Monday, 29 September 2014

Grand Sentinel 2014

Tuesday July 1st - Grand Sentinel Trad Route 5.8

Synopsis: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. A fantastic location with a great approach and 4 (3 really) very fun pitches. The 5.8 (old school) pitch under the roof was the most fun I've had leading in a couple of seasons!

This was an ACC trip I lead for purely selfish reasons, I hadn't climbed it in about 10 years and wanted to go back and lead the 5.8 pitch. Seana and Andrea agreed to come along and it worked out well.

We left the parking lot at 8:30 am, fortunately there wasn't a group size limit in effect (although there was when we got back). As you can see, I made the ladies carry the ropes, so much for chivalry!

I had heard that there was still a lot of snow on the way up to Sentinel Pass and there was. We came prepared however in the end there was good, firm buckets in the snow so we made pretty good time. The three of us were at the pass, a gain of a little over 700 metres, in 2 hours.

Once at Sentinel Pass, the Grand Sentinel is obvious and not far. It did take us an hour to make our way carefully through the snow.

A warm day, it was definitely going to be sloppy on the way out! We were geared up and climbing by noon. I split up the first two pitches however in retrospect could have easily combined them and gone all the way to the base of the 5.8 corner.

Once past an initial bit of ruble the climbing is blocky, well protected and a lot of fun. Andrea and Seana simulclimbed as seconds and made fast work of it.

As mentioned the third pitch, the 5.8 corner capped with a roof was the most fun I've had leading a rock pitch in a long time. Definitely an old school grade but well protected and moving left under the roof and over was fantastic! Here's Andrea making it look easy.

The last pitch has a 5.9 option, feeling pretty full of myself I checked it out but backed off and scampered up the 5.4 finish. A lot more fun than I remember, including an airy step across.

All of this followed by the mandatory top of the pinnacle shots!

Four single rope rappels put us to the base and we were back at the base at 5:30 pm. There were two Americans from California who were on their way up and kindly helped us rap through. They did have a few questions for us: why are Canadians so happy? Why do we drive so slow (they haven't been on the QE2!)? and why can't they get a rare hamburger in Canada? We really didn't have many answers for them, however suggested some better places to eat.

We were back at Sentinel Pass at 6:30 pm with smiles on our faces. With the snow down could have been significantly faster than up, however we took our time and were still back at the car at 8:00.

Glorious day, great friends, fantastic climb!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ha Ling Northeast Face 2014

Saturday June 21st - Northeast face of Ha Ling 5.6

Synopsis: 4 out of 5 stars.  It's a bit like visiting an old friend who hasn't aged well, but is still an old friend. 12 pitches of fun climbing, lots of fixed gear and we got lucky with the crowds.

I agreed to take Brian out for a long trad route as part of the ACC Rocky Mountain section ROCK program, originally Rebecca was going to join us but couldn't make it so then we were two. I hadn't climbed this route in 5 years so was keen to have a go at it.

Given it was a weekend with a good weather forecast we met early and were leaving the car at 7:15 am from the upper Grassi parking lot. The way up is pretty straight forward if you go right for a short bit once you hit the main trail. Then it's pretty much following the footsteps in the scree.

We actually thought we might be first (a bit delusional on my part) until we met two coming down who were bailing due to a slow group not letting anyone by. Not highly unusual for this route so we soldiered on, eventually getting to the top of the trudge and the single bolt belay at 8:40 am after a 560 meter stair master. As warned there was one party of three on the second belay and two young guys ahead of us who were just starting up.

We waited around for a bit and headed up about 9:15. Fortunately, the first party appeared to have pulled their fingers out and the young bucks were making pretty short work of it so other than a couple of short delays we were pretty much on our own (the advantage of being the slowest climbers!).

The route starts off a bit loose and given it was the day after a large rain event I expected a bit of shrapnel and it didn't disappoint. The party head got off route a couple of times and we were forced to take cover. Having said that it is nice to ease into it as the initial climbing is pretty easy and we didn't pull out the second double rope until the half way point.

We had a few chances to put together earlier pitches however I didn't due to the traffic up ahead. In two hours we were 5 pitches into it and the rock started to improve and some interesting climbing followed.

About this point, Brian came up to the belay with an odd look on his face. He caught a gear loop on some rock and in moving by ripped the gear loop open and lost some gear. Needless to say, the gear was the least of his concerns - my guess is that harness got retired!

Things progressed nicely, I wasn't using a lot of gear and it was all medium sized cams and nuts. That was until the bookend pitch where a couple of larger cams found a home.

It's really hard not to grin when you are climbing the bookend pitch. Although some of the middle pitches are getting a little greasy, the top pitches seem to climb just fine!

Once up high the views start to expand and close to the top we could see the hordes making their way up the scramble.

We topped out at 2:40 pm after roughly 5 1/2 hours of climbing, the joys of climbing with a strong partner! We took our time packing and finishing up some lunch and enjoyed the scramble down.

Great day, car to car in just over 9 hours with smiles on our faces!

Le Soulier, Tunnel Mountain 2014

Sunday September 7th - Le Soulier 5.6, Banff's Tunnel Mountain

Synopsis: 4 out of 5 stars.  15 minutes from the car, three interesting pitches, sunny aspect, not real greasy - whats not to like?

The day started with bigger plans (in my head anyways), however a late night the night before and supper plans called for a more laid back day. We parked in the parking lot just west of the Banff Centre and hiked down the trail until spotting the scree slope on the left, then simply followed a path to the bottom of the scree and then up right. You then follow the rock to the right until clearing the obvious roof (Gonda's Roof), a cruisey approach in anyone's book.

Once at the bottom, there is an obvious bolt however we chose to scramble around the first pitch. Looking down it seemed like the right call, although there is a little sting in the tail of the scramble. It probably would have been a good idea to gear up before the scramble (lesson #1 from the mountain gods).

Having said that all of the belay ledges are nice and comfy. I did bring a small rack, but found it completely unnecessary (lesson #2) as it was bolted (not to sport route standards, but ...).

From the first belay, there is a bolt out to the left however we figured out that it is the start of the 5.9 variation, the correct route goes straight up and then right at the weakness. Not a lot of route finding necessary as it was a case of following the bolts to the belay.

Sunday was a great day, warm with a little fall in the air and some cloud cover to keep from overheating. I wouldn't want to be on this on a hot day mid summer.

Great views opened up of the Banff Springs Hotel and the Golf Course the other way.

The second pitch ends with a bit of an awkward move right to the station, once again there are bolts and another station to the left but I believe it is for the 5.9 variation.

The third pitch does pass by the namesake shoes with some fun moves.

After things kicked back and it was a scramble for the top, I went right on some dirty rock after clipping an old piton. Once at the top I realized the error of my ways, the route actually went left by a shiny new bolt to a tree - you can ignore any pins as they will just pull you off route (lesson #3).

A great day out, even made Deanna smile!  

We were climbing at a pretty relaxed pace and made it up in 1:40 hours, another 15 minutes took us back to the cars. Take the path left and then the lower jeep track through the forest.