Michelle Kadatz, Paul Bride and I flew in a heli into East Creek (the West side of the Bugaboos) for a few days last week. Paul was psyched to shoot landscape photos while Michelle and I checked out some of the incredible rock in the Pigeon feathers. Although there are quite a few routes here described in the guidebook, the Pigeon Feathers remain a slightly more obscure corner of the Bugs, despite their amazing quality, and proximity to a great camp. Upon landing, we hiked around until we found something that was really inspiring - some unclimbed splitters on Wide Awake Tower, slightly right of the original Wide Awake route.
Wide Awake Tower. Our route starts part way up the snow gully. photo: Paul Bride
On our first climbing day under stormy skies, we made it nearly three quarters of the way up before the skies started unleashing thunder and lightning. Going down was the only option. While pulling the ropes after the first rappel, a toaster sized block popped off and landed right in the pile of rope that was stacking itself in front of us as it fell. The result was both lead and tag lines were chopped in the middle! The storm intensified and we had no choice but to hunker down in a chimney, while rain, hail, and a lot of very close thunder and lightning came down all around us. Backs against the wall and all the metal off the harnesses, we slowly got colder and wetter. Multiple rounds of this continued until finally it passed and we made it down to the glacier safely. By the time we were walking back to camp, it was nice and sunny so we lapped the first three pitches of the classic Solitary Confinement. It was great to get back on this one again as it had been 8 or 9 years since I had climbed it, and it was one Michelle wanted to do too. Our thirty-five meter rope was exactly what it took to get to the first anchor of this amazing 5.11 continuous crack that gradually expanded from tips to off-width over three pitches. With only two #4 camelots, the even wider 4th pitch wasn’t really an option, which was fine by me. Three 4's, and three 5's would be considerated adequate for it...
Michelle on Pitch 3 of Solitary Confinement.
The following day we hiked to Applebee where it was possible to get two more ropes, which took the better part of the day via the Bugaboo Glacier. On day 3 we got back to work on what we were now calling Electric Funeral, obviously a reference to a Black Sabbath song, and our experience on it the first day. Paul and I are both huge Black Sabbath fans and when we get together, Sabbath becomes our theme. Michelle didn’t know the song, but liked the name! The climbing went well, although seventh pitch took getting dead-ended on two other option before I finally figured out what to do. Not comfortable with the run-out traverse to a grassy crack, I pendulummed across the face to the seam, then went into aid / cleaning mode with a nut tool and wire brush. By the time I got to the next ledge, I was so psyched to come back to send the pitch, as well as the amazing looking splitter above that bee-lined for the summit. It was cold, windy and getting late so we decided to save it for the next day.
Playing with fire at camp. Wide awake is the rightmost tower in the background photo: Paul Bride
On Day 4 the weather was looking pretty bad, and confidence of being able to complete the project was low. However, we were back, and for the first time we brought the power drill and enough bolts to set up some stations. We were psyched to have gone through the process a couple of times without bolts, and felt like the route was worthy of setting up to attract more climber to enjoy its quality. Fortunately the weather held and even got pretty nice, although quite windy in the afternoon. On pitch 7, I led out to a small foot ledge and placed the only protection bolt as high above my head as I could, then lowered the drill back to the belay and continured sending the pitch, which was delightfully sustained and interesting to climb. It was more like face climbing with a thin crack for protection, than the typical crack climbing that’s far more common in the area. The crux came right off the belay on the pitch 8 while laybacking off amazing chicken heads to pull a small roof! Trending right, beautiful cracks and transfer moves continued, and the rope was nearly used up before finally reaching a good stance.
Michelle following the 7th pitch photo Paul Bride
JW on pich 8, gunning for the top photo Paul Bride
Sweet views from the summit and a smooth rappel had us celebrating back in camp before long. Our time was up and we had the heavy, half-day slog / half-day drive home to look forward to the next day. It had been a fun process exploring this obscure conner of the Bugs and I know I’ll be back again. The crack system immediately left - aka Wide Awake, looked amazing!
Almost at the belay at the top of pitch 5. It's the triangular ledge a body length to my right. Photo Paul Bride
Michelle bringing me accross the traverse of Pitch 4. Photo Paul Bride
Michelle on pitch 6.
Michelle leading pitch 3
Michelle following pitch 7
JW starting up pitch 8, photo Michelle Kadatz
JW passing some perched flakes and the chimney on the way to the summit. Photo Michelle Kadatz
Electric Funeral, 300m, 5.11+, FA: Michelle Kadatz and Jon Walsh, August 7th 2014
A fun route on great rock, highly recommended, and it’s easily scoped from nearby snow slopes. Pitches 7 and 8 are nothing short of spectacular! The route is straightforward to rappel, or to walk off.
Rack: 1 full set of stoppers. 10 - 12 draws. Double set of cams from purple C3 or red X4 to #3 camelot. One #4 camelot and one #5 camelot are nice for the short wide sections of pitches 2 and 3. If the plan is to rappel, the #4 and 5 came lots can be left at the top of pitch 3.
Approach: Start up a the snowgully to the right of the tower's "nose" and ascend snow for about 80 meters. Look for a distint left facing corner that leads to a righ faceing corner that make up pitches 2 nd 3. We climbed a body length of 5.7 and then a 5 meter traverse left of easy 5th class to get a good belay ledge where you can dump your packs and get organised. This is directly below the changing corners of pitches 2 and 3. We left a cairn here...
P1: 5.10-, 30 meters; climb through bulge from belay and trend left to a left facing corner. A couple of balance moves to gets you to a crack that leads back right to a left facing corner with two wide cracks in it, and a two bolt belay station.
P2: 5.10, 20 meters; Climb the obvious wide cracks above up the left facing corner to a good ledge, and a gear belay (takes camelots .5, .75, 1)
P3: 5.10, 20 meters; A few off-width moves give way to nice hand-jamming. Belay at a good ledge with a huge, easily slung horn for the belay.
P4: 5.9, 50 meters; climb a short bulge above the belay and make a rising traverse to the right, until a short down climb becomes necessary. Climb down a few meters, then back up to a good belay ledge.
P5: 5.10+, 50 meters; Great hand and finger cracks head up and slightly left. Belay at a small but comfortable ledge below an overlap. A very nice pitch.
P6: 5.10+, 15 meters. Pull through the overlap and up a short groove. Rather than continue up the dirt right facing corner, make face moves out left onto the exposed / featured / golden face and up to a two bolt belay at a small ledge.
P7: 5.11-, 30 meters; Face climb up and left past a bolt, to gain a thin crack that leads straight up towards a roof. Two bolt belay below roof at small ledge.
P8: 5.11+ 50 meters; A crux roof sequence leads to spectacular crack climbing that trends rightwards towards the summit, sometimes transferring from crack-to-crack, one of such transfers providing a second, slightly easier crux! A two bolt belay at a good stance comes after 50 meters
P9: 5.9, 20 meters; A short straightforward pitch passes a chimney, and gets you to the summit.
Rappel notes: easy down-climbing about 5-meters off the summit to a slung block is required to get back to the last belay. A 25-meter rappel straight down from there (the last bolted station) gets you to another bolted station on a ledge that wasn’t part of the route. It would be possible to climb over to this on pitch 8, although this wasn’t done on the first ascent. A 50-meter rappel from here gets you to the bolted belay between pitch 6 and 7. Then 50-meters to a slung horn you passed near the start of P5. Two single rope rappels on slung horns throughout the owed angle traverse section, get you to the top of pitch 3. Then a double rope rappel easily makes the top of P1…
The last couple months have been one of the best high pressures I can remember in years. On stat I heard was it's been the warmest summer in Calgary since 1881! It was so nice in fact that it was impossibe for me to sit at a desk and share the photos, stories, or get much else done, as the mountains were calling....
I'm lucky and grateful to live in such an amazing part of the world. The Canadian Rockies are at my doorstep and the Bugaboos and Selkirks are a short drive away. These three ranges never cease to blow my mind! A few more reasons why I love being a canadian alpinist are (in no specific order):
-I can always find talented and inspiring people to climb with on world class objectives
-There is so much variety in the mountain sports I'm most interested in: sport, trad, ice and alpine climbing + unbelievable deep powder skiing on piste, off piste, ski mountaineering... All in a relatively small area
-The development of the sport climbing scene in the Bow Valley is going off and provides the perfect training grounds to get strong, have fun, and prepare for harder objectives in mountains
-There is an abundance of multi-pitch adventure routes of all levels, in all disciplines of climbing
-The Rockies provide the world's most consistent, extensive, easily accessible ice and mixed scene - bar none!
- First ascents -- Although the most obvious lines have mostly been done, some only once, there are still a lifetime's worth of first ascents to do, very much the opposite of Europe or the U.S.A.. I can share that because oddly enough, a little friendly international competition to get to them first would make them even more exciting!
-Getting to the incredible stone and scenery of Baffin Island only requires a handful of airports, no passport, and one day of travel
Here's a few pics from some of the climbing highlights from the last two months, starting with the Bugaboos:
Josh on the crux splitter of Hell or Highwater, Snowpatch Spire
Chris and Simon working on yet another sick new project
Josh leading the first pitch of Chris' other freshly completed new line: The East Columbia Indirect (mid 5.12), located just right of Hobo's Haven on the east end of the East face of Snowpatch. Easily the highest quality route I've done in a long time!
Me leading the overhanging thin hands to fingers second pitch - photo: Joshua Lavigne
Josh leading the third pitch
Looking down at Simon and Chris climbing the route behind us. Simon is seen here leading the second pitch.
And looking down at Chris on the third pitch.
Here's a line of the East Columbia Indirect as seen from the Crecent Glacier. The fourth pitch finishes up the last pitch of the Power of Lard. Although 4 pitches is a short route by Bugaboo standards, I'm not sure of another route that has four pitches of this quality, sustained at 5.11+ with a few 5.12 cruxes. Soooo good! Start directly or scramble around via the the start of Sunshine Crack.
The Applebee gang
Lydia leading Sheldon's Corner, Easpost Spire
Josh on a new route .12b on Eastpost Spire
And then there's the Rockies.
Magda enjoying a really fun and new 12-pitch, 5.12- route on Ha Ling Peak above Canmore, called a Particular Manner of Expression. Cudos to Jeph Relph and a variety of partners for putting this one up.
Colin Haley on the Greenwood / Jones route on the North Face of Mt. Temple.
This classic really exceded my expectations and I'd highly recomend it. Better than the other routes I've climbed on Temples nordwand. Colin pulling a small overhang near the top of the rock.
Colin on the walking the line to the summit
A raven joined us on top. Here he's sitting right at the very peak, just a little bit higher than we made it!
On thanksgiving weekend, October 6-8, Raphael Slawinski and I climbed this line on Howse Peak - a combo of the NE buttress and some mixed variations It wasn't the line we set out to do but as the Stones said "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you just might find, you get what you need". We got what we needed, a great adventure up an iconic peak!
Raphael looking for the way about a third of the way up
Our first bivi about halfway up
The first pitch of day two was more sideways than up, as we deked out of the mixed gully system and back onto the ridge.
Good rock climbing on the buttress
Raph following a little traverse between gully systems
Back into more mixed gully action, Chephren Lake below
Raphael sorting out the rope cluster in the sun
Fun couloir climbing in the M-16 gully
Still a bit of a cornice left from the revious winter. Fortunately it was easily passed
Raph taking in the view from the summit!
Our second bivi sight. After descending 1000m of the summit of Howse on our second day, it got dark as we arrived here. The following morning, we ascended 600m to the misty Epaulette / White Pyramid col above the tent, and then descended down to the river Icefield Parkway beyond. About 5.5 hours from the bivi to the road. All said and done, it was a very satisfying and rewarding adventure!
The following weekend, I couldn't help myself but go back to sport climbing.
Alpine climbing means a lot ot me, but it's pretty hard to beat the overhanging streaky rock at our local crags such as Bataan seen here. It's just so much fun I don't think I'll ever be full. Jen onsighting a .12a in the upper photo and Jonny cranking below on a chilly mid october day.
Well it's been a busy fall trying to make some money for the winter and moving, but everything is falling into place as the temps drop and the snow and ice begin to appear I can hardly wait to finish up some old projects and start some new ones. My foot has nicely healed from the Twin and is ready to charge agian.
But as the seasons change, I wanted to finish up with some summer stuff like the photos from the "Minataur" that some friends have asked about. Once again, Minataur was a route on the East foace of Snowpatch Spire that Colin Moorhead and I climbed together. It starts up the first four pitches of Labyrinth, then weaves in and out of "Les Bruixes es Pentinen" for the next eight pitches (three on Bruixes and five new), and we finally finished up the last three pitches of Labyrinth. The direct finish awaits! The climbing was superb the whole way and we'd highly recommend this adventure as another fine, fifteen pitch free route up the best wall in the Bugs!
The grades are as follows: 5.10; 5.11+; 5.12-; 5.11-;5.11-;5.12-;5.11-;5.10-;5.11;5.12-;5.11;5.11-;5.11-;5.10
The first day we fixed three ropes, and climbed a new pitch. We then ascended the ropes the second day and continued to the top. A more detailed topo will appear in next years alpine journal. I'll eventually post the detailed beta, whenever it gets written but that is something on the back burner right now.
Colin on the first pitch of Labyrinth
Me on the freehanging jug on the second pitch of Labyrinth
Me leading a new pitch, the first of our Minataur variation