Rory O’Donnell and Ryan Daniel Patteson have climbed a new 305-metre M6+R WI4 in Protection Valley behind Castle Mountain in Banff National Park. O’Donnell has been busy this year quietly free-soloing big ice routes in the Rockies.
It climbs a line left of Grab the Cupcakes up mostly rock and finishes on a high ice drip. The first ascent team used a double rack to #2 plus a #3 and a #4 and noted that pitons aren’t necessary but could be useful.
“This thing took all we had right to the end and gives some steep and sustained traditionally protected drytooling,” Patterson said. “We are pretty stoked. Special thanks to Jeremy Regoto for joining on the onsight attempt.”
The first two pitches climb a chimney at M4/5 for 100 metres. From there, a 70-metre M5+ climbs a corner and traverses left on slabs to a snow ledge. Pitch-four is an M6+ that follows a clean corner to a wide crack for 65 metres. “This fantastic pitch eats up mid-size cams,” said Patterson. “Great pick placements and, in places, questionable feet.”
Pitch-five climbs a 20-metre M6+ up a chossy groove to a roof. “Place as many cams as necessary to inspire confidence and commit to pulling the roof.”
Pitch-six gets the M6R WI4 grade for 50 metres of “wild and improbable” climbing. The breakdown goes: “Climb a steep crack on the right wall to a fixed nut. At this point start a rising traverse rightward on the steep and compact slab, aiming for the thin vein of ice. About midway a critical nut is welded into place. Continue up and right on small edges. Just before the ice a small rock horn can be slung to keep things reasonable. Make a commiting move rightward to gain the ice. Gently tap upwards, ice gets progressively thicker as height is gained.”
Over the last few years, there’s been a number of new routes added, including, Safe Space M7R WI4, Grab the Cupcakes M6 WI4+, Smothered Hope WI5, Paradis Perdu WI5, The Wicked Witch of the West M6R/X WI6R, Superlight 5.10 WI5+, Roommate Romance M5 WI4, Superdark M5 195m and Mix Fix M7.