Saturday, October 23, 2021

5th Edition Guidebook Templates

 These are the templates I'm looking at for the 5th edition of the Rock Climber's Guide to Southern Alberta.  I'm doing things in Black and White for cost (and if this thing is ever going to go out, I won't be able to easily get new pictures).  But, mostly it's for cost.  Small run books can't compete with big run stuff.

Looks like I'll be having to go back through photoshop and increase bubble sizes.... : (

The google map inserts are easy.  And you have fair use copyright up to 5k sales.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Waterton New Rock Climbing Routes

 The last few weeks of August have seen a couple of new routes go in or old routes 'fixed' up.  Activity has been concentrated on the Bear's Hump lower tier.  Personally I really like Pins and Needles.  I also suspect the new protection and belay station on Skyline will make that mini cirque more party friendly.  I suspect a few more direct finishes will go in on the terrain to the left.

4e Right of Stakes* 
5.5 25m 
Rock 3/4 
Pro 3/4 bolts + gear 
Moves 2/3 
Setting 2/3 
 F.A. Chris Goble in 2018 

 This climb goes up the dark rock just right of Dirty Stakes first pitch, and a few feet left of Mother’s Day. The first bolt is above the first ledge (ie the one at the 10 foot height). This makes is nearly impossible to see. Start on the scrambly ramp right under the Dirty Stakes corner and tend right. A good horizontal break on the ledge is the first piece of gear. Above this is the bolt. A low first bolt wasn’t placed due to the rope drag that would create. This route has two short sections with mandatory gear placements. One section is at about half height (0.5” to 1” cams). The other is right under the roof and to its right (#3 or #4 BD stopper and a small TCU or small tri-cams or nut). Two bolts have been placed above the overlap on the right hand side of this bulge. This enables a semi-direct finish to a bolted anchor behind the bush. Or you can continue along under the overlap with some awkward feeling positions which eventually lead to a wonderful slingable horn right at the exit. This right hand exit isn’t recommended as you end up with a finish whose protection standards are out of character with the rest of the route. Right of Stakes can be used to get to Pins and Needles’ bottom anchor (and hence the Central Que to Beeline bottom ledge). Cut left at the last bolt under the roof. Cross Dirty Stakes and head along the left hand face on reasonable gear. 

5b Pins and Needles*
 5.8/9 30m 
Rock 2/5 
Pro 3/4 bolts + gear 
Moves 2/3 
Setting 2/3 
 F.A. Chris Goble in 2021 

 This is the furthest right climb on the Warmup / Beeline / Central Queue ledge. It is continues the line taken by Right of Stakes’ leftward exit. Look for a line of tightly spaced bolts about 10 feet to the left of an old angle pin and biner (leave these in for history). The closely spaced starting bolts are nice because the crux comes just off the deck, and the rock, while generally solid, gives off a hollow vibe. But that may just be an artifact of weird pulls on dolomite horns. Once you figure out how to get past the low crux (don’t bail right into the loose stuff), the top kicks back quite a bit. Up here a few pieces of gear get mixed in with some semi-hidden bolts. The top has a 2 bolt anchor (no rap rings currently). The route is reminiscent of an easy Burly Bear P2 without exposure. Keeping the bottom on-grade takes some good rock reading and position deciphering. But, it’s short. As with most Goble routes, not a lot of cleaning has occurred since the climb was first led. I suspect a 30m rap will get you down, but I haven’t checked. 

10 Skyline* 
5.5 (5.8 variation) 20m 
 F.A. Paul Sloan and Craig Albright in the 1980’s 

This old rambly Sloan route has recently been adjusted by adding a bolted belay stations, a bottom bolt, and a bolt to protect an exposed traverse. I suspect it’s popularity should increase, even if it still looks deceptively easy. The route starts on the low angled rock about 30 feet to the left of Beeline. Two different approaches, protected by two different bolts, both lead to a low angle flake crack. A zig-zag section at 2/3 height enables two distinct exit options. The original route traverses right (5.5) before the short fist crack seam and is now protected by a bolt. At the ledge head up a great left trending corner fist crack (or go right to Doozle Day anchors

Over on the Crandell Slabs a short half pitch route adds a bit more climbing to the Labour of Love combo.  The best approach for this area post fire is to leave the Hump trail early while it is still low angle and follow the avalanche / scree gully up to the base of Loose Noose.

5e Calamari The Lower Cabbage Patch Slab** 
 5.5 15m 
Rock 3/4 
Pro 4/4   7 or 8 bolts 
Moves 2/3 
Setting 2/3 
F.A. Chris Goble and Mike Vilimek bolted ground up in 2021 

 This climb end up on the ledge which runs to Sick Day’s white water groove. On the right of the slab is a big ugly left facing chunk of overhanging rotten brown rock. This route stays away from that. It heads up a bubbly cabbage patch slab on tightly spaced bolts. Left of the bolts has easier climbing but a few friable sections. Right of the bolts is harder but the rock is better. Do whatever you want. The top ends in a gear (and horn) belay. You can walk off (climber’s) left, or walk right to get to Sick Day. I’m not sure if Sick Day has rap bolts on its bottom. It might… If so, you could do a top belay from those.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Southern Alberta Rock Climbing Area Overviews

 Last week I made a series of pretty informal rock climbing area overview videos.  This isn't a hashing of grades.  It's more a what's good to climb where.  You'll need the guidebook (free pdf from the alpine club section, or one of the old print versions, or the new 2022 one) to know the grades.  But, this should work for most people to get situated and to get out.

Here are the youtube video overviews.. basically the same as what I tell people on the phone or when I meet them...

New Rock Climbing Guidebook for Southern Alberta and Waterton

 The last edition of the rock climbing guidebook (300 copies) was back in 2004.  In 2011 I put out a climbing app based guidebook that was only active for 2 years (hosting, even just an apple developer ID is expensive!)

This summer I've been compiling route updates from Ralph Eckman (Thunder Mountain), Dylan Zoratti (Goat/Bluff & Thunder), and Morgan Fines (Emerald Lake).  I've also been updating all the new Waterton routes.

After 40h+ the text updates are now done.  As soon as the route ratings get updated by Dylan, I'll get photoshop on my new computer September 10 and should start the laborious process of updating photo with new routes and route numbers.  I'll avoid perfectionism and use a few old photos just to get this thing done.

Then I should be able to add photos to a google doc for open access.  I'll host that on the Southern Alberta Alpine Club website (and here).  Then I can submit the file off to Rocky Mountain books for their processes.

So, it is looking good for the guide to come out late in the winter of this year (2021-2022).  If anyone wants to preview stuff to help out with corrections, let me know.  I still haven't decided if I should do an Alpine rock section.  I think so, but will have to see how work is this fall.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Watertown Ice Opener 2015

Just a reminder that the Alpine Club's Waterton Ice Opener will be happening, as usual, up at Quick and Dirty 2 weekends before Christmas.  This year that puts it on Dec. 13.  Normal start time is 10am.  A few keeners come up early to set up ropes and lead a climb or two.

Conditions for new routes are fabulous right now in Waterton.  Lots of mixed terrain on which to put up new stuff.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Technical Peaks In Alberta's South West

The Southern Alberta Alpine Club is mid-way through a project to identify the technical peaks south of the Oldman River and north of the U.S. border.  (Mountains adjacent to Waterton & Cameron lakes are, however, included.)

The definition we're using for technical peaks appears similar to that used by the Glacier Mountaineering Society: the easiest route to the summit has a minimum difficulty of one pitch (~35+ m) and either a very dramatic, imposing summit, or sustained 3rd class/4th class difficulties.

Currently, our list of Southern Alberta technical peaks include:

  1. The Elevators (middle (2nd) & east (1st?)
    • 10 pitches up to 5.8 for middle, 4th class for east elevator
    • FA = ?
    • couple of pitches of 5.6 on tower 6
    • FA = Bruno Engler, Fritz Frei, 1951
  2. Citadel spire
    • 2 pitches of 5.6
    • FA = = Jim Kanzler, Jerry Kanzler Ray Martin, Clare Pogreba, 1967
  3. Castle
    • 1 pitch of 5.6
    • FRA = Greg Hooge & Martin Krippl mid-to-late 1980’s
    • 1-2 pitches of 4th class via north side
    • FRA = David & Ron Goble late 1960's
  4. Michewabum
    • 1-2 pitches of 4th class with 10m 5th class
    • FA = Charles Fisher, Hal Kanzler, Thomas Sweeny, 1962
    • 40m of 4th class
    • FA = boundary commission 1896 (unlikely) or 1914 boundary commission
  5. Mt. Darrah
    • several pitches of 4th class slabs
    • FA = 1914 boundary Commission
    • 20m 4th class crux, exposed summit
    • FA = ?? boundary commission ?? ?? 1896 ??
    • 1 pitch of exposed 4th class, lots of 3rd class, exposed summit
    • FA = ?

11. Long Knife Ridge
  • two separate 4th class sections
  • FA = boundary commission
  • 4th/5th class via southwest face
  • FA = ?
13. Mount Coulthard
  • low 5th class via east face
  • FA = Dennis Holden in 1960

??? Ptolemy ???

  • uncertain difficulty via easiest route
  • exposed 4th class slab on standard route
  • FA = 1914 Boundary Commission

??? Parrish ???

  • uncertain difficulty via easiest route
  • exposed 4th class slab on standard route
  • FA = ?

??? King Edward ???

  • uncertain difficulties via easiest route
  • FA = ?

Technical ratings are based on the easiest possible route, not by the "normal" route. Feedback with extra details and history is most definitely welcomed.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Seven Sisters

The seven sisters is as much of a Crowsnest Pass icon as Crowsnest mountain itself.  However, the peak may be more of an ambience setter for it's larger neighbour than a destination in and of itself.

The seven sisters was first climbed in 1951 by Bruno Engler.  This ascent would have happened a number of years after his time working as a ski instructor in the Waterton (late 30's to early 40's for 2 seasons) then Blairmore area (early 40's - about 4 or 5 seasons).  Engler did a number of routes in the area that he termed quite difficult and maybe a bit haphazard.  It is speculated that this included some of the short routes at the Blairmore Riverside crag and some unknown alpine routes, perhaps around the Ptolemy - Parish - McLaren area.  I've also found out he climbed the seven sisters on a route he considered extreme.

See one of Engler's pictures with Fritz Frei here (Not sure about where that would be on the sisters, as none of the summits have that type of bridge with an open backdrop….  My guess is that it was a staged shot somewhere on the peak.  Probably on the top of the ridge, but not yet on the main (6th) summit tower)  UPDATE: Here is the actual location of the shot - right side of pict.  

The only other reports I've heard of seven sisters ascent are a 2008 attempt by Rick Collier (no summit pyramid done), and a 2014 early Sept solo ascent (unknown friend of Raff's and unknown summit tower, likely the main 6th one, climbed at 5.6).  There's also fairly good reason to suspect that Martin Krippl & Greg Hooge from Lethbridge may have done one of the summits in the 80's (they had done a number of technical ascents in the southern area during that era).

Height: 8,501
View-o-meter: 4/5
Scrambling Difficulty: 5th class
Total Trip Difficulty: Moderate
Best Feature: The desert towers of the Rockies
Worst Part: Rotten rock

Drive up the Allison creek road to the normal Crowsnest Mtn. start.  Allison creek road is a paved road that leaves highway 3 just west of Crowsnest Mtn.  Continue pass the Allison creek campground.  About 5km past the a compressor station a good dirt road spur takes off on the right.  Follow it for about 500m, parking where the road first touches a cut block  (49.710202, -114.604285).  Hike up an old narrow logging/jeep road which marks the start of the Crowsnest Mtn trail.  The first opening you come to - an open slide run - is the easiest way to approach the main stack of towers.  A large weakness in the bottom cliff band makes for a technically easy talus approach.  (see left side of below image).

The easiest approach is straight up the old slide run

(If you're doing one of the south towers, follow the Crowsnest Mtn. trail until it leaves the tress, then sidehill to the col.)

Our Detour
Instead of following this route to the main summits, we decided to try to gain the topmost talus slope and traverse the ridge just under each of the seven towers (see google images to see what I'm talking about).  While the towers look connected to the lower cliff bands, there is a large continuos talus slope that runs under them all.

The three gullies which bar approaching a pure traverse

Unfortunately, the images from Crowsnest underestimate the climbing on the 3 approach gullies and an apparently feasible southern ledge system.  The rock on the southern ledge system is horrible, and there are some solid 5th class blanks here and there.  Perhaps a closer look in summer would yield a viable way to ascend the southern arete, but I wouldn't hold my breathe.

We decided not to try to run out one of the icy gullies and rapped down to reach the main talus slope between the 1st and 2nd cliff bands.

The traverse along the coal band and up higher under the sisters is actually pretty nice.

Coal intrusions and high sulfur content rock make for horrid looseness.  Up high things get better.

More Context
The number of summits is actually pretty deceiving when traversing.  Each tower seems certain to be the biggest and last.  However, they just keep coming.

The southern flank of each of the towers would prove extremely difficult.  Only one tower had a feasible southern line.  On each tower obvious climbing routes occurred on the north part of the towers and occasionally on the west or north-western face.  I'm not sure I believe reports of summit ascents from the south-west.  My guess is people have been mistaking west for south-west.  

Ascending the Seventh Sister (or the first if you count from the north)
Traverse along the coal band until you get to a talus slope that breaks through the second cliff band.  Angle up to the top of the ridge.
The talus slope in the center.
Traverse under a series of towers along a faint sheep trail and on 2nd class talus slopes.  There are two or 3 traverses that have some exposure for 3-5m.  However, only one is narrow enough to necessitate side shuffling and hands (4th class).

Nice ridge lines throughout.
Uncertain as to which pinnacle was going to be the last sister, we traversed all the way to the most northerly one.  With conditions such as they were, the last, and perhaps easiest sister seemed good for the day. 

First pitch of seventh sister (5.4 / 5.6 / 4th class)
We had a false start for the first pitch, and ended up opting for what look like a rope-dragger of a pitch to tackle a key off-kilter fist crack flake (and first guarantee of pro).  Luckily we didn't have to head to the fist crack.  Two marginal pieces of gear led an exit onto the arete.  Once on the arete there was 5m of bulgy steps followed by a 5m section of large wafer edges. On top of the wafers we found a very good belay.  On the way down we set our rap above the bulgy steps at the base of the crux wafer face. 

Overall, while gear wasn't good, there was enough to keep you from falling off the mountain.  In the summer you could almost scramble this section.  However the wafer section is solid 5th class soloing with a deadly 30-60m bounce.  The chances of wafer breaking are also pretty high.  It would be a heady scramble.  However, there is a large ledge right below, so you never know….

On top we noticed the start of a cairn on the sixth sister.  This might have been from the 2014 Sept long weekend solo ascent.  Trevor asked if we should build a cairn on the summit.  None of the summit rocks seemed to have never been disturbed.  I said "Why ruin it for someone else? It's nicer the way it is - undisturbed"  

We down climbed 10-20m of 3rd class terrain with two short 4th class sections and got a solid hex from which to start the first of two 30m raps.

We followed the north ridge's talus down to what looked like an easy exit point.  Unfortunately a band of fossil limestone blocks easy exit from the upper talus ledge system.  We cut around to the east and, instead of picking our way through that fossil algae band or walking another km to find a break, rapped off a good horn.

The fossil algae band blocks the way for a clean and easy ridge traverse
While you could avoid descending the fossil algae band by following the talus ledge back to Crowsnest (and your car) , we had earlier decided to follow alpine meadows to the north west.  Descent through the trees was pretty easy.  A good game trail avoided getting caught in the steep sided creek drainage.  The last 500m through the trees was a bit aldery, but nothing terrible.  

The seventh sister from the north west
In hind sight, the quickest way down from the 6th or 7th sisters would have been to head straight down the talus and do a 30m-90m rap through the bottom cliff band visible in the image above, but out of sight when descending.

The Sisters

While I could be off, here's my best recollection of pictures and tower numbers (as measured from south to north….).  Here's the best image I've found from which to do the numbering (many other images seem to only show 6 towers/sisters).  Note the linked picture is taken from the east, while my description and most people come at things from the west.

Sister 0
North side shown

Un-numbered minor sisters right (south) of the first sister (as numbered s to n).  The 1st sister's south face is partly visible on the left.

If you look at the above picture and the gap between the right-most pinnacles  you'll find where Engler's 1951 staged shot was.  Unless he did all the easy towers, I doubt he ascended that nubbin.  The location of the climber in the 1951 image certainly isn't on the obvious ascent route.  From the location and shadowing the image was taken early in the afternoon.  I doubt they would have taken the time, prior to their main peak, to head up a small tower and risk having to leave some rap cord.  Chances are they needed some shots for the day. Just behind the notch is a very long drop down the east face.  A rope would have been prudent.  If they had already done the main tower, chances are decent that they may have climbed this and other minor pinnacles during their outing.  I'll work on the geometry of the shadows to try and better pin down the time of day (see comments).

     Onto the "real" sisters

The first of the sisters (sunlit tower) from the south
Sister 1(...I think) from the north.

Sister 2 (...I think) from the north.

Sister 3 - no shots

Sister 4 no real shots (looked like there was a good 4th class chimney on the north side)

Sister 5 from the north.

Sister 6 as seen from the 7th sister's summit.  Rough cairn visible.

Sister 7 (our summit) from the north.

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