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New Bold Alpine Route up East Face of Fay in Rockies

It's the complete direct finish to a route that was started over 30 years ago

The East Face of Mount Fay was first climbed in 1987 by Barry Blanchard, Dave Cheesmond and Carl Tobin, and until now has gone without a repeat. Brette Harrington, Ines Papert and Luka Lindic not only repeated the original line up the lower face, but added a wild and often-talked-about direct finish through the upper headwall. They called their new route The Sound of Silence VI M8 WI5 in memory of Marc-Andre Leclerc, who Lindic first dreamed of climbing the wall with back in 2016.

The East Face of Mount Fay rises above Consolation Lakes near Moraine Lake and the Valley of the 10 Peaks and The Sound of Silence is the only free route up the 1,100-metre face. The team brought only a single rack.

The three top climbers wrote about their mega new route on the Arc’teryx Bird Blog here. Harrington said, “… After moving through the bands of limestone and overhangs the rock deteriorated into an exfoliating quartzite. We dug out a two-foot wide bivy ledge on a steep snow arête. The following day, the climbing was sustained with pitch after pitch of difficulties. I have never in my life moved so quickly through difficult, lose mixed terrain. We topped out in a winter storm with the last hue of light and descended the south face by headlamp. The entire experience was topped off with a circuitous trek across a glaciated plateau, another bivy, then a long snowy down-climb back to Moraine Lake. I am in awe of this place; the beauty of these wild mountains that spark such great adventure and imagination for those of us who are looking for it.”

The lower bands of ice had pitch after pitch of WI4 and WI5 sections with snow slopes between. The original team in 1987, finished up the right side of the face, but Harrington, Lindic and Papert managed to access the upper quartzite headwall via a steep M8 pitch followed by an M5 pitch. Lindic climbed the limestone M8 pitch, lowered and redpointed it.

The upper headwall was climbed on day two with Harrington doing two leads, Papert doing two and Lindic taking them to the top up steep chimney climbing past a number of roofs.

They topped out on Mount Fay in a storm and then descended the south face at night, using a GPS to find the Neil Colgan Hut located on the col between Mount Little and Bowlen. On the third day, they downclimbed the 3/4 couloir. The three climbers returned back to Canmore for Papert’s 45th birthday.

Having been based in the Canadian Rockies for the past 15 years, I can say that this ascent is one of the most inspiring new lines to be opened in quite some time. The wall is huge, it has history, the climbing is steep and committing and the position is world class.

Lindic and Lelcerc were close climbing partners who’d established The Leclerc/Lindic M7+ WI6+R, 1,100m, on Mount Tuzo in 2016. They also established Psychological Effect M7 WI5+, 700m, on Mount Neptuak.

“When I climbed the very last overhang to sneak around the cornice I started screaming like hell from pure happiness,” wrote Lindic on the Bird Blog. “Soon, the frozen girls joined me and we screamed from happiness together. I could feel that Marc Andre was with us up there and I couldn’t imagine doing this climb in a better way.”

Harrington knew little of the wall, but remembered Leclerc often talking about attempting it. She had just returned to the Bow Valley in time to team up with the visiting Europeans, Lindic and Papert. The mystery of the upper headwall of Mount Fay is in the past and I can’t think of a better team to have made the first ascent.

You can read Blanchard’s story about Mount Fay in the Canadian Alpine Journal here.

The Sound of Silence Photo Jon Walsh