and I have been ice climbing together back in Planters Valley
on several occasions, Weathering Heights
and the Peanut Gallery
. We have both also been back in the summer for rock climbs on the East Planters Wall
separately. I believe by far the most popular rock climb back in this remote locale is Macadamia
. Using Peter’s and Andy’s beta I returned to the valley with every intent of climbing half a dozen of the routes in a several day stretch. My partner and I hauled in an impressive selection of gear and double ropes only to find much of the wall quite wet for mid July. In fact Macadamia and the commonly shared rappel route for the wall had running water down their entire length.
We approached the base of the wall, and committing to our ropes getting soaked on rappel, took the first dry route we could find, “An Arctic Arachide”. Of course I had no idea what an arachide was, but could easily make the assumption that it had something to do with the nut family since most routes here were named such (Macadamia, Almond, etc). Sure enough, in English, it means “ground nut” whatever that is. Stoliker and Campbell put Arctic Arachide in during 1989
Brown Eyed Susan
In any regard, where most of the routes were covered in water, Arctic Arachide was quite dry.
I hope the quality of rock on this route is not representative of the rest of the wall. We cleaned rock off all three of its pitches. The first pitch involved some face climbing past a few pitons and then a pretty nice corner/crack section
(5.8) which led to a ledge below a rotten roof. The second pitch follows a very loose corner up to turn the roof to the left (5.10a) and then traverses back into some very large precarious blocks and continues to trend right passing a rappel/mid station, following a few bolts to a piton belay. The third pitch turned out to be more exciting than it looks. Again plagued by loose rock, but this pitch allows for quite a few solid stem moves (above grade)
to avoid the rotten sections. It ends at a sitting belay on the very scree-laden top of the wall.
From Calgary or Canmore, access 1A which parallels the TransCanada to the north. 13.4kms west of the Hwy 22 junction in Cochrane is the Forestry Trunk Road (Route 940). Turn north on the Forestry Trunk Road for 23kms to a gated gravel road on your left. There is a trail head information kiosk board here, but no obvious sign. If you find the gate closed, it is imperative that you close the gate behind you. Most climbers only take 4-wheel drive vehicles beyond this point, but depending on conditions, other vehicles can travel the road. This rough road goes for another 17kms until it reaches the “big hill”. Along the way there is one ice/water crossing. If this hill is muddy or icy or has too much snow, it can be extremely difficult to navigate. This is a remote area and very little exists in the way of facilities or emergency assistance.
Turn right at the bottom of the “Big Hill”. Drive a short distance along the mud road before you come across a cairn and then descend the bank into the gravel wash. Follow the streambed to the east side of the dike and turn left and follow the dike for a short distance into some trees and cross to the west side heading for Devil’s Gap. The Banff National Park Boundary is well marked and you are not allowed to drive across it. There are plentiful whitetail and mule deer en route to this area.
From the park boundary sign, hike west along an old road bed. Eventually you will come to a faintly marked trail on your left that lines up with a deep valley to your left (Planters Valley). Follow this trail until you are in the running creek bed. Ascend the creek until huge walls form on both sides of you. East Planters Wall is on your left. As soon as you can, ascend (scramble) the hillside (no trail really) using vegetative areas to avoid the scree bash. A trail sort of forms that leads pretty much directly for the Arctic Arachide. The easy routes to identify via topo are Macadamia and the Almond. Arctic is 100m+ north of the Almond corner and about 40m south of the Macadamia corner.
Look for a piton (2009) to get you started on the right line.
Route Description450’+/-, 3 Pitches, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 40m- 5.8/
There is sort of a ramp at the base of the wall between Almond’s corner
and Macadamia’s corner
. Start at the middle
of that ramp and climb the face of it through a piton or two plus some gear. It is steep at first, but eases as you meander through some loose rock and blocks to get to the base of a fun corner/crack at the grade. This corner is the crux of the pitch. Take it to a small ledge and set a gear belay there below the rotten roof above.
2nd Pitch- 50m- 5.10a/
Run up the corner below the roof on very suspect rock
, clip a bolt and make a crux transition to the left to overcome the roof and then trend back right over the large broken and steep ground to more solid rock above and a rappel/mid station. Clip through it and continue trending right through another couple of bolts or pitons up much better rock on steep ground to a belay position at a piton below the chimney like finish pitch.
3rd Pitch- 50m- 5.6+/
Fun climbing via stemming and a few chimney moves navigates precarious ground up the wide crack/chimney to the top of the wall. You might find a piton here or there, but plenty of good pro options as well. Stemming at a slightly higher grade will allow you to trust less of the bad rock.
Do a sitting belay on top, but watch that your ropes do not drop scree down on the 2nd.
Circumvent the very edge of the top of the wall to your left (north). Continue below an upper short headwall of sorts and start looking for the relatively new (2009) rappel rings at the top of the common/shared rap line for most routes on this wall, just to the north of the easily identified final stemming pitch of Macadamia. With doubles, make two full rappels, but it is set up for single 60m as well. If as wet as when we did it, you and your rope will be soaked if you do the single rope option.
Single Gear to 4”, we might have placed one nut, maybe double up on 2’s. Definitely wear a helmet on this wall. Worth binering your shoes for the large scree walk above on the edge of the wall. This wall typically gets sun at about 1:00 pm in the summer.
External LinksAlberta’s Provincial Parks
Alpine Club of Canada