Our target this day on Sunrise Wall, remotely situated deep into the North Ghost, was the Finger (5.10b-5 pitches); perhaps one of the finer pure crack climbs in the Central Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately temperatures never broke above 50F this outing, thus, despite the effort it took to reach this remote area, we opted for the much easier Waiparous Tower climb. Even though the grade of climbing the south end of Waiparous Tower was not the challenge we were looking for, it was still worth the trip.
Waiparous Tower makes one think for a second that he/she might be in the Castleton Valley area of Moab. Waiparous is a true detached stand alone tower in the center of the north end of Sunrise Wall. The only route to have been established on Waiparous Tower is a pure trad line up the south side that eventually turns onto the east face at an eagle’s nest perch before the last pitch carries on to the summit. The descent is a precarious rappel off of a small boulder on the summit that descends the steep western face in between the tower and Sunrise Wall, resulting in a cold, dark and long (60m) rappel. In fact there was no tat left from any previous descent.
The Waiparous Creek valley is the next major drainage north of the Ghost River in the Ghost River Wilderness Area. The rock found here is exceptional compared to any other climbing in the Central Canadian Rockies. The long four wheel drive approach (crossing the Waiparous Creek numerous times) keeps most climbers at bay. I would be surprised if Sunrise Wall experienced even a half dozen parties per year. Most of the routes were established by one key figure, Frank Campbell, and Waiparous tower is no exception, put in by Campbell and Owen in 1987.
Pass the normal Ghost turnoff on the Forestry Trunk Road (940) and continue for an additional 13k past the Wilderness Area Forestry sign on a gravel road. Look to turn left onto Waiparous Valley Road. If there is a box full of maps, grab one! After another 2k or more you come to a fork in the road. Take the left fork (Margaret Lake Trail- not necessarily signed). Descend for approximately 4k past Camps Howard and Chamisall. When you come to Waiparous Creek, take a right before the creek up a deeply trenched hill. You will need a solid four wheel drive with good clearance at this point. Descend the hill through one of many creek crossings. After another slow 7k or so, you come to the Margaret Lake Junction. Turn left and make a hard creek crossing and then follow the creek right sticking to the signed road. After another 4k and several more Waiparous Creek crossings you come to a large dam like structure on your left. Continue to the right following the creek and crossing it one more time heading up the toughest road section yet over large boulders. Descend this road into the broad creek section located in between Pinto and Sunrise Walls. There is a decent camping spot on the left (east) side of the creek. Park along the creek bottom and start your descent for the obvious tower punctuating Sunrise Wall’s north end. Stick to the trees as long as possible to avoid the looser scree. It is a long way in and a long way out, I advise going in for several days worth of climbing.
This climb loses sun by noon in August and can be quite cold if temps are below seasonal averages. Sunrise Wall is mostly northeast facing and the tower is towards the north end. Pinto Wall gets sun for a much longer period.
450’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.8
1st Pitch- 50m- 5.8/ The crux move of the route will be some off-width not far off the ground in a wide crack that heads up from a gully to the south of Waiparous Tower. There are two cracks on the south end, head up the right, more obvious, one placing larger gear. You have to stem out of the crack at one point resembling a little bit of off width climbing. After that the climbing eases up to a ledge. Move right up loose, but easy, ground to an even larger ledge directly below a steep crack. The crack takes a #3 or #4 as I recall along with several pitons (2008) to assist in building the belay.
2nd Pitch- 50m- 5.8/ This is another challenging pitch for the grade. Work the fine crack above, some layback, but mostly stemming to overcome a small overhang early. The climbing eases as you reach a small ledge that continues east out to the face.
3rd Pitch- 10m- 5.7R/ A wicked exposed traverse leads out to the face and a hollow sounding flake that you must ascend. If you attempt to protect into the flake, your rope will be exposed to the flake’s integrity. I chose to keep the rope in my hand as I weighted and climbed the delicate feature with my 150lb frame. Up and to the right of the flake is an eagle’s nest perch that was not active in 2008 (did not believe it had been used for nesting that season-lack of down). With your feet practically in the nest, set up a hanging belay off of three pitons (2008).
4th Pitch- 30m- 5.7/ Climb directly above the belay on bomber sticky limestone but without a ton of pro options. As you angle somewhat left, you climb the left arête for a short period taking advantage of a piton before moving drastically out right along a narrow ledge. One or two tough moves at the end for the grade (avoiding the worst rock further right) and you will be at the summit.
DescentNow you find yourself on the relatively small Waiparous Tower summit without a whole lot of descent options. To the north you will notice a small boulder (2008). We left some cordelette on it in 2008. Rappel this boulder over the steep and exposed west edge of the tower. With double 60m ropes, you just reach the western tower base in between Waiparous Tower and Sunrise Wall. Find a safe corner stance to the north as you pull the ropes. There is tons of scree and rock fall opportunity in this gully. Down climb one loose step and then return to the front of the tower.
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