Escargot (5.7) is one of the more popular (learner) trad climbs in Banff National Park. It is located on the upper slab of Mount Norquay. Like most trad routes in the Canadian Rockies, it requires a hump of an approach to access just six pitches of climbing. Although there are other established climbs on the upper slab of Norquay, Brandon Pullan and Michael Quiqley established another laid back moderate trad climb (along with two protection bolts and one fixed station) in 2011 than runs just to the right and parallel to Escargot. They named it Calamari Crack and gave it a 5.9 rating. With only one pitch at that grade and most of the climbing in the 5.7 range, Calamari makes an excellent choice to combine with Escargot for the fast and competent trad climbers to make the long approach to the upper slab worthwhile.
The first pitch starts in the next obvious corner to the right of Escargot (topo included). The first and second pitches are relatively mundane running up the corner on easy ground to a ledge with a fixed station. The third pitch is the crux (5.9) of the route and requires a bit of route finding. It starts out simple enough continuing up the upper corner past two protection bolts, but then traverses left out of the corner and onto some chossy vertical ground with little vision above. After a several meter traverse left, you must find your way up a bit of run out ground with small pockets of protection until you can build a belay in a wide crack above. Most of the pitches can be run a full rope length since you are following cracks after the third pitch to the top of the wall. The best pitch in my opinion was the second to last 60m stretch (5.7-5.8). I ran this pitch from below the narrow long ledge to just 20m below the top of the wall. This stretch of crack climbing consisted of clean rock the FAer’s have rated from 5.7-5.8. Calamari is another solid option for beginning trad leaders just to the right of Escargot.
Park at the Vermillion Lakes view point pullout which requires you to do a U turn via an exit on the TransCanada if traveling from Canmore or Banff (must travel south-east bound to access the viewpoint). Cross the TransCanada on foot (crux of the day) and climb the wildlife fence. Bushwhack up to the power line easement and follow a faint trail left for at least one pole if not two and look for massive cairns (2011) marking a faint trail that runs up the west ridge of Mount Norquay. The upper slab wall is completely hidden from view. Follow cairns until on the ridge proper and continue up 3rd class in spots until a major cairn (2011) marks a large flat area on the ridge that is level with the upper slab. It is best to leave your packs on the ridge here as this is where you will return on descent. Traverse left from the ridge and in and out of the next cirque to the next bowl area below the obvious upper slab wall. Descend slightly to the base of the routes. Calamari starts in the second major corner system from the left. Approximately 1.5 to 2 hrs and a couple thousand feet elevation gain to the base of the climb.
Route Description (s)900’+/-, 6 Pitches, 5.9
1st Pitch- 60m- 5.7/ Start in the 2nd corner from the left, the next corner over from Escargot. Staying in the corner proper is quite chossy. Move out right on much better rock, albeit a bit run out. The climbing is laid back for the grade. Make a station on a ledge at 60m with a couple of medium sized cams.
2nd Pitch- 20m- 5.5/ Finish the lower section of the wall by angling up and left to a ledge that splits the lower and upper corner systems. There is a fixed belay with two bolts directly above it in the upper corner.
3rd Pitch- 60m- 5.9/ I ran this pitch out longer than the FAer’s had it in their notes. Climb the good rock to the right of the corner past the two bolts above (only fixed pro on the route) and then traverse left out of the corner on chossy, but easier ground. Head up steep rock again where you find a few pockets of protection and the rock improves a bit (crux of route). You cannot make a solid visual of the cracks above, but after you pull a small bulge, you will land into a comfortable large crack where you can set up a belay at will with medium to large gear. Not much, if any, 5.9 climbing on this pitch but a bit of a heady lead for the grade just the same.
4th Pitch- 60m- 5.8/ I did not sense much climbing beyond 5.7 on the entire route, including this pitch. Continue up the crack until it is possible to move over the slab on your left to a better crack on the left. I did a rope stretcher to reach a comfortable belay ledge, but you would have had to extend the previous pitch a full rope's length from that fixed belay below to achieve the same result. Belay with medium gear.
5th Pitch- 60m- 5.8/ The way I ran the route, this was the best quality pitch of the day. Traverse out right to the smaller crack in the good rock just left of the arête and upper corner. Follow it up to a long narrow horizontal ledge and continue directly up following the smaller crack in the best quality rock of the day to a small ledge on the arête/corner. Belay with medium to large gear.
6th Pitch- 25m- 5.7/ The FAer’s call this last pitch 5.8, but I believe I climbed any moves at that grade already by extending the previous pitch. I essentially soloed this last bit of climbing up the left choice, kind of an easy right facing stem corner to the top of the wall. Belay off of a tree.
DescentMake two single rope raps before walking back down the ridge via 3rd class terrain. The first rap is just a few meters from the tree down the ridge line via rusty chains (2011). The second rap consists of modern (2011) rap rings out climbers right a bit.
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