The Grand Central Couloir is a classic alpine climb that splits the north face of Mount Kitchener on the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. It’s a big route with a lot of objective hazards, like a huge cornice and loaded slopes. The upper gully has difficult and serious climbing, best saved for experienced alpine climbers. Bivy sites are scarce and the climb is almost always done in a push.
Toshiyuki Yamada and Takeshi Tani recently climbed the 1,500-metre route V AI4 M6 and reported good conditions. It’s one of the 25 routes in The Bold and Cold book.
The first ascent was in 1975 by Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss, and the first winter ascent was in 1975 by Jack Roberts and Tobin Sorenson. Barry Blanchard and Kevin Doyle climbed it in 1981 in the first 24-hour push. Their variation is called The Blanchard/Doyle Ice Strip.
In 1994, Frank Jourdan and Joe Josephson soloed it at different times. And over a decade ago, Chris Brazeau soloed it in six hours from bivy to bivy. In 2018, Quentin Roberts, who is currently on an expedition with Jesse Huey to the Himalayas, soloed it.
The Grand Central Couloir was done about the same time as the Super Couloir on Mont Blanc, and The Maclntyre/Colton Route on the Walker Spur of the Grand jorasses, in the Alps. All three climbs represented an alpine extension of skills gained on steep waterfall ice using curved picks that had, by then, only been in use for five or six years.
The alpine climbing season in the Rockies is lining up to be a great one. Brette Harrington and Dylan Cunningham just made the first ascent of a serious new line on Mount Niblock called Just a Nibble, more to come.