After completing two of the better lines (Gmoser Route and Homage to the Spider) on Mount Louis, the most aesthetic alpine rock climbing destination in Banff National Park, I opted for the most difficult climb published in Sean Dougherty’s “Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies”, the Kor-Fuller route. Having climbed enough of Layton Kor’s routes throughout the desert southwest and Canada, I knew there was potential for a bit of bold climbing. The Kor-Fuller on Mount Louis was no exception to the rule.
Layton Kor and J. Fuller established the Kor-Fuller route in 1964 as an aid route and it was not freed until 21 years later by Sean Dougherty and company. Knowing Mount Louis fairly well from several other climbs on the mountain, finding the start of the route was not an issue. Actually being bold enough to climb the first pitch was. We scrambled several hundred feet of 4th or 5th class terrain up to the obvious corner start. What was not obvious at that point was the protection of the first pitch-there basically was none. I have climbed 5.10a without pro before, but this closed corner was about as chossy as Canadian Rockies limestone can get, with a complimentary solid ledge below it. My partner’s vote was to bail the route at this point and go climb Homage to the Spider. I knew how much more approach was involved to get that done, not to mention Homage is not without its loose rock hazard as well. I had just completed Homage to the Spider last year and was not up to revisiting it so early. I suited up, took the sharp end and stemmed my way up the “crunchy” and unprotected first pitch of Kor-Fuller. Though the first pitch might have been the most dangerous of the day, the second pitch was no doubt the business of this route. Hard 5.10d moves over spacious pro in a unique water worn gully (dry waterfall) of sorts takes you to a third pitch that although eases in grade, is still quite run out. After those first three pitches, Kor-Fuller runs into the Greenwood/MacKay route on Mount Louis which is quite boring and loose until it melts into the classic Perren finish, which is a spectacular 5.7-8 60m pitch on great rock to just below the summit.
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. Look for an obvious scree cone above the trees below the southeast face of Mount Louis, quite a ways up the hill from the Gmoser Route. The route starts at the top of this cone in a left facing corner that can be scrambled for the first rope length.
Route Description2000’+/-, 12 Pitches, 5.10dRX
1st Pitch- 50m- 5.10a/ As before mentioned, this is a “closed” chossy corner placed perfectly above a potential decking ledge. You can set up belay in a horizontal crack down and right and place a medium cam in a hole on the left wall. But that placement really does not protect the climb. Stem up the corner, being incredibly delicate with any edge you pull or push off of. You can feel the rock crinkle below your left foot as edges also come apart in your fingers above, but both the left and right walls are equally problematic. Eventually you are in the clear and can traverse left onto much easier and more solid water worn terrain. Continue up into a squeeze chimney and belay at the far end. There was one piton in 2009 that can be backed up with gear for the belay.
2nd-3rd Pitches- 80m- 5.10d/ We moved the belay up into the dry water fall (stem up and right). This allows for much better communication between leader and belayer for the crux moves. There is a bolt (2009) that can be backed up for the belay with a small piece of gear high and left. This climbing is quite unique, but typical Layton Kor. You are basically climbing a dry limestone waterfall. At times you can stem in the concave, but most of the way it is way too wide to stem. Unlocking crimpy holds and finger pockets here and there get you to the crux in short order, which is sort of a bulge requiring an off balance pull. The key hold here I believe is a far reach hidden jug up and right. The kind you have to spring for, but can’t tell for sure if you will make it. I did not get it clean. The protection right below this bold move is a bit delicate in the .3” range. Once you overcome this crux, more climbing at the grade awaits you as you exit the waterfall, but these moves are more physical dependant and better protected. Make very wide stems on delicate rock in places to exit the waterfall. Then continue up left finding sparse fixed protection on sticky limestone slab. Traverse the face, from right to left until you make for a ledge at a full 60m, with a few meters of simul-climbing necessary as well.
4th-6th Pitches- 180m+- 5th/ This is where the Kor-Fuller route joins the Greenwood/MacKay route. The first 60 meters follows a rib as it moves out left and up. Belay short of a nice ledge so you can access a crack for pro. The 2nd 60m is just more of the same, moving up right following the main ridge at this point. The 3rd 60m+ is more interesting, climbing a few short steep sections with miscellaneous cracks, but still never beyond mid 5th class in my opinion. Simul-climb this 6th pitch so you can reach a narrow ledge below loose terrain.
7th-10th Pitches- 200m- 5.7/ Trend right up the loose stuff and then back left into the corner. Take the fun corner up to the top and belay. Climb the left arête on the best rock of the day and then trend right and up and belay at the top. Walk along the ridge and climb the steep loose wall ahead. Set up belay on top. Just hike and scramble over 4th class ground to the base of the final headwall with a huge chimney.
11th-12th Pitches- 80m- 5.7/ The best rock on Mount Louis? I have been up three routes as of 2009 and it might be. This is the same finish for several routes, same I took for the Gmoser Route. Ignore the chimney and climb the beautiful cracks out on the face to the right. I ran this a full 60m past the fixed belay near the top hoping my belayer would get the hint so I could go ahead and finish the day. But he did not. Thus a junker pitch is needed to finish the route if you pitch it out. 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 is currently full of fixed gear.
Climbing Sequence II
Move 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.