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North America, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Mt. Chephren, Leftover Rib, New Route

Mt. Chephren, Leftover Rib, New Route. The east face of Mt. Chephren, a graceful pyramid with a multitude of rock ribs sweeping down from the summit, towers nearly a vertical mile above the Icefields Parkway. It received its first ascent in the summer of 1965, when a crew of Vulgarians led by Art Gran climbed the central rib. Then, in the winter of 1987, Barry Blanchard, Ward Robinson, and Peter Arbic pioneered The Wild Thing up a steep mixed gully to the right of the Gran Route. But that left a lot of unexplored ground.

I got my first taste of the east face in 1998 when Jim Sevigny and I climbed the Gran Route. A few years earlier, Jim and Ken Wylie had attempted a new line on the east face, but Jim and I were going alpine climbing together for the first time and thought it better to stick to an established route. Last August found us once again glassing the face from across Waterfowl Lake. Our objective was the line Jim and Ken had attempted earlier: an obvious rib left of the Gran Route.

A pitch or two of scruffy comers got us to the base of a large ramp. We unroped and scrambled upward, Jim stopping only to retrieve the anchors he left while retreating in a snowstorm from the previous attempt. We put the rope back on for an easy but loose gully; above, we continued simulclimbing up more pleasant ground. A traverse back right and it looked like some “real” climbing was in order. We changed into rock shoes and started pitching it out. A few ropelengths of 5.8 (made more interesting by packs full of all the toys we thought we would need), and we arrived at the large ledge below the upper face. The direct line looked too hard to climb with packs and we don’t like hauling, so we did the typical Rockies traverse. Once around the corner we spied a chimney capped by a chockstone that looked like it might go. It went a lot more easily than expected and soon we were back in boots and simulclimbing until we bumped up against the final steep wall.

I changed back into rock shoes and wandered up for a look. At the top of a teetering pinnacle, I managed to get a pin into the compact rock above, and set out on some excellent if somewhat runout climbing. Another pitch and we were off the face. A cold wind was blowing and we had only an hour of daylight remaining, so we didn’t linger. We knew where to go from our Gran Route ascent and, after some high-speed glissading, were back at Chephren Lake at dark. We ate the rest of our food, hoisted packs full of aid and bivy gear we never needed, and set off on the few hours of wretched hiking still separating us from the comforts of Jim’s Eurovan.

Raphael Slawinski, Canada