Superdark is a new 195-metre M5 established by Mike Stuart and Kris Irwin in Protection Valley. The two top Association of Mountain Guides guides reported it as being some of the best mixed climbing they’ve done in the Rockies. Irwin is the director of Rockies Ice & Alpine Specialists and Stuart is the founder of Canadian Alpine Guides.
“This valley has seen a number of new routes established in the last few seasons and it continues to deliver the goods,” said Irwin. “Superdark is the obvious crack/corner/chimney line that you first see on your right as you exit the trees on the approach.”
The route is directly across from the route Superlight, but lower in elevation. Irwin reported that there is visible ice that spills out of the crack three/quarters of the way up the route and an ominous looking chimney above that.
This climb has the shortest approach and descent of all the routes in this valley. “Lots of stemming, scumming, chimneying and a squeeze though a hole on pitch-five,” said Irwin.
“The quality of rock is good to excellent and it all goes on natural gear. We placed no bolts and there are no fixed pieces. Most of the pitches are quite short to limit rope drag as you climb over, under, and around large chockstones and take advantage of comfortable belay ledges.”
Protection Valley had a number of routes established in the 1990s up to 250 metres, including Mon Ami WI4+ Arian P’tit Grimlin WI6, Smothered Hope WI5 and Guinevere WI5R M4.
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 and Mix Fix M7.
Irwin said Superdark “was the coolest line I’ve done in the Rockies. Wild pitches in a deep chimney. Excellent rock and gear. A fun moderate that deserves to be repeated.”
Pitch one: Start at the base of the corner. A tricky opening move gives way to easier terrain. Belay in an alcove (35m).
Pitch two: Straight up to another alcove and ledge. You could combine P1 and P2 without rope drag issues (25m).
Pitch three: Step right then back left into the wide corner. Belay at the start of the wide chimney (32m).
Pitch four: Climb straight up above the belay and gain a beautiful ribbon of ice to its end (35m). Spectacular pitch!
Pitch five: You might want your headlamp for this pitch. Continue up the thin ice and squeeze through a dark and narrow slot. Belay under a massive chockstone. If you’re wearing a pack you will want to sling it and drag it underneath you (25m). Another wild pitch!
Pitch six: Move out right around the huge chockstone and climb up to a big alcove. Either belay here or continue up to a semi hanging belay at the base of 3 cracks. We belayed at 25m at the base of the cracks for better line of sight and communication but there are several ways to climb this pitch (25m).
Pitch seven: Climb the left most crack. The climbing and the gear is good at first but thins out in the last 10m to the top and may feel a bit run out. This pitch finishes on a large ledge (20m).
Descent: Walk off left and follow this ramp down to a snow gully which leads back to the base in only 20 minutes. Be mindful of windslabs on this ledge.
Gear: Full set of cams to 4”, doubles .3-4”, set of nuts, 6 screws yellow/red, 14 alpine draws, 4 short knifeblades, and one baby angle was used. 60m ropes. “We brought a tag line but you likely won’t be able to haul a pack without issues on this climb. Don’t forget the double 4” cams – we placed them both on every pitch!”