The most aesthetic mountain, from a rock climbing perspective, in the Canadian Rockies is Mount Louis. After completing Kor Fuller (5.10d) in 2009, the last published route (that I knew of) for me to complete on the mountain, I was a bit disheartened. In 2010 however I was perusing Tabvar.org and discovered Gargoyle (5.10a), a route established by Brandon Pullan and Will Meinen in 2008. I shared with my partner this opportunity and he actually thought he saw the route published in Alpinist. Needless to say, we were on it the next day.
Similar to Kor-Fuller, Gargoyle serves up approximately four decent pitches of sustained climbing before it ties into fast moving fifth class terrain that leads to the much more popular and easier routes on Mount Louis, Gmoser, Greenwood/MacKay and/or Kain. The first pitch involves 80m, thus a little simul-climbing, on real solid sticky limestone that sets you up for a short 5.8 pitch which leads to under a large yellow and chossy roof. The third pitch is the crux of the climb, following a hand rail out left from this roof to break out onto 5.8 run-out terrain above. The route keeps traversing left until below an easy 5th class corner that runs for almost 100m. At the top of this corner awaits a scramble through a chamber type chimney which leads to the eastern ridge of Mount Louis. A continued westward traverse lands you into the Kain route. We free soloed at the end of the 4th pitch, onto the Kain route and continued sans rope until we got to the Perren finish which involves two beautiful pitches of 5.7 crack climbing to reach the summit ridge. I gave the route 14 pitches in the description but you can free solo most of it if you are at a certain competency level. We did car to car in 11 hours at a casual pace (read= stuck behind guides in training screwing up on Perren). If one roped up for all the ground on this route, it would take much longer to complete.
Park at the Fireside Picnic area at the end of the road serving the trailhead for the Edith-Norquay col and the Edith-Cory col. This road is the first right after you exit the TransCanada onto the Bow Valley Parkway. Once at the parking area, follow the trail past the picnic area and stay right for the Edith-Norquay col. You will encounter another fork eventually, take the left fork for Mount Louis. This trail will dump you off at the Louis-Edith col. Do not ascend to the col-proper, rather, locate a lone tree about 100m high on Mount Louis’ southeastern face. There is a significant yellowish roof below this tree. Gargoyle starts pretty much below these two features. I have included a marked topo photo that shows the route well.
Route Description2000’+, 14 Pitches+/-, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 80m- 5.7/ As referenced in the approach beta, locate the tree and roof above. The route could meander up any number of lines via 5.7 face climbing with a variety of short corner features. The main consideration is to stay left of the large corner/chimney area. Keep in mind the second pitch ends dead center of the large yellowish roof above. Climb left of a small bulge towards the top and set up on a comfortable ledge about 20’ to the left. There is one fixed pin which I did not see until I passed it. I felt there were plenty of opportunities for pro despite the run out comments by the FAers.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.8/ Trend up and right through a small bulge, and follow a crack system of sorts to a single bolt and horn (sling it) belay. This is the lone bolt on the route (2010).
3rd Pitch- 50m- 5.10a/ This is the crux pitch on Gargoyle. The crux of the entire route is really just one or two moves. Right from the belay, head up and place a .5”. There is a pin I would not trust in the hand rail to the left. Instead, gain one more position and place a fairly bomber 1” piece. Than make a bold move on suspect rock to move up and left to truly gain the hand rail and be in it for the traverse. From there you will find decent feet on solid rock to assist with the nice hand rail to move out left and eventually break up through the left end of the roof via a short corner. Then trend up left to a ramp. Follow this ramp with just one piece of gear over 20m on 5.8 ground to the top of a pillar. Down climb and set up with small gear behind the pillar (not a great belay)
4th Pitch- 20m- 5.8/ Head up a few meters, and then trend up and left until you reach a ledge below a huge tall corner. There is not a lot of gear, but the climbing seemed easy for the grade given.
5th-7th Pitches- 130m- 5th/ We free soloed the rest of the route until the Perren finish (final 2 pitches). Run up the corner which lands on a ledge below a chasm of sorts. 3rd/4th class ground takes you up the chasm to the east ridge proper of Mount Louis.
8th-12th Pitches- 300m- 5th/ We free soloed this section. Run up the ridge to a wall with a nice crack in it. You will pass quite a few protection bolts and stations. The Kain route is heavily guided by Canadian Rockies standards, thus all the unnecessary fixed gear. Down climb or rap from a slung block (2010) into the gully below. Traverse left (west) along a ledge to a bolted anchor. Continue to traverse left as you gain ground, eventually surmounting a broken corner. Climb up several short faces of very clean rock (by Louis standards) as this route is so well traveled. Eventually you come to the base of the Kain (dirty) chimney finish or the Perren alternative crack finish to the right.
13th-14th Pitches- 80m- 5.7/ The best rock on Mount Louis? I have been up all the published routes as of 2010 and it might be. Ignore the chimney and climb the beautiful cracks out on the face to the right. This Perren crack is the same finish for several routes, the same as I took for the Gmoser and Kor-Fuller routes. You can split this up in two causal pitches or simul climb a small amount to do it as one. Build your final belay before topping out in some large loose blocks. The only problem with this fine finish is that for some reason, folks want to waste their pitons. If there ever was a great steep gear pitch to learn trad on this is it, but it has been full of fixed gear. However, I did see a lot of that cleaned up in 2010.
Climbing Sequence II
DescentMove out west to a slung pinnacle and do a one rope rap here looking for some double rings on your left. It is best to keep single raps at the start due to rock fall from rope drag. Do your 2nd rap down to another set of Rappel rings on the left, then a 3rd rap gets you to a turn in the descent gully. Rap down here all the way to the next lip and another rap station on your left. The guidebook's descent description can be quite misleading at this juncture. Take your 5th single rope rappel down the dry waterfall. Come off the ropes and hike up to your left (facing the wall) to a notch. A rappel station is located to your left. This is a double rope rappel to an anchor on your left on a rumbly ledge or a single rope rap, but stay out of the chimney to find the mid-station. After the double or two single raps here, take another single rope rappel down to your final double rope rappel, again on your left at the lip of a dry water runnel. And again, you can do this in two single rope raps if you would rather. The last rap is on a small ledge half way down.
Once down to the ground, follow a trail as it meanders down loose scree, staying left when given a choice. Once all the way down to the bottom beneath the Edith-Cory col, turn left and walk out of the Louis-Edith col (where we left our bags). Return via the approach.
External Links100’s of Canmore multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Best Eats in Canmore: Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, all organic fare, not just a pizza place, but a true best of the best mountain local dining experience, great on site owner and customer service with a smile, not easily obtained in Canmore
Best Eats in Banff: The Bison, all organic/free range fare, with a detailed description of their suppliers. Recently expanded (2010), I recommend sticking with the downstairs. Better menu, prices and social ambience. Maybe retire to the bar upstairs for sunset or late night. Bison chili is amazing!
Best Coffee in Canmore: Beamers, the locals favorite, super wholesome lunch stuff, local guys, no attitude on service
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café, most likely place to find me or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best breakfast place in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from Valbella, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.
Climbing Gear: All way too expensive in the Bow Valley, but if you must, Mountain Magic in Banff is far superior to service and actual knowledge about climbing than the two in Canmore.