Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bow Valley obscure

A few people have asked me recently about some rather obscure routes I did over the years. Rather than just emailing out topos and letting the climbs languish in the obscurity they perhaps deserve, I thought I would post the information here in case others might be interested. Note that the routes in question are somewhat more adventurous than most, lacking such user-friendly amenities as bolted belays. For all that they do offer some excellent climbing, the Windtower and Rimwall routes in particular being - in my opinion, anyway - among the best long climbs in the Bow Valley.

Marcus Norman high on the Stanley Headwall.

Le Jour Le Plus Long, Northeast Face of the Windtower, ~550 m, 5.11 or 5.10d

This outstanding route was established on summer solstice in 2000 by two Quebecois climbers, Remy Bernier and Francois Roy, in just about the best style possible: on-sight and hammerless. Rolando Garibotti and I made the second ascent in 2003 and added a two-pitch variation, making for easier but more consistent climbing. I hope that others will respect the pure style in which the route was put up and leave their hammers behind when enjoying one of the finest long routes the Front Ranges have to offer.

Murder By Numbers, East Face of the Rimwall, ~450 m, 5.11

Dana Ruddy and I finished this project in late summer of 2007, although some other people accompanied me on my two earlier attempts - hence the name. So many Rockies' routes are "good from afar but far from good." This climb is very much the exception, with excellent rock essentially throughout. Unfortunately good rock is often compact rock, and a small selection of pins, especially knifeblades, is needed for both protection and belays.

La Bastille, North Face of the Second Buttress of Rundle, ~500 m, 5.11-

While numerous routes crisscross the face of EEOR, the guidebook showed but one red line on the Second Buttress - and none on its impressive north face. It was all the motivation Eric Dumerac and I needed. Over three trips in early summer early in this millennium (I don't remember the year) we climbed to the top of this feature. Our final push came on July 14th; given the auspicious date and the forbidding, fortress-like aspect of the buttress, the route practically named itself. There are a few bolts along the way but once again, pins are needed for both protection and belays.

Lightning Bolt Crack, North Face of the North Summit of Mt. Edith, III 5.11a

After repeating the extraordinary Le Jour Le Plus Long, I got fired up about that style of climbing: hammerless on big limestone routes. While repeating Exacto, another such route the Quebecois put up on the North Summit of Mt. Edith to the right of The Kaffir Strikes Back, I noticed a possible line to the left of the Kaffir. A few weeks later, leaving our iron behind, Jeff Nazarchuk and I came back to make the first ascent of Lightning Bolt Crack, a fine addition - if I say so myself - to the shady side of Gargoyle Valley. I hope others will have fun playing at the same game we did, and leave their hammers behind.

Stanley Headwall, IV 5.10a

Toward the end of the winter of 1998 I was skiing below the Stanley Headwall with Vera Wong, a visiting Australian climber. While that day we were going ice climbing, Vera, the rock climber she truly was, kept asking me where the summer lines on the Headwall went. I was embarrassed to answer that in fact there were none. The following summer Marcus Norman and I came back to remedy this situation, and over two trips climbed a route to the top of the Headwall. Topping out, we scrambled up to the ridgeline and ran down scree on the backside. Luckily the rain held off until we were below treeline, among wet greenery and slick deadfall. And no, this Rockies' class-eek! (to borrow an expression from Eamonn Walsh) is definitely not a hammerless affair.

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