There is no question that Bataan offers the most challenging and best rock for sport climbing in the Bow Valley. What keeps it peaceful and quiet (five of us had it to ourselves on a warm Saturday) besides the stiffness of the routes, is the 2500’+ gain necessary to get to the start of these sport walls.
Bataan was named after the infamous death march during WWII, although the one to one and a half hour hike up the mountain is not quite as an extreme an experience. I can assure you, the hike is well worth it for this sport climbing crag.
The 80+ established sport routes on Bataan (2007) face southeast and southwest and get the full range of the sun during the summer months. Most of these pitches feature a full 30m of climbing. Many projects and thus development of the crag continue.
Bataan is a prominent “L shaped” featured wall that can be discernable from the south looking up at Grotto Mountain
just to the west of Jughaul Wall
and Grotto Crack and west of the prominent quarry scar that runs along the foot of the mountain. All of these features can be easily viewed from the TransCanada (or my home for that matter).
From Canmore, follow 1A east from the Alpine Club road for several kms looking for a pull out (old gravel pit) on the left below some power lines. Climb up the bank to the right on a faint trail that hooks into a main benchland horse trail running East-West. Turn left and follow this trail for approximately 250’ to a marked sign, turn right and follow this trail north until you reach a prominent forked tree, turn right on a trail here and follow its switchbacks up a grassy slope to a flat reclaimed quarry area above. Cross this flat gravel area aiming for two large cairns (2007) to the north. Pick up a steep trail that starts to ascend aggressively up Grotto Mountain’s south flank to Bataan. Once you reach a rotten cave on the left, you will have found the first routes on Bataan (“The First Cave”). Different sections of routes continue up the hill for quite a distance via separate limestone walls.
Walls/CragsWalls Are Listed in Order of Ascent
First Cave- 5.10a-511b/
The routes start left of the lower (first) cave and end with a prominent towering feature (Flesh Gordon route) on the right. This wall faces east.
Sweet Hereafter- 5.10a-512b/
This is the next wall up from First Cave. Sweet Hereafter is sort of perpendicular to First Cave. It faces more south than east. This wall is extremely textured (read sharp) limestone. The routes start left to right at where a trail ends at the base of the wall to its left and runs right to the obvious Dirty Book crag/corner.
Dirty Book- 5.10a/
Dirty Book has just one established route and a couple of projects (2007). Dirty Book is a two pitch route that doglegs up ugly ground to a ledge. Then traverse right to the base of a “dirty” corner (rappel station) that could be easily protected, but is bolted. Birds and bats keep the corner moist with shit. Still it can be a fun, stem filled, athletic mother of a route until the crack gets too large for your hands and eats up your arms before the last bolt….might as well stick your arm into a box full of dull razor blades. You need to do several true arm stem moves to reach the last bolt. I would take a Camelot #4 or #5 if I did this route again to protect these nasty last moves.
If you fall on an arm stem here, you will rip some flesh off of your arms. The limestone is that sharp in this corner. You also need to tape your hands for this pitch. I recommend dividing the pitch up at the mid rappel/belay station or bring extra long runners versus draws to stymie the rope drag situation on the dogleg.
Choss Pile- 5.11c-512c/
Cheese Grater- 5.10b-511d/
Once you get on this textured limestone, you will see where this name comes from. You don’t want to voluntarily take many falls.
Suspended Sentence- 5.10b-511b/
Eyes of Bataan- 5.12a-513c/
Pacific Theatre- 5.12a-512d/
Tipperary- 5.10c-512b/There is a hazard of falling rock caused by sheep above.
Far East- 5.10b-511a/
The TransCanada Highway runs from Calgary through the Canadian National Rocky Mountain Parks (Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper)
on its way to Vancouver. Right before you enter Banff National Park is the town of Canmore. The Benchlands Trail is what I would call the main Canmore exit off of the TransCanada. Head north on the Benchlands Trial as it curves right and turn right onto Elk Run Blvd. Elk Run dead ends into 1A. Take a left hand turn onto 1A). Follow 1A for approximately 2 kms looking for a pull out (old gravel pit) on the left below some power lines.
Grotto Mountain and the east end of the Fairholme Range are not in Banff National Park, but border Kananaskis Country. There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis.
All camping is regulated within park boundaries. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the Kananaskis website which is included in the camping section below. There is no official camping allowed at Bataan.
When to Climb
As with most rock climbing in the Canadian Rockies, the driest and warmest time is from June through September. Bataan is known to stretch the season a month or two on either end; more than any other crag in and around the Bow Valley due to its absolute best tilt and position to the sun escaping much of the shade prevalent further down valley.
The closest camp site would be back in Canmore at the town campsite located at the information center off of the TransCanada. The Alpine Club of Canada’s national office is located in Canmore (just west from Bataan off of 1A) and also serves as a hostel,
a recently renovated one at that. There is actually a benchlands trail that takes you from the Alpine Club to Cougar Canyon which offers more moderate sport climbing.
You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Canmore or Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website
for more information regarding backcountry camping. Of course there are tons of lodging options in Canmore from 5 star spas to cheap motels.
External LinksKananaskis Provincial Park
Alpine Club of Canada
Alpine Accidents in Canada