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New Rockies Routes and Homage to the Warden

Adam Campbell on Homage to the Warden Photo Brandon Pullan

This summer, I’ve had the good fortune to climb some new routes with amazing partners. Some routes are cleaned to repeat and others are more adventurous.

Early in the year, I was joined by David Smart for the first ascent of Godzilla, a new four-pitch 5.9 bolted route on Kanga South above the Upper Grassi Lakes parking area.

Smart has been developing routes in Canada for over 30 years, started Gripped magazine with Sam Cohen in the late 1990s and is the editorial director of Gripped Publishing. We’re currently finishing a book about Canada’s classic rock climbs called Northern Stone published by Rocky Mountain Books. Look for it next year.

Godzilla is the third line I’ve added to the wall, which includes the four-pitch Sharknado 5.8 with Gaby James and two-pitch Hot Fuzz 5.8 with Darren Vonk. To find Godzilla, just walk along the crag 100 metres past Hot Fuzz.

Shortly after Godzilla, I teamed up with the local 17-year-old crusher Cory Rogans for the first ascent of Scurvy, a new 100-metre 5.10b on Ship’s Prow.

Rogans is by far the keenest and most stoked of all the young adventure climbers I’ve met lately.

His onsight lead of the second pitch while pulling moss out of the crack was strong and memorable.

I travelled to Lillooet to meet with my old university friend Danny O’Farrell. He’s been establishing new routes in B.C. for a decade and I’ve been lucky to get to team up with him for a few.

Earlier this year, he made the first ascent of The Goat, a 19-pitch popular 5.9 in Marble Canyon.

We made the first ascent of Bridge River Buttress, a 1,000-metre 5.7 and opened a new 5.10 sport route near Lillooet.

O’Farrell’s vision for new climbs is always on point and when we share a rope, it’s more about laughing and having a good times than about what we’re climbing.

Danny O’Farrell on Bridge River Buttress Photo Brandon Pullan

Back in Canmore, I teamed up with Savannah Manning, Tennessee climber and owner of She Moves Mountains East, for the first ascent of Tennessee Bushwhackin’, a seven-pitch wandering 5.9R on McGillivray Slabs. This one isn’t recommended unless you like run-out slabs and tree climbing.

We visited Yamnuska the following day and Manning nearly onsighted my 2007 six-pitch route called Hot Doggin’ It, with the first pitch being burly 5.12.

Savannah Manning on Tennessee Bushwhackin’ Photo Brandon Pullan

I then began a new project with legend and guidebook author Chris Perry, once finished it will be a six-pitch 5.10 above Banff. Perry has long been one of my local heroes and in his 70s, he’s still bolting a number of big routes every summer.

Ontario climber Matt Westlake moved to the Rockies a few years ago to climb full time and live in his van. Despite living with a degenerative condition in his leg, which almost resulted in amputation and causes pain while climbing, he continues to push himself on rock and ice.

This winter, he’ll be competing at the ice climbing world cup with Team Canada.

Our first day ever climbing together was in September, we made the first ascent of Buffalohorn, a 250-metre 5.9R on Tunnel Mountain. We topped out in the dark with one headlamp.

Matt Westlake on Buffalohorn Photo Brandon Pullan

Then on Sept. 8, I teamed up with pro-runner Adam Campbell for two first ascents on Mount Rundle. The approach to the first bowl behind EEOR takes less than an hour, but few climbers have visited the area.

I first checked it out in 2007, alone and with a bag full or hardware, and began work ground-up on a nice looking line on the north face of EEOR. After placing eight bolts, I rappelled and could never find a partner willing to head up. My goal was a steep splitter crack in a corner.

This year, Campbell and I had many a number of plans to climb, but the wildfire smoke kept shutting us down.

Bolting The Halfpipe in 2007

I had seen a line on the second buttress of Rundle above the first bowl earlier this year and asked Campbell to check it out with me. On the approach, we were soaked by a big storm, but continued to the base of the climb where the weather lifted.

In the end, we made the first ascent of Homage to the Warden, a 350-metre 5.6 with some of the nicer rock on Rundle I’ve climbed on. The route climbs a small wall to a ledge to a 140-metre ridge before a traverse to a headwall and another ridge. We hung out on the summit and talked about other projects that we could see in the distance.

I would recommend it for those looking for a mini-alpine route, as it’s good practice for longer climbs like those found on Castle or Mount Louis.

Adam Campbell on Homage to the Warden Photo Brandon Pullan

We named it in honour of Tim Auger, the legendary search and rescue specialist and park warden who passed away this summer. I had climbed with Auger on Mount Louis and listened to many of his amazing stories over the years.

Campbell and I descended back into the first bowl to check out my 2007 project. Armed with a rack of gear, pitons and one rope, I headed up the bolted slab.

The rock was solid and the movement was excellent at 5.10b. Above my last bolt, I placed a few cams before building a piton anchor at the base of the main crack.

Campbell seconded the first pitch and joined be at a semi-hanging belay. The second pitch was slightly intimidating because I wasn’t sure how hard it would be, how dirty it was or how well I was going to be climbing.

The crack started narrow for my hands and I couldn’t get a solid jam, but the gear was bomber and with Campbell’s encouragement, I made it through the crux and into the hand crack where I jammed up to a ledge. After 35 metres, I pounded in another piton anchor.

Splitter pitch two on The Halfpipe Photo Adam Campbell

Campbell found my crux section easier because of his hand size, but found the upper section trickier. We graded it 5.10b. It’s the best limestone crack I’ve climbed in the Rockies.

Campbell did one more easy pitch and we descended a gully, only to find bear prints on our trail.

We named the three-pitch route The Halfpipe in memory of the late Marc-Andre Leclerc. A few years ago, Leclerc free-soloed a 400-metre 5.8 on EEOR and then a 600-metre 5.10 on Ha Ling in a push and called it the Canmore halfpipe.

Campbell is a self-professed “new climber,” but he’s one of the most well-rounded mountain athletes I know and it was an amazing experience to team up with him.

To me, climbing is as much about who you’re climbing with as it is about what you’re climbing. Good partners make the day fun, safe and memorable.

I’ve been lucky over the years to climb with some amazing people and the new routes I establish are only possible because of the stoke they bring.

With Tim Auger on his route Homage to the Spider in 2011