This is a 2500’+/- ascent day.
Red Shirt is a 5.8+ route featured in “Yamnuska Rock” as well as “Bow Valley Rock” as a “2 star” route. I would definitely concur regarding the first 3 pitches, but from there it goes down hill (almost literally!) in regards to long traverses among 3 of the final 5 pitches. Only the 2nd pitch is rated a 5.8+ with sustainability. There are only a few 5.8 moves on the rest of the route. So if you are looking for your first 5.8 on Yam, this might be the route for you.
Unfortunately, the traverses on Red Shirt account for more accident reports on Yamnuska than any other route.
Five reports, including one fatality, are recorded to date (2006).
Red Shirt was the first established climb not to take any obvious break on the face of Yam. Its traverses on pitches 4, 5 and 8 make it one of the most exposed mid rated routes on Yamnuska. It was first put in by Greenwood, Kahl and Lofthouse in 1962. Supposedly, once they unlocked the traverse on the 4th pitch which no doubt took some courage to research, the rest of the route went free in one day. Greenwood declared the climb to be the start of the second generation of climbs on Yam. Originally Red Shirt was rated at 5.6, but after removal of aid pieces, it was re-rated at 5.8.
Follow the climber’s path to the base of Yamnuska. Turn right and follow the trail along Yamnuska’s base for approximately 600’ to where it descends slightly below a blocky buttress on your left. To the right of this buttress above is the prominent “Forbidden” corner
. Take a faint trial that bleeds left up along the main cliff eastward. Continue along the wall for approximately 300’ looking for two oversized spruce trees next to the face. Start in a short right facing corner behind the trees.
The prominent V shaped chimney on the 2nd pitch can be clearly made out above.
1st Pitch- 35m-5.7/
Do the small corner then move out left below a steep yellow crack. Traverse left across a slab to reach the base of a small pillar. Climb the pillar to its top. Continue past the first ledge and follow a steep blocky ramp to a belay directly below the V shaped chimney. These first two pitches are quite polished,
but the rest of the route is similar to most Yam rock. Due to the trees, the flying squirrels (accused of being rats) piss an extraordinary amount on the first two pitches of this route. The urine hardens and makes the rock quite slick in places, particularly the chimney. Don’t bring any finger licking food for lunch.
2nd Pitch- 30m-5.8+/
Considered the crux pitch on the route, however not the most exposed. Climb up the polished chimney. Again, the squirrel urine makes the rock that much more slick on this pitch. It hardens into a veneer of sorts. The idea is to move up protecting yourself in the chimney until you reach a few thin holds on the left wall. There is a small crack to the left that you can sink another piece into as you move out and up.
You can move back in the chimney after a small overhang to sling a chock stone and then move out left onto the rib and trend left past a piton onto a small ledge with three pitons, one of which is at your feet. There is also a decent crack to assist in setting up the station. Be careful not to keep going too far left to a larger ledge which holds a station for an adjacent route. This pitch is just short of 30 meters.
3rd Pitch- 35m- 5.7/
Climb diagonally up and right from the belay ledge entering the main corner above. Continue on past a bulge and piton into a short right facing chimney. There are two stations. Use the one in the chimney versus one on the rib of the chimney that hangs out and makes it difficult to swap leads.
4th Pitch- 15m- 5.5/
Where the fun begins. Your first of three traverses. This is the funkiest one to be sure, but also the shortest. Climb out horizontally (left) from the belay station past a piton or two to a bolted belay with a fixed sling (2006). Clip into this station and then down climb a short slabby section until you can move out left aiming for a sloping slabby ledge which is above your next station stance. Move left onto this precarious slab with so-so hands and make an airy move down onto a decent sized ledge below a single bolt and pitons. The traverse will be more exposed for the 2nd.
5th Pitch- 40m- 5.8/
This is your 2nd traverse pitch on route. However, first you must make several 5.8 moves up a short steep corner to the left of your belay past a bolt and piton and then move left onto the first small ledge. The rest of the pitch is a low grade traverse left. Traverse around a blunt arête to a piton in a small grove. Further left you will be required to down climb past another piton to gain easier ground around another arête. Then take good ledges left and up across the face to a short corner with a piton and climb the corner on easy holds past a piton belay to a bolted belay one more ledge up.
6th Pitch- 40m- 5.6/
Climb an obvious chimney to the left at easy grade to the top. Then move further left and take the first crack which is steeper than the chimney you just did. It is easy to protect and has at least one piton towards the top. Once you top out on this crack, move left around a large block to a large and comfortable belay station below a corner.
7th Pitch- 45m- 5.6/
Climb the left wall of the corner past a piton and onto its outside edge. This is an obvious start. From there climb straight up and trend right on easy ground to below a yellow streaked roof. Move right below the roof and climb a steep wall with pitons to a bolted belay ledge to the right.
8th Pitch- 30m- 5.7/
A climber has died on this traverse. That being said, it is fairly well protected via three pitons over the most exposed portion. Make one move up and then start traversing right. As soon as you begin you should find a piton, followed by two more as you traverse over exposed ground (with an overhang under you!) aiming for a broken pillar. You can protect inside the left of the pillar before you commit to a very exposed move around it.
You can now climb straight up on large loose blocks which offer iffy protection or continue the traverse right on easier ground. If you keep going right, you can protect at least once before you come to a ramp that takes you to another piton. From that piton climb straight up on firm rock to top out the route. There is a solid tree for a belay station at the top.
Full set of Cams, 00-9 Metolius for example with a BD 3 and/or 4. Full set of nuts. 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.
External Links100’s of Canmore and Banff National Park multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routesOR: Best True Technical Clothing and Accessories in the Outdoor IndustryScarpa, has surpassed La Sportiva in terms of quality, function, valueOsprey Backpacks, Not a Second ChoiceGreat Outdoors DepotMont-BellCascade Designs (MSR; Thermarest; Platypus)