Visitors Pillage the Canadian Rockies

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Simon Anthamatten leads Sea of Vapors (WI 7) in extremely thin conditions. Photo by Ueli Steck, courtesy of blog.mountainhardwear.com.

On October 30, after bailing from an unclimbed route deep in the Rockies because of avalanche conditions, the Swiss climbers Simon Anthamatten and Ueli Steck returned dejectedly to Canmore. But the day was only half over, and soon they rallied for the hike up to the Trophy Wall on nearby Mt. Rundle. Leaving Canmore at 11:30 a.m., the two completed the approach—normally as much as three hours—in just 45 minutes, and then climbed the three-pitch Sea of Vapors (V WI7 R) in very thin condition, aggravated by the fact that they had forgotten all of their rock protection. “It was scary!” said Steck, who, within the last year, has soloed the Eiger in less than four hours and fallen 1,000 feet off Annapurna after a rock hit him.

Three days later they were back on Mt. Rundle, hoping to do the ephemeral Ten Years After (approximately WI5+ M5), but another party already was there. They hiked a long way to repeat Sacré Bleu (IV 5+), then returned to find Ten Years After open for climbing. After doing the route as a pair, Steck psyched up and soloed it. “I have been having a pretty hard time since my accident on Annapurna, and I have some problems to get focused again,” Steck wrote at the Hardwear Sessions blog. “So now it was time to climb again and get my strong head back.”

Daniel Du Lac leading the WI 5+ ice-blob pitch on Leviathan. The first third of the pitch was climbed by grabbing the blobs with gloved hands and slinging them for pro. Photo courtesy of danieldulac.petzlteam.com.

Daniel Du Lac leading the WI 5+ ice-blob pitch on Leviathan. The first third of the pitch was climbed by grabbing the blobs with gloved hands and slinging them for pro. Photo courtesy of danieldulac.petzlteam.com.

That same day, Du Lac, Dumerac, and Holeczi climbed the three thin pitches of Laser Blade (WI 4+), left of Sacré Bleu on Mt. Rundle, to reach a steep band of rock that had iced up. The team added four new pitches, with Du Lac leading the last pitch of WI5+ ice blobs, to create Leviathan, with a total of seven pitches.

The next day, the Swiss were back, with their eye on the ice to the left of Leviathan. After a long pitch of vertical ice, Anthamatten and Steck faced an overhanging rock climb to reach a free-hanging dagger. Anthamatten led up to find gear in the rock and then lowered off. Attempting the free lead, Steck broke a hold and fell about 20 feet after ripping out a knifeblade; a sling around a four-inch icicle halted his fall. Steck went back up, finished the lead, jiggered the pro a bit on his way down, and then both climbers redpointed the pitch. The resulting climb is called Not Flying is Not Trying (WI6 M8).

Dates of Ascents: Oct. 30–Nov. 4, 2007

Sources: Ueli Steck, Daniel Du Lac, Eric Dumerac, Will Gadd, blog.mountainhardwear.com, danieldulac.petzlteam.com, gravsports-ice.com

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That ice is stronger than it looks! Steck after his fall on the crux pitch of Not Flying is Not Trying (WI6 M8), stopped by a sling around a four-inch icicle. Photo by Simon Anthamatten, courtesy of blog.mountainhardwear.com.

That ice is stronger than it looks! Steck after his fall on the crux pitch of Not Flying is Not Trying (WI6 M8), stopped by a sling around a four-inch icicle. Photo by Simon Anthamatten, courtesy of blog.mountainhardwear.com.

Steck back on the lead on Not Flying is Not Trying. Photo by Simon Anthamatten, courtesy of blog.mountainhardwear.com.

Steck back on the lead on Not Flying is Not Trying. Photo by Simon Anthamatten, courtesy of blog.mountainhardwear.com.