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Two Send Six-Pitch Castles in the Sky 5.14 in Banff

It's one of the hardest multi-pitch climbs in the Canadian Rockies

Photo by: Ben Moon of Sonnie Trotter

Simon Yamamoto and Dexter Bateman have both redpointed the famous six-pitch Castles in the Sky 5.14a on Castle Mountain in Banff National Park. Yamamoto sent first, and after Bateman broke a hold, he had to return for the send.

Sonnie Trotter made the first ascent in 2014 with a number of partners, the final send with Sam Lambert. A number of climbers have repeated it, including Sasha DiGiulian, Mike Doyle, Sam Tucker and Jonathan Siegrist.

After the first ascent, Trotter wrote on his blog, “When you add together the weight of the rope and its inevitable drag, combined with the power endurance climbing of the lower 5.12+ pitch and the ubber-technical climbing of the upper 5.13+ fourth pitch, you get 50 non-stop metres of brilliant monster pump rock climbing. It’s a worthy endeavour.”

Trotter returned and linked Castles in the Sky with The Moat 5.11c and Eisenhower Tower 5.6 to create the 15-pitch War Hammer. Batemen joined Trotter during his first ascent of War Hammer in 2017.

Yamamoto and Bateman grew up in Canmore and were on the same junior climbing team. Both have repeated a number of test-piece Bow Valley routes, and Batemen recently climbed The Beckey Chouinard 5.10 in the Bugaboos. Bateman wrote a lengthy climb report about Castles in the Sky on Sendage:

Finally. I’ve never been so emotional/bummed about a route in my life. My experience if you want to read it: Day 1. Heat wave, +36 and hungover. Simon and I put the draws up and that’s pretty much it. Day 2: Hot again,+32, found the beta Day 3. Hot again, +31, reached a new high point. Day 4. Looked like a nice colder day, ended up getting snowed on with 40-50 km wind. Got to the same high point 3 more times. Day 5. Conditions are good. Simon sends first try. I try, fall, rest and start up again and on what I thought was going to be my send go a key hold breaks. Tried again, but had to figure out some new beta. Fell, and got two new flappers. Tried again but had a pretty useless attempt. Felt pretty devastating, but I was stoked for Simon. I climbed the last two pitches with two backpacks on for some dumb reason haha. Day 6. Went in with Danny P, with no expectations. It ended up being a +30 day. My first go was basically just trying to dial in the new beta. I fell. Tried again. Fell at the same high point. I was pretty bummed, and knew I was going to have to take some more days to send. Danny said he’d be keen to try more with me, so that got me pretty stoked. I tried once more, and fell at the beginning of the 12+ pitch. I lowered and pulled the rope right away and decided to do a fitness lap. I climbed feeling very bad, and dehydrated, and my arms were cramping. The whole time going up, I didn’t care if I sent or not. Just before I got to the crux, I remember thinking that I felt good, but my negative thoughts came back to me. “You’re not even at the crux, stop, you’re not going to get it” I got to the crux and thought “ok time to fall” somehow my hand managed to catch the hold, and I went on to send the route. The whole way up I kept telling myself in my head “time to fall” and I never did. I was stoked. Anyways, I guess thats the power of negative reinforcement?

First Ascent

Lead photo: Ben Moon of Sonnie Trotter