OverviewThis is one of the premier crags in the Jasper Area, with quality routes on steep solid limestone. The climbs are all less than 25 metres in length and are equipped with chains or rap anchors. The crag primarily faces north and is shaded by forest –it can be a cold place to climb on cool days. It gets late afternoon and evening sun. The season is generally from May to September. Setting up top ropes is not recommended as all of the anchors are located back from the top of the cliff and have been set up for leading. There are not a lot of moderate routes at this cliff – the majority being 5.10 and harder.
Grades at this crag also tend to be a little harder than comparable grades at other Jasper cliffs. Some of the grades in the out-of-print guidebook were very inconsistent; in other words a climb rated 5.10c may have seemed harder than a climb rated 5.11a. As I have climbed almost all the climbs here (numerous times), I’ve tried to re-grade a few of the obvious inconsistencies to at least make the grades a bit more consistent – I have noted when the grades have been changed from the previous guidebook.
I have described all of the popular (i.e. bolted) climbs at the Rock Gardens. There are a few climbs that I’ve omitted because, except for the first ascent, they rarely, if ever, are climbed. So when you see the big dirty chimneys and corner systems at the Rock Gardens, rest assured, someone in the 1960’s or 70’s have grovelled their way up it, likely without sticky rubber, cams, and certainly not a hammer-drill.
I have rated the quality of the climb using a star system. Admittedly, this is a subjective system; however, having climbed here lots, you get a very good sense of which climbs are popular and which are not, and if you’re only here for a short time, it’s nice to have some sort of guidance around which are the quality climbs. Having said that, every climber is biased toward his/her strengths, so take the ratings with a grain of salt. Here’s a rough guide to my star system:
No stars – A route that rarely gets down – not worth doing if you are only here for a limited amount of time.
One star – A route that gets some traffic from time to time, but is the kind of route that you maybe climb once, but don’t come back to it again.
Two stars – A moderately popular route that gets a fair amount of traffic. Worth doing more than once.
Three stars – The very popular routes that are regularly climbed and among the best the crag has to offer. Fun moves on good clean rock.
Four stars – These are the absolute classics for the crag and even for the Jasper area. They are very popular, get lots of traffic, and you want to climb them again and again.
Getting ThereFrom Jasper, Alberta, travel east (i.e. toward Edmonton) on Highway 16 about one kilometre east of the east Jasper entrance, and turn right (south) onto the Maligne lake Road (also the turn off to the Jasper Park Lodge). The road immediately crosses the Athabasca River. The road then turns sharply to the left (don’t turn right into the Jasper Park Lodge, until the end of the day when you can have a cold beer at the Lodge). Follow the Maligne road approximately 5 kilometres to a turn off to the “5th Bridge”. Follow this road in about 500 metres to the parking lot.
This map provides information on how to get to the parking area from Jasper.
The ApproachFrom the parking lot, cross the suspension bridge and follow the trail for about 100 metres. On the left there will be a trail branching off the main trail. Turn left and follow this trail for another 100 metres and then take the first right. This trail then steeply climbs up a hill – the trail temporarily becomes quite wide at this point but narrows down again at the top of the steepest section. At the top of this steep section you will encounter some trails coming in from the right – ignore these and continue east. The trail continues to slowly climb through open Douglas-fir forests for another 5 minutes, and then begins to level off. About 100 metres after the trail has levelled off you will come to another fork in the trail – turn right here. About 50 metres from this fork you will encounter the crag and the first climb – “Pink Dreams”. If at anytime, you start hiking downhill, you’ve missed this last turn-off to the crag – turn around and backtrack. The entire hike takes about 15 minutes.
This map provides information on how to get to the crag from the parking area.
The RoutesI have made two topos for this area:
Topo #1 - For climbs 1-18
Topo #2 - For climbs 19-41
1. Pink Dreams 5.10c* (bolts) – This is the first climb as you approach the crag; it’s on a scruffy looking section of cliff. Look for the bolts. The climb isn’t exactly a classic, but it’s worth doing at least once. It’s trickier than it looks – quite technical. The original version (B. Robinson, 1979) followed the large layback to the left, but the bolts have rendered this variation obsolete. (E. Hoogstraten, 1993)
2. Fallen Tree 5.7** (bolts) – Traverse up left until the climb steepens and starts to move back to the right. This section is getting more slippery each year, but is still quite fun. It’s a good first lead. (H. Schwarz, 1969)
3. Into Space 5.10b** (bolts) – This climb shares the same start as “Fallen Tree” but branches to the left at mid height to tackle the roof. This climb is perhaps a bit of a sandbag at the grade. The crux pulls the roof on the left side – many people try the roof directly on, which is at least a grade harder. (H. Schwarz, 1969)
4. Econoclimb 5.11a*** (or 12a) (bolts) – This route starts 10 metres to the left of “Into Space/Fallen Tree” and climbs through two roofs. To keep to the 12a grade the second roof must be climbed straight on (not climbed around on the right – which many people do, which then drops the grade to 11a). The first smaller "roof" can be climbed on the left or the right - the left is harder, but a more aesthetic line. (S Cameron, D. Robinson, 1992)
5. Butt Cheese 5.11c** (bolts) – This climb was originally graded 11a, but is a major sandbag at that grade. At 11c, it’s still actually one of the harder 11c’s at the crag. The crux is moving to the right and surmounting an awkward corner just below the chains – there’s a hidden, small crimper that is key. It can be easily combined with “Econoclimb”. Good luck. As of 2007, there were two bolts at the anchor but no chains. (B. Tassone, 1990’s)
6. Puff Puff 5.9**** (bolts) – One of the classics in the Jasper area. Follow the bolted line, surmounting a small roof on the left, then move right, eventually working left into a right slanting crack. Gaining this crack is the crux – look for a small foot nubbin. (A. Henault, 1978)
7. Devils Weed 5.11c** (bolts) – The roof at start of this climb is definitely the crux – some use finger strength; some use heel hooks – pick your poison. The rest of the climb is thin and fairly technical but fun. The thin section above the roof is generally climbed on the right side of the bolts. (S. Cameron, 1991)
8. High Boltage 5.10a*** (bolts) – This climb is a lot easier than it may first appear. The initial moves head right through a roof on nice jugs and are a blast. The actual crux is moving through a small bulge three quarters of the way up the climb – trust your feet and it will feel easy. The climb ends below a roof at rap anchors. This climb makes a great warm-up. (B. Czobitko, 1999)
9. Rapid Hand Movement 5.12a*** (bolts) – This route has three distinct cruxes; the bottom roof, the middle bulge, and the finishing roof. The middle section is the hardest – and can be done to the left or right. It’s very technical and is the hardest 12a at the crag. Take a good rest before the finishing roof – it’s pretty pumpy as well. (S. Cameron, 1992)
10. Broken Bolt 5.8** (bolts) – A very popular climb that can have lots of traffic on the weekends. It starts at the base of a large detached pillar with a tree on the left (look for a plaque with the route name on it). Scramble up to the top of this pillar (or walk around it) and find your first bolt. The crux is at the very last bolt and has stumped a few 5.8 leaders. (J. Lang, D. Vockeroth, 1969)
11. Physics Book 5.10c* (bolts) – This climbs starts in a corner, then crosses a large ramp, continuing generally to the left over a number of small overlaps. Don’t under estimate this climb – it’s technical and pumpy. It’s not my favourite climb, but some people may like it. (E. Hoogstraten, B. Tassone, 1992)
12. Green Piton 5.7** (bolts) – Another fun and popular moderate route. Starts by lay-backing up a corner, followed by some face climbing and finishing over a small roof.
13. Alain’s Route 5.10** (bolts) – This was originally a mixed climb that required some (marginal) gear on the top half of the route. It was retro-bolted a number of years ago, and is now quite a fun and popular climb. It shares the same start as “Lost Arrow” but then instead of traversing left, continues straight up and eventually right over the edge of the arête. There are some fun, juggy moves – rap anchors. (A. Henault, 1978)
14. Lost Arrow 5.9** (bolts) – Start on a steep slab (same start as “Alain’s Route), clipping a couple of bolts. Next climb steeply up into a “V” shaped corner. Once established in the corner, make an airy traverse left until you reach a nice rest ledge and the start of the finishing corner. Climb this corner to rap anchors. A fun, albeit, meandering, route. (P. Paul, 1973)
15. Lost Arrow Direct 5.10d**** (bolts) – One of the top five routes at the Rock Gardens. It climbs through the obvious break in the steep wall and finishes in a beautiful large left facing corner. Climb an easy slab for about 6 metres until the first bolt is reached. Clip this bolt and then prepare yourself for the pump. The crux is getting past the second bolt. The middle section is pretty juggy, but topping out of this section requires a little ingenuity (and some of your remaining strength). (E. Hoogstraten, B. Tassone, 1992)
16. Humpty Dumpty 5.12b** (bolts) – This climb utilizes the first 3 bolts of “Limestone Cowboy” and then breaks off to the right climbing through the steep overlapping overhangs. A powerful route with some technical cruxes. (S. Cameron, B. Tassone, 1999)
17. Limestone Cowboy 5.11b**** (bolts) – At the original grade of 5.10c, this climb was truly the biggest sandbag in the Jasper area – a few solid 5.12 leaders have been known to take numerous hangs on the crux of this climb. Having said that, the climb is still another of the best at the crag and shouldn’t be missed. The initial section is steep and pumpy, but there is a cramped rest on the only obvious small ledge halfway up the route, right before the crux. Once you figure on the fiendish crux (being tall can be a disadvantage), you get to climb the beautiful left facing corner, which is slightly overhanging and pumpy all the way to the anchors. (B. Tassone, 1989)
18. One Hot Minute 5.12a (bolts) – A rarely climbed sharp and short arête just to the left of “Limestone Cowboy”. The climb is about 10 metres high and has two bolts and chain anchors. (S. Elliott, F. Wenseth - 1999)
19. Band-Aid Box 5.11b**** (bolts) – This is one of the best climbs in the whole Jasper area and a must do for any visiting climber. It climbs a slightly overhanging left facing corner system to a rest; followed by some easier climbing and finishing over a small roof. There are two definite cruxes to the climb – one at the very bottom and one at the top (pulling the roof). The bottom crux can be climbed a number of different ways, but they’re all pretty hard. The top crux requires some power and the knowledge of where the best hold is helps a lot. The climb was originally graded 11a but is quite stiff for that grade. (B. Bundy, T. Wells, 1979 (without bolts))
20. Pandora’s Breast 5.12b*** (bolts) – One of the test pieces at the crag. It starts by climbing an overhanging corner feature – then one must negotiate a number of difficult technical moves before reaching the actual crux, which is a number of very (very) crimpy moves as your get higher and higher above your bolt. The normal finish is to climb the roof of “Band-Aid Box” using those anchors to rap or lower off. ((E. Hoogstraten, B. Tassone, 1992)
21. Unknown 5.12c* (bolts) – This climb tackles the often looked at left facing overhanging corner system immediately to the left of “Pandora’s Breast”. As of the summer of 2007 there was a bolt missing at the crux.
22. Necrophilia and Fatboy 5.12b/c** (bolts) – A short layback crack is followed to an obvious roof. Pinch off the chalked hold for all your worth and make some desperate moves for the top jugs. (E. Hoogstraten, B. Tassone, 1992)
23. Guidekiller 5.11d**** (bolts) – Another classic. Climb the technical ground below the big roof to the sloping crack. The holds in the crack are not as good as they look from the ground. Move quickly through the crack to the left. The crux is become established on the face after pulling the roof crack. The rest of the climb is steep but has good holds. (W. Gadd, 1987)
24. Fairy Dogmother's Slipper 5.12c/d*** - This climb starts to the left of “Guidekiller” climbing up and left through a big bulge. The crux is getting established on the face above the bulge. From there, the route is continuous pumpy and technical to the top. It can easily be top roped off the “Tricks” anchor. (M. Cummings, S. Stanko, S. Steinke, 2000)
Note: A new direct start to this route was bolted in 2008 by Dana Ruddy - instead of climbing into the route from the right, the direct start begins more or less right under the roof - there are two new bolts. This direct start will likely render the original variation obsolete, as it isn't quite as hard and is a better line. The direct start is hard 11d, or easier 12a.
25. Tricks with Mirrors 5.11c/d*** - A beautiful pumpy sustained climb up the slightly overhanging wall. Beware the run-out between the fourth and the fifth bolts – if you fall clipping the fifth bolt you won’t hit the ground (it’s been tested), but you might need to change your pants. The climb starts with a funky (heel hook mandatory) move over an overhang – followed by a marathon of crimpy moves. The technical crux is between the 3rd and 4th bolts, but it’s never easy all the way to the top. Use the anchors on the right after clipping the last bolt. Some folks find this climb harder than “Guidekiller”. (B. Webster, 1987)
26. All Chalk No Action 5.10c-11a*** (bolts) – This climb can be done three different ways, each with a slightly different grade. When climbed from the bottom, its shares the start with “Tricks” but then breaks off left immediately after the initial overhang. If one then follows the bolts directly up, without stepping left off the climb (on “Footloose”) to rest, the climb is an honest 5.11a. If you take this same route, but step off the climb to rest (about a third of the way up), the climb is about 10d. The other variation is to climb the first half of “Footloose”, past its crux and then step right and climb the upper 2/3 of “All Chalk”. This brings the grade down to 10c. Either variation is fun – the climb is generally consistently thin and crimpy. (10d/11a variation - E. Hoogstraten, 1992; 10c variation, D. Diduck, 1991)
27. Footloose 5.10b*** (bolts) – A great climb whose crux initially stumps a lot of people. The trick is to trust your feet and pull like hell on the little crimper. Once past the crux, the rest of the climb is pure climbing joy – good moves on great rock; not too pumpy, but not too easy either. Another great warm-up route. (P. Amann, K. Wallator)
28. Flesheater 5.11a** (bolts) – This route is immediately to the left of the large chimney/corner feature. The technical crux comes low down (getting past the 2nd bolt), but the remainder of the climb remains steep and challenging. It was originally graded 11b, but it’s probably not that hard. If you stem back on the chimney behind you, the grade drops done into the 10c/d range – try to resist the temptation. ((E. Hoogstraten, B. Tassone, 1992)
29. Thin Face 5.12b*** (bolts) – A beautiful climb with kind of a lame name. The climb starts off of a ledge just to the left of “Flesheater”. The crux comes low on the route moving left and up past the obvious bulge. There’s a good rest at the top of the bulge, but after that it is thin and crimpy to the top. The move past the final bolt spits off a lot of folks and feels hard due to the accumulating pump.
30. Ken’s Route 5.10b** (bolts) – A fairly long (for the crag) wandering line with three distinctive cruxes. The climb starts on a steep crimpy face, past three bolts, to a grassy ledge – getting by this section is probably the technical crux. From the top of the grassy ledge you move up into the open corner – getting established in this corner is the second crux. Once past this section, the climbing is fun with a few thought-provoking moves, until you reach a broken ledge and the last bolt. Moving past this last bolt constitutes the third crux. (K. Wallator, 1989)
31. Black Flag 5.10c** (bolts) – This climb shares the same start with “A Climb for Carolyn”. After about 5 metres of climbing, branch right and climb the overhanging face to the anchors. The crux is moving from the start of the overhanging section to the left and becoming established on the face. The key is to move left and not try to climb the bolted line directly. (S. Elliot, 2005)
32. A Climb for Carolyn 5.8*** (bolts) – One of the best moderates at the crag. It’s fun the whole way, well protected, and never too hard. There are cold-shuts at the anchors that can be clipped and used for lowering. Share’s the start and anchors with “Sean’s Climb”. (S. Elliot, 2005)
33. Raven’s Laugh 5.12a* (bolts) – Stick clip the second bolt. It’s short and crimpy with the crux coming about ¾ of the way up. Make sure your tips have some calluses’ before trying this one. (T. Hoover, 1994)
34. Climbing for Punishment 5.11a** (bolts) – This is a short climb with a powerful crux surmounting the bulge near the top. The bottom section has some fun crimpy moves with a few cool side pulls. There’s a good rest before the crux – which is climbed from the right to left. This climb was original graded 11b, but probably isn’t that hard. (B. Czobitko, H. Bolen, S. Elliot, 1998)
35. Doctor Octopus 5.13a** (bolts) – This climb starts directly right of “Shone” just at the start of a steep descending gully. Stick clip the first (or second) bolt and head off into crimp land. The crux is moving by the first 6-7 metres. The top of the climb is not for free, but significantly easier than the bottom. (T. Hoover, 2000)
36. Doc Octopus Variation 5.11c*** (bolts) – This is a very fun and worthwhile variation. You climb past the first bolt on “Climbing for Punishment” and then a clip a new bolt to the left, and then continue to traverse left into the top section of “Doctor Octopus”. This route clocks in at about 5.11c with the crux at the very top. A quality route.
37. Shone 5.12b/c** (bolts) – Stick clip the second (or third) bolt. The climb starts halfway down the steep descending gully. Move up through a series of sloping holds and side-pulls making sure to utilize some the holds to the left. The climb is continuously difficult from the bottom to the top, and the crux comes about half way up trying to get established on the steep slab. (T. Hoover, 1995)
38. Monster 5.12c** (bolts) – Stick clip the second bolt. Strenuous climbing to a steep and blank slab – the crux. Not often climbed. (T. Hoover, 1995)
39. Elliot's Route 5.12* (bolts) - This is the climb that tackles the arête at the bottom of the descending gully. Not a lot is known about this climb – it’s rarely done and is likely in the mid 5.12 range. (S. Elliot)
40. Where the Wild Things Are 5.12c/d (Open Project – probably harder that 5.12+) – This is a traverse. Start on "Elliot's Route" (left of "Monster"). Climb to 4th bolt. Step right, clipping a new bolt. Continue right, clipping the 3rd bolt on "Monster". Continue right, traversing “the slot”. Continue climbing up "Shone" (2nd, 3rd and 4th bolts). Step right again, finishing on Dr. Octopus. Use slings to control rope drag.
41. Unknown 5.10d* (bolts) – The cliff mainly starts to become scruffy and less climbable after “Elliot’s Route” (which is on the arête at the bottom of the gully). However, there is one more bolted route about 50 metres from “Elliot’s Route”. From the bottom of the gully walk up along the cliff face for about 40-50 metres until the bolted route is found. It’s an interesting climb with some steep sections and slabby parts.
42. Yo Yo (aka - Into the Blue) 5.11b** - If you follow the trail past 'Where the Wild Things are' around the bend and up the hill you'll find this gem of a climb. When you're at the bottom of gully/hill you follow the rock as it wraps around a corner. Follow the rock past "Unknown"(climb #41) and by some convoluted and broken bits. Keep looking up, this route starts above a big tree that is leaning downhill and has a fresh'ish' war wound from a big piece of rock that was cleaned off the route. Originally climbed in the 70's with gear and a few sketchy bolts (still there...clip them if you dare) by H.Swartz it followed a slightly different line. It was reworked in 2005 by M. Reburn and Paul Valiulis and is now a wonderful challenging cruxy beauty that can make even hard men cry. You feel like you're stepping into the big blue. It is out there all on its own but worth the walk.
CampingSee the Jasper Rock Climbs link
Red TapeYou need to have a National Park Pass to stop anywhere in Jasper National Park. These can be purchased at the Park gates while you are driving in.
There is little red tape in Jasper with respect to the climbing. Bolting has not yet been an issue at the crags that have been developed; nor does it appear to even be on the radar screen of Parks Canada (yet). Obviously, things like cutting or removing trees and other vegetation in the name of route development is illegal and must be avoided at all costs.
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