This is a 2500'+/- ascent day. Direttissima, aptly named as it ascends the middle of Yamnuska (Yam) directly to its summit, is one of the classic and most popular routes on Yam. It is comprised of 1100’+/- spread out among 9 pitches that can be mixed and matched via several variations. The entire route is rated 5.8+ with the crux pitches being #1 and #9 with several 5.9 variation opportunities. It was originally put up in 1957 by Kahl, Grillmair and Gmoser (Hans), the latter of whom just passed away in Canmore this past month (July, 2006). Direttissima was heralded as quite the climbing achievement during that period. Another Canmore legend, Chic Scott, claims that in the 60’s this was one of the most difficult technical rock climbs in Canada and “was rarely climbed.”
Although most of the belay stations have been reinforced or replaced with modern bolts, many of the original fixed pitons still line the route. You should not solely rely on this fixed protection against a fall, but rather place your own gear whenever feasible.
I advise getting an early start to assure you are the first party on this route. I personally refuse to climb below parties at Yamnuska.
The Direttissima route is easily identified from a distance. There is a significant roof that marks a large corner that ascends the center of Yamnuska’s south face. There is an identifiable cone of rock that forms at the bottom of this line. Ascend to the base of Yamnuska’s face via the climbers trail and proceed west along the base until you come to this cone. Circumvent it to the west side and scramble up easy, albeit loose, rock and scree to the top of this cone (300’+/-).
1st Pitch- 50m- 5.8+/ The first pitch starts left of a large boulder at the top of the cone and angles left. If you avoid putting any gear in early, you will have less rope drag near the top of the pitch. Move left into a well defined corner. Many of the features on the adjoining face and into the corner are well polished from excessive use. You will reach a decent ledge with a bolt belay on the right.
2nd Pitch- 40m- 5.8/ Move left back into the corner, circumventing it to the left which puts you on slabs that lead to below a large roof. Pass the roof on the right on hand jams and take a crack to a second overhang. Follow steep ground to the left and then move back right via a groove. Move past several old pitons diagonally left to a fixed station in a steep V-shaped groove just under several large roofs. This will be more of a hanging or awkward belay.
3rd Pitch- 45m- 5.9/ I chose the 5.9 variation (you have a 5.6 and a 5.7 option as well) which was directly overhead of the 2nd pitch belay station. Move out right and directly up the first chimney which breaks out onto slab with a fun and challenging crack that can be somewhat confusing to follow. Eventually you come to a fork while climbing a difficult vertical section. Take the left move versus the right and move up into a three piton hanging belay hole with a small ledge to balance one foot.
4th Pitch- 25m- 5.7/ Move out right for 3 meters and climb a left facing corner to a piton below a roof. Circumvent the roof to the right and move up some face type climbing to enter a large right facing corner with a belay on a ledge at its base.
5th Pitch- 30m- 5.8/ This includes a hairy traverse right. There are pitons all over the place (above). Traverse directly right stepping up for one piton. You will not find adequate protection on this traverse. Continue traversing, slightly down climbing to reach a small slightly angled flat spot on the rib to the east. You will find one more piton along the way. The exposure is that if you fall before clipping this piton, you will slam into the huge right facing corner your partner is belaying you from. Once at the rib, climb nice rock up the rib heading for a roof to your right above. Hand traverse below this roof to the right and climb a crack/corner for 15 meters to a ledge/cave above with a belay station. It gets a little blank towards the top. There is one piton on top of the right face of the corner and plenty of opportunities for protection. Use your longer slings on this pitch to avoid rope drag.
6th Pitch- 35m- 5.6/ Leave the cave to the right via a challenging move or two. Climb direct and right to the base of a chimney/crack that offers another sort of cave for a comfortable belay.
7th Pitch- 55m- 5.6/ Funky pitch. We ended up over on Mixed Emotions because we went too far right. You are supposed to traverse left horizontally and then directly up to reach a piton/bolt for a semi-hanging belay. This puts you directly below the large chockstone. My partner led out too far right, putting us at a double ring belay station on Mixed Emotions. I climbed Emotion’s 5th pitch (5.8) before I realized we were off route. I rapped backed down and we traversed back left and ascended from this belay to the cave under the massive chockstone for our 8th pitch.
8th Pitch- 15m- 5.7/ Just move up and under the massive chockstone. There are three spread out pitons for belay.
9th Pitch- 30m- 5.8+/ The fun pitch. Stem out of the hole below the chockstone and reach for any hand leverage onto the chockstone itself. I attempted to break out of the stemming move too early to the right and wasted energy. Keep your head tucked until you stem all the way up to the top of the chockstone and then move your head and arms over and pull yourself out of the stemming stance. Hope you have flexible hips. For the next move it helps to be thin. Continue up the chimney and squeeze through another jammed chockstone. We made a haul bag out of our backpack for this pitch. You will notice pitons that move out diagonally right over to Mixed Emotions for an alternative finish. There is loose rock above, so be wary of causing rock fall on those below.
Descend as you do for most of Yamnuska’s western routes. Turn left and ascend to the summit in a few short minutes and then descend the western scree trail to the col and descend back to below the face where you can catch a fast scree descent back to the trail leading to the parking lot.
Essential GearFull set of Cams, 00-9 Metolius for example with a BD 4. Full set of nuts. You will find considerable fixed protection, so you do not need to overdo it with the gear. Helmet, rock shoes, etc. We used double ropes which I always advise on longer routes on Yamnuska so you can make a quick weather exit if need be. Also helps considerably with rope drag on these routes. Despite having to gain over 1500’ to the base of the climbs on Yamnuska, wear trail runners so you can haul them with you. You will not return to the base of the climbs.
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