Ian Welsted, Maarten Van Haeren and Jay Mills have have made the first ascent of Canoeing to Cuba on Mount Storm in the Canadian Rockies.

The route is named in in honour of the former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s attempt to canoe to visit Castro in Cuba. “Celebrating our Canadian love of adventure in the outdoors, celebrating our Canadian uniqueness,” said Welsted.

Climb the the glacier below Mount Storm's North Face. Photo Maarten Van Haeren
Climb the the glacier below Mount Storm’s North Face. Canoeing to Cuba climbs the obvious line above. Photo Maarten Van Haeren

The trio approached the north face of Storm hoping to climb the 1988 Ken Wallator and Tom Thomas route that has never been repeated. A few years ago, Wallator offered a free rope to anyone who repeated his route. Welsted, Mills and Van Haeren were going for that rope.

Starting up the chockstone chimney at the start of Canoeing to Cuba.  Photo Ian Welsted
Starting up the chockstone chimney on Canoeing to Cuba. Photo Jay Mills

Welsted and Mills had gotten within a pitch of completing a new route on the remote Mount Tuzo a week ago and were keen to get up a big route.

After bivying at the toe of the North Glacier below the north face of Storm, they opted out of attempting the 1988 route as the six pitches of 5.9 A3 looked steep would be slow climbing.

Maarten Van Haeren heading up pitch two.  Photo Ian Welsted
Maarten Van Haeren heading up pitch two. Photo Ian Welsted

Instead, Welsted, Mills and Van Haeren ascended the glacier to the base of an obvious, but unclimbed couloir, which had been attempted in 1999.

In the spring of 2015, Yamada Toshiyuki and Takeshi Tani climbed a new route up a gully right of the main face and called it Kogarashi WI4 5.6, read about it here.

On Oct. 28, Welsted and team climbed their new route Canoeing to Cuba up the centre of one of the most looked-at faces in the Rockies, the wall can be clearly seen from Castle Junction. They reported mostly easy climbing for nine pitches with a couple of steeper sections up to M6 WI5.

Ian Welsted on pitch five.  Photo Maarten Van Haeren
Ian Welsted on the crux pitch five. Photo Maarten Van Haeren

“You solo up below an incredible chockstone of two boulders hanging five metres above the gully,” said Welsted.

“We soloed the first easy ice step. Roped up for a short but awkward snow step. Second belay was set up in a giant corner of the gully with the right wall smeared with ice.’

Pitch two climbed moderate ice to a huge roof where the climb takes an obvious traverse right to avoid a large gully that empties about a quarter of the cornices on the summit ridge above.

Jay Mills on pitch seven.  Photo Ian Welsted
Jay Mills on pitch seven. Photo Maarten Van Haeren

After a few moderate pitches, they arrived to where Raphael Slawinski and Chris Geisler had made it in 1999. At the time there was just steep rock, but Welsted and team found a pillar of ice they could climb and chimney behind.

“We chimneyed up behind the pillar, good rock hooks with scanty gear,” said Welsted.

The next few pitches had some ice and snow climbing before busting throught the summit ridge cornice.

Mount Storm's north face with the 1988 route, Canoeing to Cuba and Kogarashi.  Photo and Topo by Maarten Van Haeren
Mount Storm’s north face with the 1988 route, Canoeing to Cuba and Kogarashi. Photo and Topo by Maarten Van Haeren

– Be sure to follow Ian Welsted on Instagram @ianwelsted.

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