Drove in to GBU today. Trans Alta road is hard packed with icy in sections. Drifted areas are rutted and but passable. The one drifted area near the cutblock was impassable (by our vehicles), follow the track through the cutblock and exit out on the west side (as you drive in). Valley bottom was rutted but easy going. The one big crossing in the "ice maze" is frozen over, stay along the left side of it and you should be ok. We smoothed out the "Wully Crossing" ice shelf. As of today its good. Got around today in a stock Jeep and a Tacoma with winter tires and a 3" lift kit. Was warm +4 in the valley bottom.

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              • #9
                Trans Alta road still icy in spots and mostly hard packed. Went into the South Ghost which was really straight forward. No tricky sections. Lots of wind today, but the snow is so hard packed that there was no additional drifting. Drifted areas by the cutbacks are still the same. Go through the cutblock to avoid the bigger drifts.

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                • #10
                  Saturday 8-Feb-2020

                  *TransAlta road ploughed to the Enviro turn off. Snow covered but possible ice under the snow to be aware of. Good traction today.
                  *High clearance is needed beyond the poughed road because the drifting is rather deep making for deep ruts. Lots of traffic in there today making well packed trails by the time we drove out. Steady but extended period of snow means there is potential for new drifting but negligible wind for transport a good chunk of the day.
                  *Saw three offroaders busting through the drifts on the road through Stumpland late today as the left. They were getting bounced around pretty good. Regular mortals and people preferring to avoid epics should stick to the regular bypass which is well packed deep ruts.
                  *Trappers Hill, Double Hill Dip and the Big Hill were straight forward but there was a bit of sliding going down the Big Hill. I didn't use chains up or down the Big Hill but there was also a rowdy drift at the top of the hill.
                  *Valley bottom from the big hill towards the N.Ghost I was cutting fresh tracks this morning and got churned up a little but by the time we left the ruts were in and packed down. In fact that was the case in many stretches up to GBU but even some of the packed ruts were bouncy. Did I mention you need high clearance?
                  *Crossing 35 as I approached had vague old tracks leading across a level snow crossing with old ice debris poking through. Apparently there was a hole nicely drifted over, but I did an awesome job of finding it. Bumper deep hole filled with snow. Got a pull back out of it and proceeded with an uneventful passage across actual ice on the immediate upstream side of the hole. Given the 20+ vehicles that used that ice, I'd say it was supportive today. Tomorrow let the buyer beware. Probably ok though.
                  *The Ice Maze was a wide sheet of ice but supportive and uneventful. The Blackrock bypass wasn't needed.
                  *The Wully crossing a few days ago was big ice shelves, high water, and more of a narrow canyon making it very hard to even want to cross. However the last few days have made it fairly straight forward. Water levels are mostly normal, Get out and take a walk and you'll find a good entry that crosses diagonally and exits at the usual spot. Uneventfully straight forward today.
                  *After GBU where the track does the jog through the trees and meets the track that tees off to VOTB, there is a deep drift about 50ft along the VOTB track. Had to dig out and back up.

                  I went in and out without chains today but did get stuck here and there on the way in and had to resort to shoveling once. I have really good clearance, 33" tyres, and a locking rear diff. Despite the significantly improved track by evening, I'd suggest utilizing a well equipped vehicle to head for the N.Ghost.
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                  • #11
                    Saturday 7-Mar-2020

                    *TransAlta road in decent condition for high clearance vehicles all the way to the bottom of the big hill.
                    *Stumpland has deep drifts on the road. However for now the drifts are well packed and the ruts are driveable meaning the bypass isn't needed. It would be miserable to break through partway through the drifted section or having to try reversing out. Be prepared to walk it before trying, if you aren't sure.
                    *Crossing 35 fully frozen but beware the snow filled hole, pass on the upstream side of the hole.
                    *Use the west side of the trench because the trench itself is drifted full up til #37.
                    *Ice maze is frozen and easy but finding old tracks was hard when blown over and flat lighting.
                    *Wully crossing had low water levels and manageable ice shelves if you get out and look for the best entry/exit spots.
                    *Track from Wully to diversion structure is quite drifted and boggy. If you don't have a lifted rig you will get high centered.
                    *Track from the Ramp crossing through the trees to #39 is drifted in. Previous ruts have filled in and breaking through into deeper snow was happening plenty. Even with a lifted rig I was dragging my diff and getting high centered. Had to break up the hard crust in the middle and do plenty of digging. Never made it all the way to #39. We retreated.
                    *A group of offroaders were trying to drive to GBU after we retreated. They might have had the inclination to take the challenge and punched a track through but until someone does you'll have to do some digging.
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