2nd Pitch- 55m- 5.9
It had been five years since I served homage to Mount Louis
myself via the Gmoser Route
. Far too long for what many consider to be one of the most aesthetic peaks in the Canadian Rockies. Auger and Bunyan put Homage to the Spider up in 1987, a relative newcomer compared to the Gmoser (1964) and Kain (1916!) routes on Mount Louis. The name is derived from “homage” to Walter Perren who added a variation to the Kain route while seeking out the best rock on Louis. In my opinion, there is no doubt that Auger and Bunyan have found the best quality rock, via a free route, with Homage to the Spider. This route climbs the steep corner-face-broken corner on the east side of Louis’s NE ridge. Combined with the common descent for Mount Louis, you basically are going up and over the entire fin making for a challenging and long day out.
To the Summit- 500’/5th Class
The guide book mentions there are approximately “7 pitches of steep climbing”, but like most descriptions in the Selected Alpine Climbs guidebook, is somewhat vague how they split up. We actually found the need for only six long pitches from the top of the initial scramble to the mystical “medieval alleyway” feature, which marked the end of our roped up climbing, with the summit still about 30 minutes away via low to mid 5th class scrambling.
Alpine rock climbing in this neck of the woods typically means burning some serious calories. Our accumulated altitude this day was 5100’!
Mount Louis only stands at a modest 8800’. But the up and down approach and descent really rack up the total gain.
Park at the Fireside Picnic area at the end of the road serving the trailhead for the Edith
col and the Edith-Cory
col. This road is the first right after you exit the TransCanada onto the Bow Valley Parkway. Once at the parking area, follow the trail past the picnic area and stay right for the Edith-Norquay col. You will encounter another fork eventually, take the left fork for Mount Louis. This trail will dump you off at the Louis-Edith col. Stay low as you skirt below the col. There are some large boulders here that will serve you well to leave any gear you do not want to take up one side of the mountain and down the other side. We actually suited up here and left both of our packs. Continue below the vast east face of Mount Louis all the way to the north end at yet another col. From here, scramble up several hundred feet angling slightly right and making for the base of the obvious corner (route marked on photo). There is rappel tat (2008) for those not so comfortable with an exposed couple moves required to cross (right) a snow chocked wet gully to get to the base of the corner.
1000’+/-, 6 Pitches, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 45m- 5.9/
Start up the wonderful solid corner, sometimes climbing in the corner and at times using the face out right. The corner was quite wet when we climbed it and at times it was beneficial to move out of it.
These first two pitches are quite strenuous and will make you glad you went without packs if indeed you did leave them behind at the south end of the mountain (risk-reward analysis involved with that decision). There was good tat (2008) for belay around a large bolder on a significant ledge.
2nd Pitch- 55m- 5.9/
Although the 2nd pitch looks easier from the belay stance, in reality it throws everything but the kitchen sink at you, at times engulfing you into a dirty and wet section of the corner searching for gear placements and at times spitting you out to the face.
All and all, another fine pitch that protects fairly well via a slung chock stone and medium to large gear. You have to pull through a bulge/overhang about ¾’s of the way up, so make sure to use plenty of runners on this pitch to avoid rope drag. At the end angle out right on run out, but easy ground, to a slung (2008) pinnacle.
3rd Pitch- 60m- 5.10a/
We went off route here, but did so by getting sucked up via an old existing piton. Take on the face to the left and climb up easy ground to the base of a corner. If you are going to do the one we did, you will see a piton en-route to the base of a quite loose, but protectable corner above a ledge. We took the corner, with delicate rock and traversed slightly right onto a narrow ledge with a good horizontal crack in which to set up a belay. Staying from the loose section to the far left is the variation that gives this route a 5.10a grade. The original accentors went left over easier ground through this section.
4th Pitch- 30m- 5.8/
Traverse right to the base of a much more solid corner with a bolted belay at the top of it (white tat in 2008). Climb the easy, solid and protected corner to a ledge below a yellow corner/crack. You can back up the rusty bolts with a .5”.
5th Pitch- 45m- 5.9/
Climb the corner (2 fixed pieces in 2008-piton and rebar) which turns out to be much better rock than it looks to the exposed belayer below. Angle left to a comfortable belay ledge with another bolted belay. Both of these rusted bolted belays should be backed up (2008).
6th Pitch- 55m- 5.9/
In my opinion, this is the best pitch of the route. Move right from the belay into the tall continuous corner. This pitch pretty much throws just about everything out there similar to pitch 2 except not so wet or slimy inside. Real fun and sustained protected climbing leads to a deep chimney section. Pull the roof above via two decent pitons (2008). It is a grovel if you stay inside, but if you are trusting of the rock at this point, you can stem further out for less of a squeeze.
Once on top of this feature, you are treated to the “medieval village alleyway” as it is described in Sean’s book (photo). This is quite a spectacular setting on top of one of the finer mountains in the Canadian Rockies.
To the Summit- 500’/5th Class/
Continue to the other end of this huge natural alley way. Chimney your way up at the narrower section (there is no pro, thus we soloed this section) until you can comfortably traverse to ledges on its left side. Scramble on up to a large flat area beneath the summit ridge. I changed shoes here. You have four more 5th class sections that we soloed. The first ramps up left. The 2nd is steeper and has an obvious line. Continue on past a notch and gully, staying left as you gain a 3rd steeper section. The 4th steep section is perhaps the most difficult, maybe 5.7 for just a short while. Stem up to the top of this and you will be able to see the summit cairn. There is an iron cross and summit register.
Move out west to a slung pinnacle and do a one rope rap here looking for some double rings on your left. It is best to keep single raps at the start due to rock fall from rope drag. Do your 2nd rap down to another set of Rappel rings on the left, then a 3rd rap gets you to a turn in the descent gully. Rap down here all the way to the next lip and another rap station on your left. The guidebook's descent description can be quite misleading at this juncture.
Take your 5th single rope rappel down the dry waterfall. Come off the ropes and hike up to your left (facing the wall) to a notch. A rappel station is located to your left. This is a double rope rappel to an anchor on your left on a rumbly ledge. Take another single rope rappel down to your final double rope rappel, again on your left at the lip of a dry water runnel.
Once down to the ground, follow a trail as it meanders down loose scree, staying left when given a choice. Once all the way down to the bottom beneath the Edith-Cory col, turn left and walk out of the Louis-Edith col. Return via the approach. This route and descent can make for a long day.
Double ropes are a must on a large and committing alpine route like Homage to the Spider. Full set of wires and cams to 4". Double up on .75" to 3". You could bring an extra 4" and not regret the additional weight. There is some fixed gear on the route, a few old bolts at two of the belay stations and several old pitons, not to mention a few chock stone opportunities. Mostly shoulder length slings with a few draws. This is a traverse of the peak. We left our packs below the Edith-Louis col. That meant more commitment, no real clothes, no bivy op. Of course you will not return to the north end, thus make your decision accordingly at the Edith-Louis col what you are going to take. You will want your shoes for the descent back to the Edith-Louis col, guaranteed.
External LinksBanff National Park, Parks Canada
Alpine Club of Canada