I climbed 20 routes on Yamnuska before I finally climbed the classic original route put in by one of my favorite local pioneers, Hans Gmoser
, “the founder of modern mountaineering in Canada”. Grillmair Chimneys combine for a broken line just east of Yamnuska’s summit. At 295m and 8 pitches, the left or right variations make a respectable leader climb for beginning to moderate trad climbers. Hans put the route up almost by accident in 1952 with Leo Grillmair and Isabel Spreat and Grillmair Chimneys was in fact the first technical rock climb on Yamnuska.
As you approach the wall from the climbers trail, top out and traverse west along the face for a short distance until the trail becomes faint. As the trail peters out into a ramping collection of rock and scree, circumvent such to the west end where another trail zig zags up through the loose scree to the base of a low 5th class move or two required to ascend a short rock band. Continue angling back right along ledges to the base of the vertical wall above. Descend the apex to a small tree and position yourself below a large separated pinnacle on the wall. The first pitch is directly below the left side of this pinnacle and the 2nd pitch ascends the left side of this pinnacle via a chimney behind it.
295 Meters, 8 Pitches, 5.6
Most of the belays have at least one piton (2007). Pitons and knife blades are also found at most crux positions, particularly up the start of the last pitch. The route is set up to be rapped at any time with double ropes (2007), although it is best walked off due to potential rock fall.
1st Pitch- 45m- 5.6/
Climb any line of the weakness directly above as you aim to the left of the base of the separated pinnacle where you will find one piton (2007) next to a small tree and a good crack for pro.
2nd Pitch- 40m- 5.6/
Ascend the wide crack up the left hand side of the pinnacle (crux part of the pitch)
and move into the chimney behind the pinnacle as you ascend to its top which offers a wide belay ledge. You will have to set up your own station at this belay.
3rd Pitch- 35m- 5.5/
Follow the steep wall as it angles right via easy ground at its base to a small ledge with at least one piton below a crack (photo).
4th Pitch- 40m- 5.5/
Follow the crack up and to the right back on easy ground up to the base of a chimney with a chock stone with an aid rope wrapped around it.
5th Pitch- 30m- 5.6/ They don’t include the word “chimneys” in this route for nothing.
Ignore the aid rope and stem straight up this first chimney and then climb into and stem up the next one as well which takes you to a large ledge. Move left into an alcove with two pitons.
6th Pitch- 40m- 5.6/ This is the 2nd most difficult pitch of the climb (photo).
Climb up easy ground as it angles right out of the alcove to the base of a short but steep wall. Climb through two pitons as you move right across this wall and top out onto a large scree ledge.
Walk up to some large blocks to the left below the corner and build your own station.
7th Pitch- 30m- 5.5/
The easiest pitch of the day. Climb easy ground just right of the corner up to the base of the daunting chimney and utilize two pins for your station below two pins that start the 8th pitch.
8th Pitch- 50m- 5.6/ The crux pitch of the climb and probably the most enjoyable for the grade on Yamnuska. The move directly below the chock stones looks very intimidating, but once you discover a small foot ledge on the left wall, the crux move over the chock stones will seem less ominous. You can protect the move with a #4 Camelot stuck below the chock stones.
Heave yourself up and into the next level of the chimney. Walk into the chimney to the far end and climb easy rock up to a small squirt hole (remove your pack). You can protect here with a #3 or #2 Camelot. Squeeze through the hole and out onto the north side of Yamnuska. Set up a station above the hole and bring up the 2nd.
Descend to the east via the scramblers trail.
Camelots from .5 to #4, Full set of nuts. Appropriate runners and draws. You will find some fixed protection, so you do not need to overdo it with the gear. Helmet, rock shoes, etc. We used double ropes which I always advise on longer routes on Yamnuska so you can make a quick weather exit if need be. Also helps considerably with rope drag on these routes. Despite having to gain over 1500’ to the base of the climbs on Yamnuska, wear trail runners versus boots so you can haul them with you. You will not return to the base of the climbs unless you are bailing.