Saturday, September 6, 2014

Summer's Almost Gone


"Summer's almost gone,
Summer's almost gone.
We had some good times,
But they're gone.
The winter's comin' on,
Summer's almost gone."

- The Doors


Steve Holeczi’s name appeared on call display.

“There’s a cool-looking corner system just left of Homage to the Spider. Wanna go check it out on Tuesday?”

I thought briefly about the sport-climbing fitness I’d lose by going into the mountains, but in the end adventure won out. I even agreed to meet at five in the morning.

***

After just a few minutes of wading through long, wet grass in the grey light of dawn, our shoes and pants were soaked. The sky might’ve been clear now, but the night’s downpour lingered in the mud on the trail and in the dark streaks on the rock faces above.

“The north side of Edith is completely wet. Think it’s worth walking all the way to Louis?” Steve wondered.

I’m a believer in Steve DeMaio’s saying, that no matter how a route looks, you just gotta go rub your nose in it.

“We’re already here. We might as well check it out,” I suggested.

We left the trail where it descended into Gargoyle Valley and traversed below the east side of Mt. Louis, awkwardly sidehilling across steep slopes of grass and shale. Pushing our way through a patch of small, dense trees left us soaked to the skin. However, we were elated to see the vertical corner of our desire was unaccountably dry. Maybe not altogether dry, as the bottom ten metres were a glistening black streak, but it looked climbable. A stretch of scrambling, made unpleasant by slick damp coating seemingly every foothold, and we were emptying our packs on a gravelly ledge below the streak.

I pulled on a few pieces as I splashed up the corner, rationalizing that what mattered today was getting as high as possible, before inevitably rappelling off. Higher up, where the crack turned gently overhanging, I was rewarded with dry, prickly rock. Arriving at a stance I pulled up the drill and sunk a couple of bolts into perfect grey stone. We were on our way.

A slightly damp Mt. Louis rises above Gargoyle Valley.

The east aspect of Mt. Louis, with the Diamond on the left and the Homage area on the right.

Steve Holeczi and Sam Eastman scramble toward the start of Homage - and of our proposed line.

Homage to the Spider starts up the big corner on the right. We tackled the corner to its left, capped by an overhanging ear.

Wet but still good climbing on the first pitch. Photo: Steve Holeczi.

The left-hand variation to the offwidth on the third pitch. Photo: Sam Eastman.

***

A month and another visit later we were back for the send. There was a sharpness to the early-morning air that, along with red leaves underfoot, spoke of changing seasons. A month earlier I’d sweated in a T-shirt and swatted mosquitoes on the approach trail, as it wound upward through tall conifers; now I wore fleece gloves. But the initial corner was dry, the holds and smears crisp in the yellow sunshine streaking over the ridges to the east. Unfortunately, by the time we were hanging below the ear capping the corner system, grey clouds had veiled the sky. As I started up the pitch, a snowflake landed on the sleeve of my windbreaker.

“Watch me,” I grunted down to Steve. “I can’t feel my toes.”

At least my fingers were warm as I squeezed and palmed my way across the underside of the ear. It helped that the driving graupel held off until we were changing into approach shoes on the huge platform above. Wearing every layer we’d brought, we scrambled toward the summit.

“Holy shit, check it out!” As the summit cross came into view, so did five figures just below it. The prospect of lineups on the rappels had us nearly running across the final stretch of ridge. I suppose I don’t always live up to the ideal of detachment and equanimity I aspire to. I clipped the chain of the first station mere seconds ahead of the French guide with two clients in tow.

“Vee have a hundred tventee meeter rope,” he said, dubiously eying our single cord.

“If we end up holding you up you can go ahead,” politely but firmly I stood my ground. But they were nowhere to be seen as we coiled the rope below the last rappel and happily skidded down toward the valley. Our project was finished – and so was summer.

Having a much dryer if colder time on the first pitch. Photo: Steve Holeczi.

Steve runs up the second pitch...

... and yours truly grovels up the third. Photo: Steve Holeczi.

Looking down the fourth pitch. Photo: Steve Holeczi.

Interesting climbing on the fourth pitch. Photo: Steve Holeczi. 

Moving around the ear on the fifth pitch. Photo: Steve Holeczi.

Easy but spectacular climbing up the fin on the fifth pitch.

Snow flurries blow down Forty Mile Creek.

***

Holeczi-Slawinski (250 m, 5.11-)
FA: Steve Holeczi and Raphael Slawinski (with help from Sam Eastman), September 1, 2014

This route climbs the corner system climber’s left of Homage to the Spider.


Approach:
As per Homage to the Spider in Banff Rock. In that description there are two single-bolt “rappel” stations marked to access the start of that route. At the second bolt traverse climber’s right and up into the alcove above the Homage start in the big gully (prone to rockfall early in the season from snowmelt up high). There is a single bolt marking the start. The bottom 10 metres are often wet until early August but still climbable.

  1. 25 m, 5.10. A gently overhanging crack with good gear leads to a 2-bolt station.
  2. 50 m, 5.8. Climb the V-notch corner plugging cams into the crack in the back. After reaching a small ledge continue up the corner to a 2-bolt station below a short off-width.
  3. 40 m, 5.10. Sling chockstones or plug in the 5” for the wide section above the belay. Upon reaching a ledge, climb a stunning dihedral that turns into a “better than it looks” chimney leading to a 2-bolt station with a blank wall straight above and a chossy gully up and right. Note: An alternate 5.9R start to this pitch climbs around the offwidth on the left (fixed piton) but isn’t recommended.
  4. 50 m, 5.10+. An airy step left into the adjacent corner system leads to face climbing past bolts to a ledge. Continue past a mix of bolts and gear to a cruxy bulge, which leads to a 2-bolt semi-hanging belay below the overhanging “ear”. A single rack up to 4” suffices for this pitch.
  5. 35 m, 5.11- Climb slightly friable rock past bolts up and left around the “ear”. Once past the overhang, the crack starts to widen into a loose chimney/alleyway. Unless you enjoy groveling, don’t get into it. Instead, once past the last bolt, look to gain the fin on the right. Great rock with intermittent cracks for pro leads to a stance and a gear anchor. Only small-to-medium cams are needed for this pitch.
  6. 50 m, 4th. Climb along the exposed fin until it is easy to step left into the alleyway. Continue to  a huge ledge, which marks the top of Homage.

Continue to the top as per Homage to the Spider.

Rack:
1 set TCUs, cams to 4” with doubles in 0.5-2” (optional 5” for 1 section)
15 draws (many extendables)