An unsung classicThis climb is a great route that sees relatively little traffic. Probably for two reasons: it’s not in Joe Joe’s book and the first pitch doesn’t always form and even when it does it looks out of shape from the road. As one poster on Gravsports quipped: "If one wanted to accurately label the direct start as 'thin,' you would need to call Kate Moss morbidly obese." Well put. I climbed it with a couple of friends the same week we had all done Polar Circus and several other Rockies mega-classics and we all thought it held its own. The route is easy to get to, features three pitches of completely different climbing, and the last pitch boasts the most bombproof belay you’ll ever see in the mountains.
Getting ThereFrom Banff head to Field on the Trans-Canada Highway. Just over three kilometers before Field, turn right on Yoho Valley Road. Park where the gate blocks winter access. You can see the climb from the parking area. Cross the highway, veering left until you can climb easy snow slopes covering the railroad tunnel overpass. From here trend right up slopes, across trees and to the bottom of the drainage. About 40 minutes.
Since the parking area, serves many climbs, it's nice to write your intended route on the dust on the back of your car or truck.
The area is subject to extreme avalanche hazard, so if unfamiliar with current conditions it’s wise to stop at the Information Centre at the entrance to town, which is open daily and where the staff usually has a good idea of what’s in-shape and safe.
Route DescriptionP1. Thin ice over rock, probably WI4. Delicate hooking, poor pro. You'll want a few stubbies; finding ice thick enough for them will be a challenge. A couple of short, steep sections intermingled with rolling terrain. The climbing isn’t hard but it’s definitely heady. Gain a ledge and head up left to a higher ledge and a bolted belay.
P2. Launch off onto a steep and technical WI5+ pitch. Long and pumpy. We didn’t find an established belay station but there's a good ledge to the right of the last pitch.
P3. A more straightforward WI4 pitch but not a gimme. Climb small mushrooms in a center runnel or more plastic ice to the left with some rock for stems. In February 2009 there was a v-thread anchor where the ice ends or continue up a snow slope to a half-inch steel cable you can anchor off.
Rap the route.
The mixed route starts a little ways to the right.
P1. Easy ice to a ledge, move right, climb 5.6 rock.
P2. 5.9 rock, ice.
P3. Finishes on the WI4 pillar of the direct route.
Essential GearTen or so screws, tools, maybe snowshoes if you don't find a track.
LinksThe best online source for area climbing beta is:
For Yoho NP info:
Yoho National Park