Showing posts from October, 2010

Mt. Cromwell

Thanksgiving weekend had whetted my appetite for alpine climbing, so Josh Lavigne and I made plans to get out again the following weekend (can you tell I am a weekend warrior?). I tried to think of something I had not done before, but that was not so far from the road that it would not fit into a regular weekend. In the end we came up with the Elzinga-Miller route on the north face of Mt. Cromwell. The north face of Cromwell from the Icefields Parkway. This would be my second trip up the north face. Ten years ago Jim Sevigny, my alpine mentor, and I walked up Woolley Creek in early September to attempt the Robinson-Arbic. The weather was far from splitter: a light drizzle fell as we waded across the Sunwapta River and low-lying cloud hid the face, so that we had to sit on our packs and wait for a couple of hours before we could even see the start of the route. The face looked to be in great shape, with white streaks coming down all over the place, but upon closer inspection the whit

A Long Weekend, Part III: Monday

The cool thing about the shoulder seasons of spring and fall in the Rockies is that, depending on mood and weather, one can pick and choose between sport climbing, alpine rock, ice (OK, maybe not just yet in early October) and alpine climbing proper. I felt like I had not been up into the snowy alpine for a while, probably because as a simple matter of fact I had not. The forecast was for a cool, clear day, and I felt the urge to experience it from the summit of a mountain.  The mountain wilderness south of Mt. Sir Douglas. Mt. Sir Douglas is the second-highest peak in Kananaskis Country. Unlike a lot of Rockies' peaks it does not have a walk-up route. True, none of the routes on Sir Douglas are extreme, but they all require climbing. Along with the glaciated approaches and location out of sight of a paved highway, it all adds up to make it a "real" mountain. Afternoon light on the north-west face of Sir Douglas. Josh Lavigne had never climbed Sir Douglas, while I h

A Long Weekend, Part II: Saturday

One of my favourite corners of the Rockies is Kananaskis Country. I love its dry conifers, wind-swept ridges, gray crags and, in the winter, ice dessicated by Chinooks. Eamonn Walsh shares my fondness for K-Country, and so it is often with Eamonn that I explore obscure front-range peaks and routes. The Opal Range is a 40-km long spine of dramatic if somewhat crumbling peaks. Tectonic forces have stood originally horizontal strata of limestone on end. Erosion completed the job, leaving a chain of vertically-tilted bedding planes. The result is a range of peaks with narrow ridges running north-south, and steep faces falling to the east and west. The Opals naturally lend themselves to multi-peak traverses, with the number of peaks one takes in on any given outing limited mainly by one's tolerance for scrambling on chossy knife edges with big drops all around. A fine position on the south ridge of The Blade, with the southern Opals behind. Since returning from the Bugs in mid-Augu

A Long Weekend, Part I: Friday

A fine morning finds us once again hiking up the familiar trail to The Lookout . Our packs are pleasantly light; the ropes are stashed at the crag, and our projects are already equipped with draws. It is shaping up to a beautiful day. Who knows, we might not even need a fire to stay warm today. I go through my usual ritual: a long 5.11on big holds to limber up; a short bouldery 5.11 to warm up the fingers; and a 5.12a that I have wired to get into pulling-down mode. All too soon it is time to get down to work and start doing redpoint burns on my month-old project, Spicy Elephant Extension. The first section to the halfway anchor goes quickly. How many times have I climbed it by now? It must be at least fifteen, maybe twenty. Even though I am not really pumped, I stop at the no-hands rests; I will need the extra energy higher up. The business begins a couple of bolts above the halfway anchor. I take my time at the stem rest, alternating hands and gripping positions until my breathi