Bonanza, 5.8, 260m

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 51.27036°N / 115.17874°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.8 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 7
Sign the Climber's Log

Overview and Approach

Pitches 4 and 5 crack
Bonanza is a classic 5.8 route featured in the "Ghost Rock" guidebook (new one coming in 2012!). It is in an area of much harder climbs, and in a series of traverses it seeks the easiest line to the top. The highlight of the climb is a beautiful and sustained splitter crack that goes straight up for two pitches. The first pitch chimney is a bit dirty and grunty - technically harder starting alternatives exist that may be more enjoyable.

To approach, park at the Devil's Gap parking lot parking lot at the Banff park boundary. Walk directly to the river. Walk downstream for about 100-150 meters and find a good place to cross - this may be walking across dry gravel, or a full-on river crossing depending on the water levels. On the other side, there is a grassy/tree-filled gully with a well-worn trail. Follow the trail which switchbacks up the slope. There is a faint T-intersection/fork toward the top - go left and soon you're at the base of the cliffs of West Phantom Crag. Continue following the trail left for another 400-500 meters until an obvious waterfall. This is the bottom of the Bonanza Descent Gully, which is the standard descent route for all climbs in the area. A rappel will take you down this waterfall, and depending on the water volume, get you wet. Take note of the surroundings (good place to study the route) and go another 100-200 meters further until a large pinnacle and right-facing chimney which you will be able to see all along. The climb follows the left-facing chimney on the opposide side of the pinnacle, so go around it. There is a bolt line up the pinnacle itself to the right of the correct chimney.

Route description

The first pitch may be the crux. As mentioned above, there is a bolt line to the right of the chimney that climbs the pillar direct. This looks like it may be a reasonable 5.10 alternative that is well-bolted and I would be tempted - however, looks are deceiving, and it's more difficult at 5.11b/c (route name "Killer Pillar"). About 10-20 meters left of the chimney there may be another alternative start (5.10a/b, no fixed gear). All that said, here is the classic (original) line:

Pitch 1 - 40m 5.8 chimney. This pitch now has a number of bolts (added in 2003) that allow you to protect it well, still not a sport climbing pitch. It starts off easier and then turns narrow and vertical. It's quite polished and greasy in sections and in general it feels harder. There is a small roof with a lot of loose blocks to be careful of, after surmounting the roof you go back to the crack. You can either stem across the crack or squeeze in and grovel. I climbed this on a cold day with numbing fingers and have nothing nice to say.
Nice view from BonanzaNice view all along

Pitch 2 - 20-30m 5.7/5.8. Go up to a bolt and traverse horizonally left to a small corner/bulge. Go straight up the corner to the top of the bulge. Downclimb slightly on the other side of it (easy), and shoot up and left to a bolt belay.

Pitch 3 - 30m 5.7. Go slightly left of the belay and follow a groove/corner for about 8-10 meters up until you can traverse left. You are aiming for the left corner, not the one straight above. A bit of fun climbing will take you to a bolt and piton belay - now you're at the bottom of the main crack, the highlight of the climb.

Pitch 4 - 40m 5.8. Follow the corner crack straight up sustained. You reach a large ledge with a bolt and piton belay. During our ascent there was a 1-2 meter section half-way which was wet and muddy and provided a much harder challenge but it's probably in the 5.7-5.8 sustained range normally.

Pitch 5 - 40m 5.8. Another pitch of the same quality crack climbing. You reach a small ledge on the left with a roof above you. There is a bolt and a number of pitons here to belay from.

Pitches 6 & 7 - 50m 5.7. Traverse horizonally left and up on small holds (5.7) with pitons for protection. Go up to a small ledge on the left and then start going back right to the original corner by following a delicate foot ledge. With a single rope, belay here off natural gear. With good double rope technique, you should be able to avoid rope drag and shoot up the corner to the top (what I did). Either arrange a natural belay or walk right to a tree (warning: this second option will knock a lot of loose scree down if there are other parties below). Optionally you can avoid the traverse by going straight up the roof from the belay, supposedly going at 5.9.
Pitch 6 traversepitch 6 traverse


As of 2012: there is a new descent option - 3 x 60 meter double rope rappels get you to the ground, starting immediately left of the top belay. See Ghost River Rock Climbs [2012] for details of this option.

The standard descent is below:

From the tree atop the climb, walk off right to a grassy slope with trees. Switch into running shoes and traverse left until you reach the large scree bowl under the East Phantom Crag summit. Go down the scree into the bowl, aiming for a scree gully breaking through the cliffs on the right of the bowl (skier's right). There is a small flat area here. Keep going down and when presented with the opportunity downclimb left into a groove. There is another groove on the right, which is a waterfall, do not go near it! A 3rd class downclimb on the left will lead you to a large ledge with two ring bolts. From here a 70 meter rappel will definitely reach the ground, and it looks like a 60 meter might, but we did not try. Otherwise, do a short rap to a ring bolt belay about 15 meters down. From here a mostly free-hanging 50 meter rappel will bring you to the ground (warning: one of these bolts appeared to be flexing inside deteriorating rock in 2007). You will get wet here unless the waterfall is dry. Supposedly it's possible to rappel with a single rope, however that would require using a station in the midst of the waterfall in question, a very unpleasant option.

Once on the ground, go back to the original starting point to retrieve the gear you left on the ground, and retrace your steps back to the car.

Essential Gear

Full set, small to 4". Some fixed protection exists especially on the first pitch. Double ropes help a lot especially for the 6th pitch and in case a retreat is needed. The route is not equipped for rappels but there is enough fixed gear to make a retreat easy with two ropes.


As of summer 2006, camping restrictions will soon be taking place. Research this before coming. Currently camping anywhere is permitted without registration and without fees but this may soon change. There is a campground at the bottom of the Big Hill (see general driving directions) which has an outhouse.

External Links

ACC's accident reports for the area - there is a topo of the climb and information for the guidebooks
GAMP - Ghost Access Management Plan

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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Ghostman1 - Oct 3, 2012 9:57 am - Hasn't voted

New Descent Option

There is a new descent option with double ropes X 3 60m rappels starting immediately left of the top belay see Ghost River Rock Climbs a comphrensive guide out in 2012 for more complete details on this option.


pvalchev - Oct 3, 2012 12:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: New Descent Option

Thank you - is that you, Andy? :) Thanks for all of your work. I'll add a note on the main page with both of these notes.

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