This is a 2500’+/- ascent day. Western Union is one of the better routes on the “west end” of Yamnuska to improve your lead grade level. Most west end routes are in the 5.6-5.7 realm. It is also a good route to do for more experienced climbers during early or late season conditions due to its ease and length of route. Andy Genereux calls it a “2 star route” in his “Yamnuska Rock” and I tend to agree. Pitches 3, 4 and 5 all give you something to work on that is out of the ordinary. This entire west end however can be a mess if many climbers are present. Many of the easier routes criss cross each other in the vicinity of Western Union. There is even a sport route that runs right along side pitch 5 (Pony Express). Several of the belay stations are shared with other routes. The start is the same start for several routes as well including Easy Street. Western Union was established by B. Spear and J. Beattie in 1996.
Once you make the hump to the base of the wall, Western Union is one of several variations towards the west end of Yamnuska. It shares the same start as Windy Slabs and Easy Street and I have marked a photo as pitch #1. Begin at the right-hand side of a pillar about 40 meters left and slightly downhill of the ramp at the start of "Unnamed". Two Pitons near the bottom mark the route.
1st Pitch- 25m-5.6/ Climb the right side of the pillar via its face and some via its crack to its top where you will find two ring bolts and one piton on a ledge to the left.
2nd Pitch- 50m-5.6/ Traverse left past several pitons. Climb a ramp to a ledge with a bolt. Move left and cross a small gully then back up to a ledge. Climb a textured wall directly above towards “King’s Chimney”. Towards the end, move left into the base of the chimney and find a bolted belay up left on the wall.
3rd Pitch- 30m-5.7/ This pitch is mentioned as 40 meters in “Yamnuska Rock”, but I found it much closer to 30 meters. Make one move up into the chimney and then make a crux move right and climb a steep crack on the wall to its terminus above. Move slightly right and climb up textured slab past a prominent block. If you lean out on top of the block, you will see the belay station above. Climb textured slab directly to the bolted belay below a small roof to the left.
4th Pitch- 45m-5.8/ The most unique feature of the climb is on this pitch. You have to look real close, but there is a piton, albeit not that bomber, just over the lip of the small roof directly above you to the left. This piton and the ability to place another piece help protect the lateral move to the left required to attain this roof. This is the crux 5.8 move on this route. Continue up to a ledge below a steep wall. Traverse left, then climb up and angle back right to reach a shattered corner. Climb the corner and water worn rock and then step right onto a significant ledge that also serves as a bolted belay station for the “Unnamed” route. You should have a huge chimney on your right (where “Unnamed” goes) and a rib to your left that is bolted for a sport route (Pony Express).
5th Pitch- 50m-5.8/ The most difficult and sustained pitch of Western Union. Two ropes are useful here. “Unnamed” follows the gully to the right and there is a bolted sport route (Pony Express) that follows the outside of the rib to the left. This pitch follows a steep crack with a piton straight above the ledge. The route eases up as you reach a significant roof with a bolt squarely below it. Sling a draw to the bolt and move out right onto an exposed rib. Climb a deep crack placing larger gear. This portion is the crux of the route. Move up on blank ground to right below a small roof. Protect in the undercling and use hands to move left under the roof until you are comfortable taking it. The ground is easy above as it bypasses a pinnacle to its left. There is a one bolt belay on a wall right below the summit to your left that can be backed up with a medium sized nut.
Essential GearFull set of Cams, 00-9 Metolius for example with a BD 3 and/or 4. Full set of nuts. You will find some fixed protection, so you do not need to overdo it with the gear. Helmet, rock shoes, etc. We used double ropes which I always advise on longer routes on Yamnuska so you can make a quick weather exit if need be. Also helps considerably with rope drag on these routes, particularly pitch 5. Despite having to gain over 1500’ to the base of the climbs on Yamnuska, wear trail runners versus boots so you can haul them with you. You will not return to the base of the climbs.
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