Huge Canadian North Face Free-Climbed


It’s not all rock! Mandatory ice climbing near the summit of the face makes for heavy packs.Photos courtesy of Steve Holeczi.

Huge Canadian North Face Free-Climbed

Steve Holeczi and Mike Verwey braved an arduous wilderness approach to the North Face of Mt. Geikie, near Canada’s Jasper National Park, and pulled off the first free ascent of the classic Lowe-Hannibal Route (formerly VI 5.10 A3). Eschewing a helicopterapproach or horses to carry their gear, the two backpacked the 24-kilometer (15-mile) approach, including rowing about two miles in a borrowed boat, to reach the base of the nearly 5,000-foot rock and ice wall on Geikie (pronounced “Geeky”). They started climbing at noon on August 19 and summited in midafternoon on August 21, with two bivouacs on the face.

The first half of the route is almost all rock, and the quartzite is relatively solid for a Canadian north face. With both the leader and second free-climbing, they onsighted two crux pitches at 5.11a and a third at 5.10c R. (The two hauled packs on the most difficult pitches.) Above the rock pillar, they switched into mountaineering mode and completed another couple of thousand feet of scrambling and ice climbing to reach the summit of the 10,728-foot peak and begin the arduous trip home.

The Lowe-Hannibal Route (1979) climbs the pillar in the center of the North Face of Mt. Geike and then mixed ground to the summit.Photos courtesy of Steve Holeczi.

Huge Canadian North Face Free-Climbed

Hungry and ready for some creature comforts, the two were happy to discover during the descent “a perfect 10-pound quartz crystal, which we traded for equal weight in ham at the Amethyst Lake backcountry lodge,” Verwey said.

At least two other lines ascend Geikie’s northern wall, but this is believed to be the first free ascent of the face by any route. Comment on this story