Gold Rush climbs the biggest line on the North Ridge of Rundle (where Rundlehorn is found in Banff), is fully bolted and goes at mostly 5.4 to 5.5 with a few moves of 5.7 and an overall commitment of grade III for rock climbing. David Smart and I spied the line this spring after finishing MacLab Slab (the fully bolted 5.6/7 eight-pitch route to the left). Smart made a number of visits to the Rockies from Toronto to complete the two lines this year.
The first 10 pitches climb a continuous slab to its top. Pitch 11 traverses left into a forest and is a pitch that needs to be re-led on the descent. Pitch 11 accesses a walking pitch that leads to the upper three pitches that end about 100 metres higher than Rundlehorn. The rock varies from broken and scrambley to some of the most bullet-hard slab around. The final pitch climbs a steeper wall with some unique features.
The route is new as of 2019 and covers over 400 metres of terrain, which means there’s a lot of places to wander off route onto loose ground, but stay on the line of the bolts and you’ll find a sound and solid path. The North Ridge of Rundle was first described in a guidebook by Murray Toft in 1981 and now has nearly 40 pitches of bolted multi-pitch climbing and a number of old trad routes.
The grades of the pitches will likely change with traffic. There will continue to be loose rock, but over 30 hours went into cleaning the route and all big blocks are gone. The entire route was swept twice, but small rocks will always be present.
As guidebook author Chris Perry said, “You can’t make granite out of limestone, no matter how much you clean it.” Like all Rockies routes, it’s not recommended to climb under other parties.
I worked with a number of climbers this summer to establish a handful of new routes around Banff, including the new six-pitch bolted 5.9 called Sunriser with Grant Parkin, also on the North Ridge of Rundle. More on that soon.
We named it Gold Rush, mostly because there is a band of yellow rock you’re hurrying to reach before traversing to better stone, but also because of the history of the area. The nearby Johnston Canyon was named after a gold-seeking prospector named Johnston, who never found any gold but spent a summer looking in the area west of Banff.
After that summer, Silver City, a gold and silver mining town, sprang up at the base of Castle Mountain with a population near 3,000 (bigger than Calgary at the time), but was a ghost town 15 years later after no silver or gold was found. Johnston Canyon is named after him.
Access: Park for Rundlehorn and approach up the right drainage towards MacLab Slab. Look right for a trail and cairns that lead to the base of the biggest section of slab. The route starts left of a big gash up a notch through the roofs (the start on Google maps here).
Gear: 15 quickdraws, you can rap with a 60m rope (70m to link pitches), helmets
P1: Start on the slab staying left of the gully up to big flakes and an anchor next to a bush (5.4 30m).
P2: Move left and up the gully before stepping up right to a low-angled slab to a ledge (5.3 30m).
P3: Step right into the stem-corner, up to ledge and across to a slab and anchor in corner (5.4 30m).
P4: Straight up the fun slab on thin holds (5.7 30m).
P5: Up and trending right on broken ground to some gravel-ish terrain (5.4 30m).
P6: Amazing pitch! Up right moving towards a slab with perfect holds and left to anchor (5.7 35m).
P7: Up right following the black rock on big holds (5.5 30m).
P8: Up more solid rock and then trend right on some broken terrain before an awkward move down right to the belay ledge (5.6 30m).
P9: Up the techy slab and corner to top of main slab (5.6 30m). Rappel from here or continue with upper, more committing pitches.
P10: Traverse left on broken ledges to slab and into forest. Bring a sling to belay off a tree (5.6 30m).
P11: Follow cairns left along Marmot Ledge to base of upper slab (40m). Don’t throw any rocks from here as they land on the lower routes.
P12: Up the amazing slab using small features. After the upper bolt past the right-trending ramp with vegetation, take a hard left and up the good break (5.7+ 30m).
P13: Up the broken terrain, watching for loose rocks and small gravel patches. This is not the most solid pitch so be careful. Above slab, belay on ledge (5.4 25m).
P14: Up slab left of corner and then step right and follow fun features to the top of the short wall (5.7+ 30m).
Descent: Rappel top three pitches, follow cairns back through trees and re-lead pitch-10 and then rappel rest of route.