Cardiac Arete is one of two classic routes on a classic alpine tower in the Canadian Rockies known as the Grand Sentinel. The Grand Sentinel is a 100+ meter obelisk quartzite rock tower on the back side (north) of Pinnacle Mountain in Banff National Park. Cardiac Arete is located on the southeast arête of this tower in one of the most magnificent alpine settings for a sport route anywhere in the world. The other route on the Grand Sentinel is the South Face trad route that I completed in 2006. I highly recommend both of these routes. Since it takes 2500’+ in gain, along with some descent, I recommend strong parties consider both routes in a single day if weather allows it.
Loose rock is an issue on the Grand Sentinel as, despite being quartzite, it gives the appearance it could crumble if you leaned on it in the right spot. We encountered several large loose blocks (one on the 4th pitch will catch your attention-2008). It is best to get on Cardiac early to mid morning to enjoy the full effect of the sun after it rises above Mount Temple and before Pinnacle Mountain blocks it out again. The belays are all chained and serve as the rappel anchors as well.The climbing is sustained on this route.
Park at the Moraine Lake Lodge at the end of Moraine Lake Road near Lake Louise. Hike along the right side of the lake to the signed Larch Valley Trail on the right. This trail currently has a permanent 4 person minimum restriction due to local grizzly activity. As a climber, I have always ignored this precaution out of necessity for an early start, but be warned that you can be fined for disobeying the restriction. Continue on the Larch Valley Trail for approximately 2000’ in elevation gain to the Minnestimma Lakes. Continue another 500’ up the “big Z” (photo) to the Pinnacle Mountain - Mount Temple col. From the col the Grand Sentinel comes into clear view (photo) to the northwest framed in front of Mount Lefroy. Descend the col on a switchback trail of large scree until it makes sense to leave it for a traverse over snow and/or scree slopes on the north side of Pinnacle Mountain. You want to aim for the base of the south face of the Grand Sentinel. As you get closer, you will see a small notch you need to ascend to a mini col. This is a good spot in which to suit up. Continue along a ledge along the base of the face to the southeast arête and the start of the first pitch.
Route Description340’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.10d
1st Pitch- 25m- 5.10b/ I was pumped out from being on a major 5.10d route the day before (Sisyphus Summits), thus thought the ladder board slopey finger holds were a bit much. This is the easiest pitch of the route though, however still sustained. The fun move is a roof pull, from left to right. Make sure to use a shoulder length sling underneath to avoid rope drag. Once through this crux, the going is easy, albeit run out to the anchor and small ledge above. The very last move to reach the anchor is a bit back to grade.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.10c/ From reading summit logs elsewhere, we were not the only ones to think this was the hardest pitch of the route. Start out from the belay on real thin yellowish holds. Pass through the overhang section above, moving left to right. The route does not let up much. Steep climbing above on slopey edges reaches a comfortable belay ledge.
3rd Pitch- 25m- 5.10d/ Probably the most unique pitch of the route. Many call the next move the crux of the route, however I led it and did not feel that was the case. Step up on 5.10d edges to clip a bolt. Then move out left around the arête via a very exposed move, making love to the arête until more positive holds are found out left. Then easy ground to a funky roof pull with decking opportunity above a broad loose ledge. I believe this is intended to be a right heel hook, at least that is how I attacked it, as ugly as that might have looked. You can reach up and clip a bolt before you make the bold move. After a couple of steep moves, you are at yet another comfortable belay ledge.
4th Pitch- 25m- 5.10d/ No doubt the best pitch of the route. Again, move out left around the arête via exposed moves. Continue up past a “death block” and climb very good rock between 5.10a and 5.10d to the summit following a straight line of bolts.