Monday, July 28, 2008

Chinaman's (Ha-Ling) Peak - Northeast Face

This weekend Anne and I managed to get up the Northeast face of Chinaman's (Ha Ling) Peak. I was up it once before, 15 years ago, with my Dad. Since that trip it seems as if the bolted stations have gotten more plentiful, and the odd bolt on a few pitches has been added. Since this was Anne's first long rock route outside of Bear's Hump it was interesting getting her perspective of an alpine route.

The thing she was most surprised about was the sense of security provided by the bolted stations. She mentioned how different the climb would have been without bolts to end every pitch. I had to agree. Since there isn't always a lot of gear on alpine climbs, the stations made it feel more sporty than the usual "on your own" alpine feel. No judgments here. I only wonder if adding bolted stations to the Hump will remove much of its mini-alpine feel? Something to consider.

(image on the right pilfered from

Ha Ling Beta

You don't need a big rack on this route. There are lots of fixed pins, and aside from the top pitches, you really can't place much gear on a pitch.

Gear: I would suggest
  • a half set of cams, 0.5" to a 2.5" (0.5" is the most useful size)
  • three tri cams (pink, red, brown)
  • stoppers #4-#10 - double up only on the #4's, this route really liked #4's
  • 12 runner/draws
  • double length runner or two
You certainly could get by with less, but this would be the most you would need to feel comfortable.

I would say, if possible, simul climb up to pitch #5. This is where the right traverse begins. This belay is a bad spot for rock fall. This will probably save as much time as soloing up the two 4th class pitches, and is a bit safer. Just be wary of rope drag. You can also link pitches up in the dihedral to save some more time.

We had about 3 hours of climbing. When approaching the route, get to the base of the cliff early instead of traversing left on the shale.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Bolted Routes at the Choice

A few bolt protected routes at the Choice have gotten put up this week.  They are around Crispy Ambulance.

First, I have to say, repeating the roof move at the top of Crispy was as exciting as I remembered it - especially while rope soloing.  The pin shifted quite nicely in my hands after having committed to the moves (large expando block) and way too far above the last mediocre piece of gear for my own good..  I figured this is the Ambulance part of the route, as the bottom had quite nice, crisp, face/arete holds with decent protection.  A new set of bolts is now found on a ledge just below the bad pin.  This makes the crack route much more enjoyable.

To the right of Crispy Ambulance is a route that probably goes at about 5.10a. It climbs to the old bolt anchors 15 feet right of the manky pin.  This is a very nice route.  The fun, steep sequence near the top is well protected.  Start left of Crispy on some 60 grit brown sandpaper.

A  5.10b  30m
B  5.10a  30m
C  5.7      30m  Crispy Ambulance
D  5.7     2 pitches  Split Cleavage

To the left of this route, another route has been set.  A small roof, 3 bolts up, is the distinguishing feature.  The bolt spacing reminds me of late 80's early 90's routes.  A thin knife blade under the roof may be warranted to protect the cut left - hard to say though.

Two rap rings can also now be found just above the first (and rarely done) pitch of Split Cleavage.  This should keep the old slings used to rap off the horn from piling up.

A 60m rope will just get you down to the Raspberry ledge from both routes. 60m rope was also just make it down to the ground from the Local Decision station.  I am not sure about the length of the rap from the base of Crispy (the standard station used to rappel Split Cleavage).

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Route on Expert's Choice

Yellow Jacket Swing
2 pitches
excellent gear, excellent pro

The main pitch of Yellow Jacket Swing as seen from the top

This climb, recently established by Blair and Dave, is about 15m to the climbers right of Triangle Panic and 55m from the start of Crispy Ambulance. It climbs a prominent corner on the far right side of the upper tier at Expert's Choice.  The following description is from Blair.

Pitch 1)   The route starts from Raspberry Ledge and climbs the obvious left facing arete. At the top of this arete the crack continues very slightly to the right, then straight up and then slightly to the left (all very obvious). Here the crack peters out but an easy 3m traverse to the left puts you at a right angling groove to the belay station. The rock is quite good and the pro is excellent. This pitch is about 50m and probably a 5.7.

Pitch 2)   From the belay station if you look up there are three grooves. We took the left most one which angles to the left all the way to the belay station but i think any of the three grooves would work. This was a 35 to 40m pitch and went at 5.4.

The route ascends the obvious corner in the background.  Picture as seen from Raspberry Ledge

Zoom in to see the route location. The bottom is Triangle Panic (5.8+), the recommended start

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Ockam's Razor

Just thought I would share a picture of one of the nicer routes at Drywood.

Photo by Blair Piggot, climbers Chris & Anne Goble

A full day of climbing at the lower tier usually involves leaving room for the head space required by the non-stop airy positions.

Ockam's (5.9) heads up some fabulous rock around a sharp arete. The best move is a long reach near the top. So far no routes continue up the overhang above. However, it looks like some lines may be possible. This route should be one of the classics of the Lower Tier, however, it is uncertain how many ascents it has had.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Mr. Grimm or Upside Down Alberta

The story of Mr. Grimm has, like many fairy tales, many morales. This route was established during the second wave of Drywood routes. The first wave of routes were put up by Mike Orr, Megan Houston, Denny Winkler, Mark Iwaasa and various other climbing wall staff/ climbing club members. This wave concentrated on the lower right side of the cliff. Route cleaning was a laboriously project, even if it was aided by the cleanest rock and fewest ledges on the cliff. Numerous visits were required to prep Thumbalina. Even so, it still will spit out a loose shard or two.

Further waves concentrated on the upper tier before moving to the slabby faces of Fairy Lane and then the loser rock uphill of the cave. Exploration of the lower tier required long hikes up the back side and two or three hope for the best raps down the scree and argillite above the routes. There should still be a number of pins up there from Mike and Chris' scouting trips.

During one new route session, I was lucky enough to finally make it to the ground above Mr. Grimm. I did a long traverse from a set of pins far to the left of the route's top. A bolt anchor was thrown in at the top of Mr. Grimm, before I rapped down and cleaned as much rock as I could before my legs went numb from the harness. Being by myself, getting into the ledge to clean was problematic, not overly safe, and required bolted anchors which I was leary to put in before the route was fully worked.

Anchors went in and the route was climbed. In talking to Duncan about my new project, I learned both he and Mike had inspected the route - tentatively calling the project "Upsidedown Alberta" due to the map like geography of the upper section. I was rather unpopular for a while, but no work had been done on the work, other than a preliminary rappel after the pair had climbed Mercy Me to have a look.

The name comes from Meagan Houston's desire to have all the routes in the area named after Fairy Tales. This was something not terribly popular with some of the crowd, but everyone seemed to go along with it - for a while.

In heading back up the route with Blair the other week, the name, Mr. Grimm, still seems appropriate. Fully clearing the loose gravel on the rest ledge and some of the other loose block (not climbed on) would require eternal tunneling. This has always been a conundrum for routes in the south - the are spots where cleaning loose rocks will just generate a mine shaft, not a cleaner climb.

The crux of the route is turning the roof. While the guidebook says the top bolt is too far left due to a key hold breaking, I think I will have to take that back. The right line works well, and the bolt is in an acceptable location. There are 3 bolts on the roof section. Routes in the area tend to be closely bolted around sections that are loose.

The top section of the route is classic and unique. Choose the Right (5.10a) has similar features. Not too many people have gone up the two climbs above, Hansel and Grettle. The left hand route is short one bolt hanger, so bring a stopper to loop over the nut.

In terms of the steep overhanging climbs in the area, I would suggest getting used to Fluffy Thief 5.10a, or Choose the Right (5.10a), before hopping on Mr. Grimm (5.10c). After that you should be ready to tackle the ultra classic Macduff (5.11-).


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guide Book Reprint

Right now the current guide book for the area is out of print.  I have posted a link to the original PDF files on my libertypages webpage, but I can't access the server due to technical problems (and my brother not having time to trouble shoot the remote access glitches).  

Here is a temporary copy of the guidebook (~100meg each)

Currently I am working on updating the existing book with new photos, new routes, more accurate descriptions (and more consensual gradings).  I am hoping to get out to the Crowsnest area in August and pick some of the local's brains (Chris M.....).  We'll see when things actually get finished.  There are always a million details to tidy up, especially if there is to be anything more than vague route locations.

This time around I would love to have some old period pictures and anecdotes.  I read an old Devil's tower guide and the 70's pictures were just too entertaining - plus they gave such a good idea how the climbing vibe has changed over the years.  So if you have any info to share.....
cgoble72 at gmail.  I am also hoping to put in some more non-climbing stories to give a feel for the changing periods.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Climbed at the upper tier today. Anybody heading up there should take a 9/16" wrench. There were quite a few hangers coming loose and unfortunately i didn't have a wrench with me.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Lost Gear

Sounds like more than a few people have been leaving gear behind.  We found a number of pieces on Cusak's crack today.  Someone must have had a real epic.  Half the pieces had bent gate biners on the wrong end.  Can't quite figure out the story, but if they are yours, fill in the details and name the gear, and I will drop it off for you.

You can rap off Cusak's with a 60m rope.  You will just reach the two bolt station at the base of Cusak's Harebell and Mainline (28m rap).  Another half rap will get you back down to the ledge (25m)


Pass Creek Slabs

The pass creek slabs have been in use since the late 40s or 50s. At that time the boy scouts used them for rappel practice. I have also heard that climbers in the 70's and 80's used to top rope the area. At this time all the routes were led, however, not all the routes have what today would be considered adequate protection for safe lead climbs. As a result Pass creek is best considered a top rope area with one or two decent lead climbs for experienced climbers. They are a good area to go to when the park is Windy. For instance, today we were almost blown off tick ridge, while we enjoyed a calm sunny day at the slabs.

1. Right scramble 5.3
2. Layback block 5.4
3. Lost Yaks 5.5
4. Left crack 5.6

One of the challenges with the Pass Creek slabs is the thin protection for leading, low technical difficulty, and difficult to set top anchors. We found 3 pairs of anchors on top of the left most (and best) climbs. They are comprised on 2 bolts and hangers. This should make this area a decent spot for new climbers. The routes are generally easy (5.4-5.6) and the location is gorgeous. We watched a large cinnamon black bear and two cubs across the river for about a half hour.

The large ledge at the base of the routes

Chris on top of Lost Yaks 5.5

Anne over in the area of the Left Crack 5.6

Since boulders can do sit starts - why can't climbers do the equivalent. Chris climbing out of the water after checking out some more nearby areas with no route potential.

If you are going to lead any of these routes, I would recommend some micro nuts and a small knife blade or two. Left crack and Layback Block have the best gear. Watch out for the fiesty ants on Right Scramble.

To get to the slabs, drive up the Red Rock highway in Waterton, and park at the first pullout on top of the hill. Walk up the horse trail that goes by the road, and follow the power polls down to the river.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Trips July 2 - July 16

Well, it looks like Butte may be the place to be next weekend. They are hosting the National Folk Festival from the 11th to the 13th, and it is FREE!

Having just got a copy of the new rock climbing guide to Butte (essentially an updated and segmented version of Randall Green's old Montana Rock guide), it looks like there is lots to climb down in that neck of the woods.

Post other trips here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The clean vs. the many

The world rarely is captured in terms of absolutes. Greys are the norm. The more I study culture and group dynamics, the more useful I find discourses about tension. Our neck of the Rockies has tremendously bad rock. Outside of Expert's choice, Wedge and Knob Hill, few areas don't have sizable amounts of choss. A recent revisit to the lower tier of Drywood brought up a tension that exists between route availability and route cleanliness.

The lower tier of Drywood is composed of a solid fossil algae limestone, well featured, but sandwiched between layers of less stable rock. Large ledges tend towards talus, and even solid faces still have some friable veneer.

Climbing in our neck of the woods rarely occurs without a few loose blocks or at least some loose rock on ledges. Because of this, I have never been too concerned over scrubbing routes crystal clean. Once dangerous blocks are removed, I generally figure traffic is the best way to ensure loose pebbles and veneer are brushed away. For instance, 20 years ago the information bureau had sizable amounts of gravel on the ledges. Increased traffic (and Duncan Mackey's broom) has made popular routes almost spotless. This cleaning really is more than any one person could have done (I, like others, have spent hours brushing off loose gravel from routes that are 40+ years old).

While everyone likes clean routes, cleaning up gravel on large ledges is an eternal process. More just pores down from above. Where does the balance lie between climber's responsibility for a route's safety vs. other's expectations? Do minimum cleaning codes make sense in our area? Should we really expect all established routes to be brushed and swept, or is removing obvious, unavoidable dangers enough? What about the book sized talus that is easily avoidable on ledges? What about loose rock which is slightly off route? What tensions come into play in this ethical conundrum?

Mr. Grimm. The large ledge below the roof is still home to some scree. Typically extra protection has been installed as rock quality lessens.


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