This part of Yamnuska, just to the east of the West End, is hindered by chossy climbing on the lower reaches. Due to lack of consistent good rock, Necromancer Wall might be the least climbed section of Yamnuska. However, it is worth the effort on a few of its routes to reach mid height as the upper wall gives way to better climbing. Necromancer Wall is defined by the Belfry corner on its left and the old Calgary route chimney on its right.
The 11 published routes on Necromancer Wall range from four to 11 pitches. Its namesake route, the longest route on the wall (due to several traverses) is considered one of the classics on Yamnuska. Established by Homer and Jones in 1971, it wasn’t actually freed until ten years later by Barry Blanchard and Jeff Marshall. Then Jeff Marshall was nuts (horrible rock in places) enough to free solo Necromancer in 1990.
Necromancer, like most routes on this section of Yam, starts out following easy ground through six pitches before you reach the first 5.10 portion. These six pitches can be easily combined into four with a 60m rope if you simul climb the first two pitches for a few meters and stretch out the third pitch so you can easily combine the fourth and fifth pitches. The third pitch is the only good one in this lower section, a fun 5.7 corner climb. The first 5.10a pitch (pitch 7) is the crux pitch, climbing steep broken and run out terrain before it eases off on well protected slab. The next 5.10a pitch (pitch 8) is a fun, but short, stem box followed by an airy traverse left over a large roof. The final 5.10a pitch (pitch 11) maybe has 15m of good jam and stem climbing before easing way off. I led the 5.10 pitches and did not find the route sustained as mentioned in the guide book and other on line resources, but rather thought of the route as fairly mellow except for the two airy and run out traverses (pitches 8 and 9).
There is a new (2008) flagged trail below Yamnuska that takes off at the base of the scree descent. This is the best approach for the western routes. At the Y in the approach trail, take the left Y versus the normal right option. Continue until at the base of the first patch of loose scree. Look for the flagged faint trail down and to the left. Continue following the flagged trail as it ascends the western treed rib below Yamnuska. This trail will put you right at the base of the obvious corner system that makes up Missionary’s Crack among other routes. Turn right to access the start of the Necromancer Wall routes. Necromancer itself starts half way up a very obvious ramp. You can still retrieve your packs on return at this point on Yamnuska before making the scree plunge descent back to the lower trail. In other words I would not advise climbing with them.
Route Description1300’+/-, 11 Pitches, 5.10a
1st-2nd Pitches- 65m- 5.7/ I definitely advise combining these first two pitches with 5m or so of simul-climbing. Most of the climbing is lower 5th class including the last 5m and the first 5m of the two combined. Start almost exactly half way up the broad ramp below Necromancer Wall, moving up and left to a corner. Continue past the fixed belay at the top of the corner and trend right over easy ground to a large ledge and another piton belay in the wall ahead.
3rd Pitch- 55m- 5.7/ Climb the excellent (for the grade) corner crack up left to the top and traverse right before toping out and belay from a slung (2009) block. Adding 5m here to the slung block versus the guide books suggestion will allow you to easily combine pitches 4 and 5.
4th-5th Pitches- 55m- 5.5/ Continue straight up from the slung block to a large terrace and continue to the base of the wall above, doing a sitting belay just to the right of a tall block/short pinnacle.
6th Pitch- 30m- 5.6/ An uneventful pitch that lands you below the short steep crux of the climb. Move left behind the tall block and run up an easy corner/chimney to a small ledge with a piton below bad rock.
7th Pitch- 50m- 5.10a/ Considered to be the crux of the climb via the guide book and I concur. Move up and right on steep bad rock. You can put in a directional, but not much to save you from decking if you fall through this run out section. Once you reach a nice horizontal finger crack in a small ramp, you can traverse back left onto a real nice slab with a great protecting crack on its right. Follow this beautiful corner up to just below the large roof above and set up a gear belay with .5” to 1” gear.
8th Pitch- 20m- 5.10a/ A cool pitch. Climb up and clip the piton above for a directional, then down climb and move out right and up via run out terrain. Do a wide stem with your left leg, moving up the stem box until you can clip a piton above. Make an exposed and interesting move left to a small foot ledge, clip another piton and find the small finger rail you can use to make the blank looking traverse left to the top of a precarious and large pinnacle where you have a bolt belay (2009). I placed no protection on this pitch.
9th Pitch- 25m- 5.8/ This is a heady lead for 5.8. Typical Yamnuska traverse though. Move straight up from the belay and clip a hidden piton, traverse out right to a small ledge and clip another. Then continue straight out right and actually down climb a move over very exposed terrain clipping another piton. There won’t be much in terms of natural pro on this pitch. After the exposed down climb move, look for solid feet to balance your way rightward until you can reach good jugs to climb up and right to a modern (2009) piton below a crack and to the left of a corner.
10th Pitch- 20m- 5.9/ Climb straight up on stepped ground from the belay via a somewhat run out pitch, until it starts following the corner coming in from the right. Place a 4” piece and continue to a large belay ledge and set up a 2” gear belay in the base of the crack.
11th Pitch- 40m- 5.10a/ Solid double rope management will make this pitch go smoother. Start up the fantastic hand crack (by Yam standards), utilizing stemming moves to pull the first smaller roof. Place two pieces or so on the right strand. Once above this roof, make a fun hands move left protecting the other strand, to circumvent the broken roof above to the left. Then follow easy loose ground above to rejoin the corner and top out the route on quite chossy ground. There is a .3”-.4” crack on the summit ridge you can use versus a sitting belay.
DescentWalk off the western flank of Yamnuska. You can leave your packs at the base of this route as it is not much extra energy to re-ascend from the trail below to the base of the climb. Continue east from there and descend via a large scree gully back down to the lower trail that heads east back to the trailhead.
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