A “ballista” is a fancy variation of the Greek catapult invented by the Romans around 50bc. Ballista the rock route, however, is not so fancy in my opinion. Due to its short approach from Banff and the fact that it is another of several recent Chris Perry innovations (2007), along with Beautiful Century
, it seems to be quite popular and most local climbers I know do in fact like it. My “average” opinion of Ballista is based mostly on its lack of exposure as well as lack of sustainability for the grade.
Ballista’s approach to the east face of Tunnel Mountain
is one of the easiest attained rock faces in or around the Banff area. Its start is very close to the popular trad route, Gooseberry
, which was established way back in 1967, ancient by Canadian Rockies standards. 40 years later, Chris established Ballista.
From any number of Tunnel Mountain Drive pullouts on the left, hike through the forest towards the east wall of Tunnel Mountain. There are trails all over the place, but get to the wall and head south. An alternative is to park on the right next to a lodge of some sort and make for the grassy clearing to the left across the road (south). This is actually a ground covered water reservoir. Cross this grassy clearing to the far side (west) where a manhole marks the start of a trail that leads to the base of the wall. There is a scoop of sorts which is to the left of the start of Ballista. 40m to the right of the scoop area (which has several bolted lines), look for an erect large stone. Just to the right of it starts Ballista. The first pitch climbs a corner and swings left right below a roof. A much larger roof is up the hill and to the right about 25m.
Route Description750’+/-, 8 Pitches, 5.10c A0
1st Pitch- 35m- 5.10a/
Follow the bolt line left of the corner. Move left of the roof and continue up to a solid belay stance at a bolted belay.
2nd Pitch- 30m- 5.8/
Uneventful 5.8 that swings out left, following the bolt line back right to a large ledge and belay to the right of a tree on the wall above. Be careful not to drop any loose rock on your belayer. Finish out right over the better rock for this reason versus heading for the tree.
3rd Pitch- 30m- 5.10c/ The crux moves of the route I suppose are the slab moves on this third pitch.
Mostly smearing feet, with balancing hand placements. Not overly difficult for the grade. Head up to the belay at the base of corner.
4th Pitch- 30m- 5.10a/
Fun bolted corner pitch. Pull out of the corner at one point, kind of cool, then up to yet another large ledge.
5th Pitch- 25m- 5.10a-b/
Uneventful slab and face moves up to the base of the chert bands.
6th Pitch- 35m- 5.9/
Even though it was only at 5.9 grade, this was my favorite pitch.
We call these “chicken heads” at Red Rocks (think Lotta Balls on Indecision Peak of you have climbed it). Climb up through the chert knobs traversing drastically right and breaking through a roof section up into a corner to yet one more large ledge.
7th Pitch- 25m- 5.8 A0/
Towards the top of this pitch is an easy aid section through three bolts. Just use your shoulder length slings to step in or yarn on if tall enough.
8th Pitch- 30m- 5.10a/
Fairly easy for the grade. Face climb past a corner up to the belay among the trees. Be careful with the loose stuff.
You can do eight 30m rappels or four double rope raps. Some of these ledges are quite loose, you might want to stick with the single rope raps. Probably can walk off as well if you want, down the west side of Tunnel Mountain via a tourist trail that circles back down to the road.
13 draws and 3 shoulder length slings for the aid section. 60m single rope is best for the climb. Even though it is a sport route, helmets are a good idea on relatively new sport routes in the Canadian Rockies.
External LinksBanff National Park, Parks Canada
Alpine Club of Canada