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North America, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Various Activity

Canadian Rockies, Various Activity. For the past few years, most of the new multipitch rock routes to go up in the Front Ranges have been in the Ghost River area. Owing to its secluded location, this region has not been developed as extensively as the Bow Valley. It also has generally better limestone. Using a mixture of bottom-up and top-down styles, and with power drills playing a prominent role, some fantastic routes have been put up. But though they offer excellent climbing, none of the recent additions can be called truly alpine.

Though long the focus of local attention, the Bow Valley still offers possibilities for major new routes. Most activity on the Goat Wall just west of the ever-popular south face of Yamnuska centers on the proud line of the Goat Buttress (5.10d, 375m). Until recently, the large expanse of rock to its right lay largely forgotten. But over the past two years, Peter Gatzsch and Bulent Tezcan established two new routes, Gotcha (5.10a/b, 515m) in 1999 and Goatman (5.10 AO, 480m) in 2000. However, the highlight of the alpine rock season was a new route on the northeast face of Windtower farther west, home to the classic Homer-Wood route (5.10a, 570m). Visiting the Rockies from Quebec for a rock guide’s course, Remy Bernier and Francois Roy put up Le Jour Le Plus Long (5.11, 500m) over two days in June. Remarkably for a new route of this magnitude on Rockies limestone, they climbed it entirely clean! They also put up a new route on Mt. Edith (5.10, 300m) west of Banff.

Summer alpine activity continued in a familiar vein, with established classics seeing much traffic, but little new-route activity—this in spite of the fact that many prominent features remain unclimbed, and some major routes still await second ascents. As usual, the Greenwood-Locke and Greenwood-Jones routes (both IV 5.9) on the north face of Mt. Temple above Lake Louise each received a number of ascents. Although easier technically, the Elzinga-Miller (IV 5.7) has considerable exposure to serac fall, which may account for its recent drop in popularity. On one of the few (only?) ascents it received last summer, leading local ice climbers Steve Holeczi and Eamonn Walsh attempted the final ice cliffs directly. Finding them highly unstable, they were forced to make a long traverse beneath them to reach easier ground. Raphael Slawinski, local connoisseur of the obscure, teamed up with Rodger Debeyer to repeat the loose Northeast Buttress of Mt. Sarrail (III 5.10a) in Kananaskis Country, and the intimidating The Kafir Strikes Back (III 5.10c) on Mt. Edith. The latter, a classic Dave Cheesmond creation, offers sustained traditional climbing and deserves to be climbed more frequently.

In September, Jim Sevigny and Slawinski climbed the north face of Mt. Cromwell in the Columbia Icefields, generally following the line of the Robinson-Arbic route (V 5.7 mixed). Much of the ice on the face was less than substantial, requiring circuitous route finding and insecure drytooling up to M5. Nevertheless, this little-known face is highly recommended, as in better conditions it offers beautiful ice/mixed climbing. Later that month, Rob Owens and Walsh took advantage of a cold spell that saw nighttime temperatures drop to -17° C, and got a jump on the ice climbing season with the first ascent of The Wild Bunch (III 5.7 WI6 R/X) on the northeast face of Mt. Beatty in Kananaskis Country. The first pitch was the crux, involving steep and thin ice climbing with minimal protection. Above, easier climbing led to a scenic summit.

Always a good bet for early season ice, Kananaskis Country coughed up its share of new ice/mixed routes. Kim Csizmazia, Will Gadd, and Holeczi hiked for four hours to the appropriately named Shut up and Walk (WI5+ R, 100m) on the Big Sister above Canmore. The approach, and the fact that the crux pillar fell down when Gadd kicked it on the rappel, insured that there were no repeats. With only a two-hour approach, Imaginary Goat (5.7 WI5 R, 150m) on Mt. Warspite along the Smith-Dorrien Trail, climbed by Owens, Slawinski, and Walsh, was comparatively casual. Owens and Slawinski later returned to add Spite (M4 WI4, 80m). This is the prominent line directly below the summit, and could be extended to make a varied alpine route.

The ice season was a freakish one, with areas like the Ghost coming in unusually fat, while others, like the Stanley Headwall and Mt. Wilson, were unusually lean. However, armed with the motto that “it does not have to be formed to be formed” (and with power drills), climbers were not deterred. On the Stanley Headwall, bolting behind the rarely formed Killer Pillar (WI5+, 55m), Sean Isaac and David Thomson put up the powerful Thriller (M8+/M9- WI5, 65m). On the same wall, Eric Dumerac and Slawinski added two bolt-pro- tected dry tooling pitches to link up the unformed Acid Howl (WI6+, 320m) and produce Stairs and Flowers (M8 WI5+, 200m). In keeping with a strict free-climbing ethic, they returned after equipping the pitches to redpoint the route in a single push. In the Waiparous Creek area north of the Ghost proper, Shawn Huisman and Isaac completed their two-year project Cryophobia (M8+ WI5, 250m), which links thin smears and daggers on the spectacular wall to the right of the classic Hydrophobia (WI5+, 125m). Owens, Scott Semple, and Mike Verwey contributed Haunted By Waters (M8 WI5, 165m), a bolt-protected direct start to Sea of Vapors (WI5, 165m). Owens and Semple next teamed up to put up Mixed Emotions (5.9 A1 M5 WI6, 145m) to the left of the Upper Weeping Wall (WI6, 155m), one of the finest of the new mixed routes. Traditionally protected M5 and 5.9 pitches led to a bolt ladder through a roof, finishing on a skinny dagger with wild exposure. Ben Firth and Slawinski made the second ascent, freeing the aid onsight at M8. Farther north, Roger Chayer, Csizmazia, and Gadd added the surprisingly moderate Call of the Curtain (M7 WI6, 120m) through the huge roof to the right of the upper pillar of Curtain Call (WI6, 125m). Holeczi, Semple, and Walsh made the second ascent, confirming the high quality of the route.

In contrast with the bustling mixed scene, the winter alpine scene was rather quiet. Some half-hearted attempts at first winter ascents of major alpine routes did not get very far. The highlight of the winter alpine season came in early April with Sans Blitz (V 5.5 WI7), Barry Blanchard, Rolando Garibotti, and Steve House’s addition to the east face of Mt. Fay near Moraine Lake (see note below).

Raphael Slawinski, Canada