Overview/ApproachOverly Hung is stated in Chris Perry and Joe Josephson’s book, Bow Valley Rock, as the “best route on the cliff” in reference to lower Heart crag which is the largest wall located in the popular Heart Creek climbing area near Canmore, Alberta. In regards to the chossy nature of the rock on this wall, that is not saying much. Heart Creek is mostly a sport climbing destination and few trad climbers venture in to explore the few multi-pitch trad options in the canyon. It is a sport climbing destination for a reason, once you deviate from the harder slabs into the corners and roofs, the limestone is quite weathered, loose and just down right dirty. Overly Hung offers no exception.
Overly Hung was put in 1978 by Whalen and Faryna and I would dare guess it has not seen but a handful of ascents since, if even. The one fixed station and few rusty pitons en route are obviously from the FA. We felt like the second ascent for sure, clearing out mud and climbing softly by loose rock. The first pitch description was confusing enough that we tried four different options before settling on one. Two of which are mentioned in the book, a 5.9 and 5.10a variation. What we finally figured out was that the 5.10a variation involved a trickling waterfall in July and the 5.9 intent followed a thin layer of mud up a short unprotected face. I combined the final two pitches with a 70m rope with quite a bit of rope drag. My incentive for doing so was two- fold: little to no trust in the fixed station at the top of pitch two and my interest to be done with this route. At the start of the second pitch, I took the 5.10 variation which offered the only decent crack in the entire route, albeit only one hand jam afforded, but it did help surmount the crux. From there a run out section up decent slab passed a pin and met with a station below a roof and corner. The third pitch pulls the small roof and follows the smaller corner out left until you are forced to traverse right into a dirty and chossy larger one which leads to the top of the cliff, approximately 500’ above Heart creek.
Park at the Heart Creek trailhead on the TransCanada. Hike in along the established Heart Creek trail passing First and Jupiter Walls on your right. Instead of crossing the next bridge after Jupiter back to the left side of the creek, stay on the right side via an indistinct trail that circumvents around to the base of what the sport guide book calls the Amphitheater (what the Bow Valley Rock guide calls Upper Heart Crag), a large light colored bowl rising from the creek approximately 500’ to the rim. At the very right side of this amphitheater, angle up slab to the left and then dog leg back right up a treed ramp until you reach its top below a low angled slab/corner. Suit up down by the creek to avoid having to retrieve your bags afterwards.
Route Description350’+/-, 3 Pitches, 5.10
1st Pitch- 30m- 5.9/ The FAer’s description offers a 5.9 and 5.10a start, both of which we found sketchy for pro and rock quality. I started out on two corners to the right that were cleaner, but ran out of pro options in both circumstances and was forced to down climb. My partner took over and tried the 5.9 option (furthest left option) but bailed initially for the same reason, lack of pro and a thin layer of mud covering the short face. He then tried the 5.10a option which we surmise was a water covered face to the right, then backed off of this to re-try the mud covered face again. I cannot remember the two of us taking that long on any pitch in the Canadian Rockies. A sketchy lead up the un-protected short mud covered face to the left of the low angled slab corner leads up and to a tree belay (photo).
2nd-3rd Pitches- 70m- 5.10/ The FAer’s call these two pitches 75m in total, but I led them with a 70m rope to a tree on the rim. Rope drag was severe but that is how bad I wanted to be done with this less than stellar route. Again, according to the FA, you have a 5.9 option (step down) or a 5.10 option. The 5.10 option actually involved a decent hand jam traverse up and over a bulge to your right. This was followed by an unnerving run out slab section above. I clipped an old rusty wire and placed one piece of my own before clipping a pin half way up the slab. Continue up to an old fixed belay below a roof. The third pitch pulls the roof up and left and follows this decent corner up until it is obvious to traverse back right over slab into the larger dirty corner. Pull a small overhang with a bush and follow this broken corner to the top with a large tree belay.
DescentScramble down climbers right through the trees and atop the edge of the wall on loose scree to the creek below.
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
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.