Niagra on the Bow was established in late 2009 by Brandon Pullan and Urs Kallen. The first line I climbed up this steep southwest facing aspect of Mount Cory was Cory’s Groove (5.9). Niagra on the Bow explores the much more interesting and steeper corners to the right of the blank wall with the tall dark streak in the middle of the face. This blank section of the wall is known as “Hoover’s Dam”. Whereas Cory’s Groove follows the obvious weakness to the left of said feature and can serve as a shooting gallery of rock fall.
This face can be easily studied from the TransCanada or 1A. Hoover's Dam is one of the more stunning natural seamless walls of limestone in the Canadian Rockies. Niagra on the Bow tracks a multitude of corners to the right of Hoover's Dam with the second pitch offering by far the best climbing of the route, which involves stemming up a fantastic vertical corner (5.9+). The FAer’s have placed more bolts than necessary, but less than Andy Genereux (Cory’s Groove FAer) would have drilled no doubt. The second best pitch on Niagra is probably the fourth pitch which is the second 5.8 lead. Its first half traverses out right with nice exposure and position. The last pitch might actually have the crux move of the route (5.9+) via some chossy rock up a frail corner. There is plenty of loose rock on the route. Rap the route with double 60m ropes.
Take the Bow Valley Parkway exit off of the TransCanada 4kms west of Banff. Follow the Parkway (1A) west towards Johnson Canyon. After 3.5kms, the road divides and reunites. At about 4.5kms total, there is a pullout on the left side. Park here and you will be directly below the route even though you can no longer make it out through the trees.
There is no trail to the route. Break through the trees across from the pullout and up onto the power line easement. Turn right to the next power line pole. Ascend the grassy slopes on your left straight away intermittently trudging through new growth forest angling up and left at all times until a scree gully forms on your left. Drop down into the gully for easier transport and ascend up to a steep, but short water worn wall at a left fork. Ascend a quick 3rd class move or two here and continue up the gully to the base of the climb below the dark streak on the face. This part of the ascent takes approximately 2000’+/- gain and is a trail-less hump any way you cut it.
Route Description800’+/-, 5 Pitches, 5.9+
1st Pitch- 55m- 5.8/ This is the easiest pitch of the route. Start out as for Cory’s Groove. Move left up the weakness and then back right to a large corner. Ascend cracks up the corner past a few bolts (yeah I know) to a large ledge. Move left to the fixed belay/rappel.
2nd Pitch- 45m- 5.9+/ This is by far the best, most sustained, pitch of the route and a great pitch by Canadian Rockies standards for the grade. Head up the corner up and left of the tree. Even though there are cracks and the corner itself is open for the most part, the FAer's still placed quite a few bolts out left. Stem up the corner to its top and move up and right over easy ground to the fixed belay/rappel. The intermittent cracks straight above the corner on the face are enticing indeed but are not part of this route.
3rd Pitch- 50m- 5.9/ Start traversing up and right following various short corners and bolts to a short slab section with a committing move up to another comfortable ledge. Move left to the fixed belay/rappel.
4th Pitch- 55m- 5.8/ This is probably the second best pitch of the route due to the exposure and position. There is a bolt up and left, but ignore it. Instead follow the less obvious traverse line up and right past several bolts before it steepens and runs straight up to a corner in hard sticky slab limestone. Follow easy ground up and left up the corner to yet another, albeit smaller, ledge with a fixed belay/rappel.
5th Pitch- 40m- 5.9+/ This is a decent pitch. Traverse up and right to the base of a short frail corner. Stem up to a committing lay back move on a suspect hold to gain a short section of easy ground that trends up and left to the base of a taller corner. Follow this fun corner up, bolts and gear, to the top of the route which lands on a small wind swept shoulder on the east side of the massive wall. There is a fixed rap on the wall to your left.
DescentRap the route with double 60m ropes. Watch the rock fall and how you lay your rope for the pull. The raps are set up over virgin ground (same as the climbing belays, but the ascent always traversed up and right) so it would be all too easy for the second rappel to drop rock on his/her partner.
External Links100’s of Canmore/Banff 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.