This is a 2000’+ ascent day for just a few pitches therefore the sport climbing crowd would not be overly impressed. Follow the 1A east out of Canmore past the Alpine Club entrance and turn left into a gravel parking lot area just before the road takes a left bend toward Gap Lake. Look for a flagged trail at the west end of this parking area and follow it to the power line easement. Turn right underneath the power lines and cross a small drainage and immediately turn left following a decent trail north. Before the trail moves into the drainage (which leads to Rats Nest Cave), start meandering your way off trail ascending to the right. The idea is to gain the east side of a canyon, staying above any rock cliffs. Continue along the rim of this canyon until you start to cross several large scree fields. Once you can see Grotto Corner (very obvious) to your upper right, continue along the rim until you come across a wide scree field which bleeds off of the right side of the wall going into the corner. Ascend this large scree on the left for quite some elevation until it breaks left at the wall. Move north along the wall and into the corner.
There are four routes on this wall including the corner: Grotto Crack, 2 Pitches-70 m- 5.8+, which is the corner; Jughaul Wall, 3 Pitches- 105 m- 5.7; Pasta Jam, 3 Pitches- 105 m- 5.9; and Heartburn, 3 Pitches- 115 m- 5.8.
We scrambled up one pitch length on clean rock to begin Grotto Crack, but due to several active raven nests on the line (May 2006), we traversed right and began Jughaul Wall on its 2nd pitch. The ravens still were not thrilled, but at least kept a distance. I advise you do this climb in the fall so you can tackle the very esthetic Grotto Crack avoiding the nesting raven issue. Take the largest gear you own as this is a consistently large crack.
Jughaul has one belay station between pitch 1 and 2. No other fixed gear is on the route. The belay station on top of pitch 2 (tree) is actually quite uncomfortable. The steepness of the line is nice for its grade and rock is fairly solid. One variation is offered on the long 50m 2nd pitch. Move up right and climb an obvious crack system which tops out after a bit. Then traverse slightly left to a smaller crack that leads up to a visible tree. Below this tree you have the option of continuing on this crack to the right of the tree or traversing left to gain a slightly easier crack that runs up and past the left of the tree. If you are going left, place long slings on the bottom portion of the route. Either way, continue beyond this tree onto easier climbing via a groove to another tree that serves as your belay station for pitch 2. The last pitch is 20 m of uneventful climbing to reach the top of the wall.
There are several descent options off of Grotto Corner. What appeared to be the shortest option was to move to the southwest corner of the wall and rap off of a tree. It had good slings in 2006. This is a double rope rap, either 50 or 60 meter ropes. At first it looks like you could down climb this section but eventually it peters out onto a wall with few if any natural rap stations. So taking two ropes and setting up one rap station at the top is the best option for this descent. Once down to a bushy ledge, maneuver skiers left into a scree gully and descend all the way back to the canyon rim edge. There is one cool water runnel to descend. Return the same from there.
Essential GearSingle or double ropes and harnesses. Double if you are going to rappel off the southwest corner. Helmet and sunglasses mandatory if you are going to challenge the ravens for Grotto Crack (why not wait until fall instead?). Huge gear for Grotto Crack. Reasonable mid gear, mostly cams for Jughaul Wall. The 2nd pitch of Jughaul is one long one, so 10 placements or more can easily be used. Several long slings. Hiking pole makes the ascent and descent much easier, but of course would suck taking it up Grotto Crack unless it collapses to fit in your pack.
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