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
As usual, the Bugaboos feed my stoke. I've been in there four times this year, and so far there have been four highlights. All have been ascents of rarely climbed, somewhat obscure routes, and all have been shared with a different, extremely talented partners whom I feel fortunate to be friends with. And of course it's always good to see all the usual suspects that make annual pilgrimages to Applebee Camp, and share some fine single malts and stories of their adventures too. It's part of what I look forward to when I go to the Bugs. It's funny how some folk you don't see for a year but then see on a regular basis between climibng sessions. Both the comraderie and epic adventures are the key ingredients that make the Bugs my favorite venue. Anyways... THe highlights:
The Midnight Route, East face of Bugaboo Spire:
Jon Simms convinced me to take on lap on this gem of route with him. A couple years earlier, Jon and Chris Brazeau had managed the first free ascent, although they had traversed right to the ridge in a storm, two pitches below the top. A two pitch direct finish awaited, and this was what we set our sight on. Unfortunately, the .12b crux was wet and we had to french free a few moves, but lots of sustained and heady 5.11+ kept us entertained and digging deep pitch after pitch. I was sandbagged into not bringing some pitons, but what are friends for? The intensity was high as I built nests of RP's in sustained 5.11+ sections and ran it out above them, but I was always amazed by the quality of the climbing. We managed one of the direct finish pitches but again, an electrical storm thwarted us with one pitch to the ridge, and we rappelled. This is a route that with a little bit of love in the form of a wee bit of traffic, maybe a bolted station or two to make the a couple of semi hanging belays less rugged, would be world class for those seeking a steep sustained adventure up one of the most looked at yet most ignored faces in the Bugs!
Spicy Red Beans and Rice FFA / Shooting galery / a few new pitches
A couple weeks later, I was back with Josh Lavigne with the remote 900 meter West Face of THe North Howser Tower on our radar. It's the biggest face in the Bugs and Josh is obsessed with it, having previously climbed it six times, four more than me, and likely twice as many as anyone else! Pretty impressive considering it's a five hour approach from Applebee to the base, and requires 4 very committing rappels even to get to it. If you have to bail from the face, it's a very long walk of shame to get out of the remote valley. This time, we were back there looking for first ascents and first free ascents, but got off to a dead end start right off the bat on the route Young Men on Fire which proved to difficult to free, without a ton of preparations we weren't prepared to make! But a quick rappel, then two and a half pitches of the Shooting Gallery went smoothly. A short traverse left around the corner and we were into a virgin ground. A couple pitches of some very nice finger cracks up to 5.11-, gave way to the easier terrain near the halfway ledge. As the upper headwall came into view, we couldn't help but be drawn in by the clean white right facing corner system of the Warrior, a 1974 Hugh Burton and Steve Sutton A3. Hopefully it would go free we though as we gravitated towards it. We easily traversed across the Seventh Rifle gully, dropped off a bit of stuff on some comfy bivi ledges below the line where we'd hunker down for the night as planned. Suddenly a continuous splitter crack system about 15 meters right of the Warrior corner now grabbed out attention and we immediately set out for it, with intents of fixing our two ropes, then returning to the ledge for the night. The first pitch was on the Warrior, but a ten meter traverse right into the crack system on the second pitch brought us into the first pitch of sustained 5.11+ finger cracks that would continue for many pitches to come.
Despite just one tarp and one Thermarest between us, the bivouac wasn't too bad, as the it was calm and mild night. Ascending the two ropes in the morning warmed us right up, and we were treated to an amazing splitter and the best pitch of the route for the first pitch of the day. About four pitches later, we found ourselves back in the Warrior, and followed it to the summit ridge. The rest of the day went smoothly with us swapping leads, and on-sighting every pitch. Ocassionally the seconder would jumar with the not so light pack. We had hauled a few times but the pack was falling apart and on the verge of spilling it's contents. Given the sustained difficulty and the fact we both had work commitments the next day, it seemed prudent to conserve energy this way. Upon returning to civilization and doing our homework, it appeared we had climbed Spicy Red Beans and Rice (Cameron Tague / Eric Greene,1997, 5.12- A1), with a one or two pitch variation to the right. We though it was one of the best climbs we've done, and much better quality than it's popular neigbour - All Along the Watchtower. Definitely a bit more sustained and harder overall, but not such a difficult crux! The A1 grade can now be removed, and the original topo can be found here. The actual line of this route is slightly left of what is shown in the picture in the Bugaboo guidebook...
Photo: John Schurlock
Sweet Sylvia, East Face of Snowpatch
A sweet route indeed. Chris Brazeau and I had climbed this before but we were now back to try and free our variations we had done a few years back. At about mid height, there are two parallel splitters. You'd be blind not to notice them (they stand out from very far away), and they both start off a huge semi detatched flake. The original route heads up the left crack and it gets wide as in off-width. The right one (which we assume we may have been the first climbers up it a few years back), starts out with 30 meters of slightly overhanging hands, before tapering down through the sizes. A short section of purple camelots provides the .12b crux which Chris managed to send this time. A short rest is reached as the two cracks merge, but a mandatory short o.w. guards the anchor so don't forget to bring your #4 camelot (or maybe two of them). Laybacking these last two bodylengths is definitely the easy way, to one of the sweetest belay ledges in Bugs. The next pitch is a real blockbuster, meat and potatoes, wide corner crack. I think I'd want three #4 camelots next time I lead it. Only rated .11a, but very sustained and about as burly as just about any 5.11 pitch in the bugs! Absolutely incredible though!! Another pitch and we ventured off on a variation finish. After a little prep work, our light start disappearing so we gunned it for the chains at the top of Sunshine Crack - our descent route. I led the last pitch as the moon rose in the alpenglow south eastern sky. To make a long story short, we were both stoked and completely destroyed, and will definitely be back for more.
Minataur, East face of Snowpatch - First ascent
Colin Moorhead was back in hood after an absence of several years, and we were stoked to team up again. Not only as old friends, but also because we're both very passionate about putting up our own lines rather than climbing someone else's, and we both have a very creative eye when it comes to seeing passage up big granite walls. Naturally, we started making plans. I'll post more on this later, but the short version goes like this: Minotaur climbs the first four pitches of Labyrinth, a route I authored with Jon Simms a couple of years ago. It then branches off left for eight pitches, three of them part of an aid route call Les Bruines Es Pentinen, and then re-joins Labyrinth for it's final three pitches. The belays we used are marked in yellow on the photo. Over two days, we managed to free it all at 5.12- which there are three pitches of, and much 5.11 as well. All and all, we though it was a great route, we had a great time climbing it, and we'd definitely recommend it to others. It's prepped with 7 fixed pitons, 1 bolt, a couple of fixed nuts in key places, and the cracks have been excavated enough for the onsight now. A few times, we had to clean some crux sections, and then lower down to the no hands rest before sending them from there. Like I said, I'll post more on this route in the near future. I suspect most people should be able to figure out the meaning of the name(s). Especially if you venture into it!