Mt. MOG, Owens-Walsh, and Mt. Bell, Zeitgeist. Alpine climbing—or perhaps “alpine crag- ging”—on lesser known, lower elevation peaks (but still with decent-sized faces) is catching on in the Canadian Rockies. This winter I enjoyed a number of great days on these sorts of objectives, including some new routes.
On October 26 Eamonn Walsh and I headed for the north face of an unnamed 2,680m peak in the Chickadee Valley, just on the B.C side of the Continental Divide, off the west side
of Highway 93N, the Banff-Radium Hot Springs road. I first noticed this peak and its face while ski-touring the previous spring. A spring or winter ascent would have a lot more snow to deal with, and the result would be a different experience, to say the least.
Eamonn and I ended up having an awesome day.
The route looked to be predominantly rock, but in fact ice was splattered on every pitch, though we used only two ice screws on the entire route. There were a couple of hard pitches, but lots of easier mixed (M4) in between, allowing us to get to the top and down in 16 hours.
We aided one short section to keep the pace. It would have gone free at a short but very physical M8-ish (overhanging, arcing roof-corner-crack, with decent gear but no feet to start).
The descent involved downclimbing and one rappel to the south side of the peak, and then down the drainage to the east (involving exposed downclimbing and one more short rappel). In retrospect, I think we should have gone down a couloir on the west side of the peak.
Rack: 6 pins (blades to baby angle), the upper two sizes of BD peckers (amazing in thin, ice-filled, or expanding cracks and flakes, my new favorite gear for Rockies alpine climbing), 8 nuts (full size range), cams from .5" to 3" (a #4 Camalot would be useful a couple of times, but we did without).
After considerable research, we don’t think the peak had been climbed, so we called it Mt. MOG. MOG stands for Man of Girth, which Eamonn and I both are.
Our route gains 600m in elevation and went at about IV+ M6+ A1. Worth Doing.
Two weeks later, on November 8, Steve Holeczi and I approached Mt. Bell via Taylor Lake (9km west of Castle Junction on Highway #1), taking 2.5 hours to the base of the northwest face. This was our second attempt at the route, the first being two days earlier, and we were rewarded with high-quality quartzite mixed climbing. The feature we climbed is a sub-face of sorts and does not lead directly to the summit. The route reaches the North Ridge (5.3) of Mt. Bell at about two-thirds height. We decided not to head to the summit, as the North Ridge is quite different in character from the rest of our climb.
Zeitgeist (German for “The spirit of the times”; 530m, IV+ M7- WI5R) went in 10 pitches, with pitches 6, 7, and 8 having steep ice and dry-tooling, sustained mixed climbing, and awesome quality. We rappelled the route in 12 ropelengths off a mixture of ice and rock anchors.
Rack: 10 screws; a set of nuts; cams to 3" with double .75,1, 2; 6 pins (mostly KBs); bird beaks/peckers/ice hooks; 12 draws.
Rob Owens, Canada