Friday, May 29, 2009

amazing light

Another sunny day in the Bow Valley and probably beyond. Derek and myself took advantage of it and went for the first time to the Coliseum this year. There we got treated not only with great climbing in an intimidating surrounding, but also with some amazing light from mid day on. The cause of this was a forest fire on the far side of Spray Lakes, about 50km away from us behind a 3000 meter high mountain range. The smoke it caused dimmed the sharp light of the sun into late sunset colours for the whole afternoon. There were even pieces of ashes falling down the sky, and back at the car the windshield was covered in gray dust.
It was good to be back at the Coliseum after one and a half year of my absence there. I always wanted to go up there again, but it is amazing how hard it is to find climbers to go with you. The area is right above Canmore and you can reach it with a 2 min car drive and a good hour hike, which is actually shorter and less strenuous then going to Bataan. The Setting of the upper wall, aka "Saddle Up Area", is truly fantastic and unique for a sport climbing area. 45m long routes start out on an already airy scree ledge, and the scenery is sugarcoated with a 50m waterfall, which is fed by the melt water of a huge snow bowl below the summit of Grotto Mountain. Why is nobody ever up there?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

big move!

Today was another gorgeous day at Bataan. J.D., Todd, Zak and myself tried our skills on a new route left of Skylounge. Nobody knows the name so we called it Simons route, a real nice addition to the upper Bataan area and probably a classic for the grade. After a few meters you enter a juggy and fun overhanging section to a good rest, from there straight into the crux, a sick long move (check the pictures of Zak, and he is not the smallest guy in town) off a bad side crimp. After that a few long moves with initially bad feet to an easier section and a well deserved rest, before the technical crux at the last bolt. And that's all for sale at 13a, isn't this a great deal! Later that day I climbed the linkup from the bolt below the crux into Skylounge, I belive a better route then the original start to the Skylounge and a letter grade harder. Both routes a highly recommended.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

strange choices

Here we go, every few months I feel motivated enough to write something. Since I finished my Heliski season end of May the weather pretty much sucked here in the Bow Valley. Whenever it was good enough to go climbing, I went up to Bataan with Derek, who is working hard on his new guide book of the Bow Valley. Therefore we climbed lots of routes in the lower part of Bataan, and although I did most of those climbs in previous years, I got reminded again how much good quality climbing there is to have. Most of the climbs are long (20-30m) and in the mid elevens to mid twelves, with the majority in the high elevens and a handful of really nice tens. Most of the time we were alone or at most maybe 3 other parties, which we only saw on the way up or down. This makes you wonder, where are all the other climbers? I found out today, and actually last weekend too, when I took my kids to Grassi Lake. What a GONG show it is up there, there must have been well over 100 climbers up there, and about twice as many spectators and hikers passing through, and probably well over 50 dogs, most of them off leash (BTW I love dogs!). Almost all the climbs are dominated by greasy pockets, which present them selves with a moist inside (actually can't remember a time when they were really dry), and the setting is kind of ugly, with the exception of the areas close to the lake. So in short, why is everyone migrating to hell, instead of striving for paradise? Is it the lack of knowledge? The guides book certainly covers Bataan quite well and gives most routes 2 stars, and deservingly so. Is it the approach? Maybe, but even if you are really unfit, you make it in one hour to the first climbs, and maybe the next time you are a bit fitter. Most climbers are fit to begin with, they go to Grassi because of the short approach, but then they go for a run or a bike ride afterwards for cardio, go figure! If you live on the Cougar creek side of town or if you come from the Highway, it takes about 20-30 minutes to drive to Grassi, versus 1 minute to Bataan, by that time I am half way up the mountain already. Is it the grades? For a long time Bataan was considered as a hardcore area with no warm ups, which was partially true 15 years ago. Things have changed rapidly in the late 90s and early 00s, and it should not be news anymore that Bataan is actually THE 5.11 paradise in the Valley. 5.11 is generally a grade which most sport climbers should be able to manage at one point in their career, and it's also the grade I saw the most people climbing or hanging on at Grassi today.
Don't take me wrong, I kinda like the tranquility up there with no crowds, I'm just curious why it is that way. Oops, it's 9:30 right now and the sun is still hitting the upper wall of Bataan with a great orange shine, wish I could be up there right now!This is actually not a leader fall, in case you wonder! After all the bad stuff I just told you about Grassi, I should actually say something nice. There is a time for everything, Grassi is good if you only have a few hours for a burn, or if you have kids like me who like a few moves on rock, or as a good intro to the sport, since there are some really fun and easy routes in the 5.6 to 5.10 range.