Canmore Wall’s north face (1400’+/-),
although a prominent fixture on the Bow Valley skyline, was not climbed until 1998
when two lines were established concurrently, Centurion (5.10b, A1) and Lex (5.9). In 2011, three ambitious young men added a fully bolted sport route named in memory of Jiro Kurihara, a local Canmore resident climber who died in an avalanche in May of that year (Kurihara, 5.10d
). It was this route that motivated me to visit the wall up close. Canmore Wall is sandwiched between the summits of Lawrence Grassi
and Ha Ling Peaks to the west and the Ships Prow/Three Sisters
to the east. It is a seldom climbed feature no doubt due to the hump of an approach
(several thousand feet). To say that the limestone on this wall is suspect is probably an understatement
. That being said, if a route like Kurihara saw the traffic that Sisyphus Summits (5.10d as well)
attracts, located on the north face of neighboring Ha Ling, it would clean up over time. All of these routes on Canmore Wall are purported to have better rock on the higher reaches of the wall and that is what I witnessed on Kurihara. Canmore Wall’s summit can also be scrambled from the backside (Spray Lake Road).
One approach is to park at the extreme west end of the Peaks of Grassi subdivision in Canmore. Follow the well-established trail up and back east to a significant junction. Take a hard right and head up the hill on a good trail. It seems to peter out in an avalanche zone. Angle up and right to cross the debris to locate the trail on the other side. Turn left fairly immediate and follow a flagged (2012) lesser trail up to another well maintained bike trail. Turn left and fairly immediate turn right up the large drainage. There is no trail from this point forward. Follow this large drainage up the slope and take the right fork below Canmore Wall (some snow in July). Follow this fork on its right side to the wall itself. Kurihara starts on the right of a large two pitch pillar in a short gully and finishes right at the summit cairn. Centurion follows a shorter wall to the left and Rex follows must less vertical ground to the right. The northwest ridge goes at 5.5 and is to the far right side of the wall. It took us (two fit climbers) two hours getting to the base of Kurihara our first time up, figuring out the trails. It is a hump, I advise light ropes and gear. Your entire day could be in excess of 3500’.
Route Description(s)NORTH FACE
Routes Listed Left to Right as you face the Wall
Centurion- 5.10b, A1, 10 Pitches
Kurihara- 5.10d, 10 Pitches/Kurihara is a fully bolted sport route that includes eight full (long) pitches of climbing along with one access 5th class pitch and one 3rd class traverse pitch. The fixed belay/rap stations on Kurihara were poorly designed by modern day climbing standards. The bolts in general are placed too far apart and tethered together by old strands of rope. Nothing is equalized for the rappel. Two of the harder pitches have ill placed bolts allowing for ankle busting opportunities via ledges at their crux. Outside of that, we were thankful that the first ascent team put so much effort in developing this new route on such a remote (albeit close) wall. The first third of the route is chossy and rather mundane. The remainder of the route features long sustained pitches in order of difficulty, 5.10a, 5.10b, 5.10c and 5.10d followed by another good pitch of 5.10a before a chossy finishing pitch (5.9).
Lex- 5.9, 7 Pitches
NE Ridge- 5.5, 400m
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
Best Coffee/Breakfast/Lunch in Canmore:
Castillos As of 2012, my favorite breakfast/lunch spot. Patio, espresso is strong, food is fresh. Someone there instituted service with a smile, typically unheard of in Canmore anymore.
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café
, most likely place to find me in season or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best “large” breakfast in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from
Valbella, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.