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Gravity’s Rainbow is New Alpine 5.12R on Mount Wilson

The eight-pitch route climbs difficult and steep cracks in solid and steep quartzite

Mount Wilson in the Canadian Rockies rises dramatically above the Icefield’s Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise. The towering quartzite pillars and prows have attracted climbers for decades. One of those rising walls is called Peyto Tower and there is a new 5.12R called Gravity’s Rainbow that was added on Canada’s Day.

Niall Hamill and Cory Rogans spent a long day making the first free ascent after Hamill had put in some days this year establishing the pitches. The route weaves a line next to Hamill’s 2018 route called Prairie Gold 5.11c. Both routes are slightly over 280 metres.

The route is named after a 1973 novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. “Gravity’s Rainbow connects slab, face and discontinuous crack systems, following mostly new ground and two-and-a-half pitches of Prairie Gold,” said Hamill.

The route begins up a new three pitch slab variation to Prairie Gold, avoiding the loose crack system, and follows a line of bolts interspersed with natural pro. It then climbs pitch three of Prairie Gold, the 5.11c face/roof pitch.

From the ledge above this pitch, move the belay left to a single bolt below an obvious right-facing corner. Gravity’s Rainbow continues straight up through a bulge on high quality stone and a short bouldery crux (V5/12a) where the corner is sealed shut, with one bolt and a fixed pin.

Cory Rogans belaying on Gravity’s Rainbow. Photo Niall Hamill

The climbing relents above here for the remainder of this pitch and one more pitch, continuing up a loose, wandering and adventurous 5.10c pitch, where rope management is essential. The next pitch is shared with Prairie Gold, with an R-rated slab (Black Totem cam, knife-blade) to reach the steep baggy hand splitter that on this ascent was oozing with muddy water.

“The climbing was great,” said Rogans. “Surprisingly good rock quality. The quartzite is similar to Back of the Lake in places.”

Cory Rogans high on Gravity’s Rainbow. Photo Niall Hamill

The pitch after this broke out into new ground to the left, a short roof encounter followed by a long unprotected section of easy, delicate climbing on a huge two story gong flake and higher up some good opportunity for gear above the flake before face moves up and left on flake edges to a broad ledge/alcove.

“Belay at this alcove below a final overhung 5.11b corner that is thuggy and wide,” said Hamill. “All anchors up to the base of pitch eight are fixed (bolted stances up to top of pitch six). Walking off the route is recommended, as rappelling the upper wall is tricky and has provided numerous challenges.”

Peyto Tower on Mount Wilson / Topo Niall Hamill

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