Trad is Rad in the Canadian Rockies

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Mixed ground on the first pitch of No Use In Crying (IV, M7, Rob Owens–Jon Walsh). Photo courtesy of Rob Owens / Canadianalpinist.blogspot.com.

Mixed ground on the first pitch of No Use In Crying (IV, M7, Rob Owens–Jon Walsh). Photo courtesy of Rob Owens / Canadianalpinist.blogspot.com.

Inspired by high-end winter activity in Scotland, some of the Canadian Rockies’ leading winter activists have adopted a back-to-the-future attitude this season, with a slew of new mixed routes protected with traditional gear.

On the far left side of the Weeping Wall, Rob Owens and Jon Walsh discovered No Use In Crying (205m, IV, M7), a sustained four-pitch mixed route with no bolts. Owens spotted the line while climbing ice at the Weeping Wall, and, as he wrote on his Alpine Artist blog, “I wasn’t even sure if it had any ice on it, but was intrigued enough by the ‘Scottish/Canadian Alpine’ nature of the feature: snow-covered rock, just enough cracks for natural protection, and thin splatterings of ice throughout. This is the type of climbing I have grown very fond of lately.”

Owens and Walsh approached the upper headwall via Sniveling Gully (160m, II, 3) to reach the upper headwall, then followed a weakness in the limestone for three M6 pitches and a crux M7 third pitch, with two overhangs. “Surprisingly 80 percent of the tool placements were in ice, often ice-filled cracks,” Owens wrote. Raphael Slawinski and Eamonn Walsh repeated the route soon after, and, Slawinski said, “I can vouch for its high quality.”

Earlier this winter season, Owens climbed similar traditional mixed routes on the northwest face of Mt. Bell, with Steve Holeczi, and the north face of “Mt. MOG,” with Eamonn Walsh.

The beautiful iced-up groove of the second pitch of No Use In Crying. Photo courtesy of Rob Owens / Canadianalpinist.blogspot.com.

The beautiful iced-up groove of the second pitch of No Use In Crying. Photo courtesy of Rob Owens / Canadianalpinist.blogspot.com.

While climbing Uniform Queen around Christmas, Slawinski spotted a clean crack snaking up a vertical wall that reminded him of the hard new route The Secret on Ben Nevis. He attempted to onsight the crack, but took three long falls, and had to return the next day to complete the spectacular Victoria’s Secret Deviation (50m, M7+).

Slawinski then partnered with Steve Swenson to make a bolt-free ascent of Dawn of the Dead (150m, M8 WI6), including building Abalakov anchors to skip the bolt anchors during the descent. With Jon Walsh, Slawinski also added one and a half pitches of M6 ice-filled cracks and a thinly iced corner to French Toast (130m, M7 WI5) to create French Roast.

Slawinski is not anti-bolt. In a superb essay about this winter’s climbs (READ IT HERE), he writes, “I love sport climbing in both its summer and winter incarnations…. However, bolts should add to the adventure, not diminish it. If a line looks even remotely feasible without bolts, then before reaching for the gun we owe it to ourselves to simply walk up to it and start climbing.”

Dates of Ascents: November 2007–February 2008

Sources: Rob Owens, Raphael Slawinski, Waterfall Ice, Climbing.com

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Raphael Slawinski explores new ground with Clucking (200m, M6 WI5). Photo by Tim McAllister.

Trad is Rad in the Canadian Rockies