Trad climb to 5.5August 15, 2001
After we had hiked up Middle Sister and scrambled up Big Sister our
attention turned to Little Sister. It was first done in 1925 by Lawrence Grassi and group and was given a rating of 5.3. Very little info in the guidebooks except for a note that it was poor rock and the only reason to do it was the historic climb value.
After a scouting trip we went up prepared for anything.
We approached by Stewart creek golf course turn off but went right at the 4 way and then left onto the dirt road to the gravel pit.
At the power line we went east along the trail until almost to service road then hit a bike trail leading off south side of power line(flagging on tree) after 20
min hit old logging road. turn left for 2-300 feet till hit flagging. Head
right up through trees following flagging. Main idea is to travel up until can turn left and gain treed ridge that runs NW from base of N face of little sister.
At top of ridge follow flagged trail up ridge past treeline to rocky part of ridge. Follow trail over and around various rock buttresses. final broken rocky parts can be taken straight on or to the left side. 3 hours to the base of the rock face.
When reach rock face- base of buttress follow along the North face for 200 feet until at the base of a chimney/large crack system that you have been watching since breaking out of the trees. There are reports of a different/easier? line another 200 feet further left/East but it looked slabby with poor rock and wet so we went with the chimney which may or may not be the original Grassi route. Scramble up 20 ft to base of crack.
The first part is too tight with a pack and so I went right 5-10 feet and climbed the face on solid rock which was better but probably more like 5.5 or 5.6. Above the tight spot it lays back and you scramble up half a rope length to a two pin rap station.
Best to belay from here as most of a rope length is needed to get past the steep narrow chimney ahead. It has no comfortable belay spots in it.
The chimney starts out as an awkward very tight crack(no room for pack) protected with two pins but it opens up but is vertical. Next it overhangs but you can move out on the right wall to bypass.
None of this felt any easier than 5.4 or up to 5.6 but was all solid good rock. Pass a two pin rap station and then up easier parts as the chimney opens up to a sloping ledge with some rubble. Pin and horn for belay. Next climb crack/chimney in righthand corner which goes up 75 feet to a bowl with rubbly ledges and rap station in middle. This area was very loose.
Above/up 30 ft from rap station is a ledge which runs around to left above a small buttress (cairn) and out onto North face. Traverse left by following the 10 ft wide ledge for 200 feet to left side of north facing slabs in a gully. The other route might come in here. Scramble up alongside large vertical left wall(75 ft high) past a Pin and up to either of two short steeper slabs (which felt like 5.4) to gain the very large ledge which is the top of the N buttress/shoulder. It is covered with big 10 ft boulders and is 100 by 200 yards and at base of the big wall on NW side of North face.
Travel across ledge to base of wall and follow down and around to the
right 100 yards to base of gully system that accesses the upper part of west face. The bottom of the gully is blocked by overhanging wet drip/waterfall 80 - 100 feet high. Climb left hand face starting off back where you turned into gully. Some friction face climbing on good rock that requires good foot work although it usually had good hand holds for balance. Again felt more like 5.4 to 5.6. Some fixed pins in place and at top there is a two pin rap/belay station to the far left where you may not expect it because there is still 50 - 60 feet of an upward 5.3 traverse to easy ground but the rap station set up for 25 m rap.
Travel up slabs and scree to another rap station that would require two ropes to reach to bottom of waterfall. Travel up the rotten gully and escape out to right to gain broken ridges and very rotten gullies which lead to the NE summit ridge. Scramble right along the ridge on very broken rock to big cairn which is separated from actual summit by tower which can be bypassed on right.
Great views of Canmore, the valley, etc but not a lot of time to look.
Took a long time to downclimb and rappel all of this and we finished in
A lot harder than expected from guidebooks but better rock except for the loose rock on the upper scramble part of the mountain. Take your rock shoes.