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Urs Kallen wins Summit of Excellence 2014

Calgary’s Urs Kallen has been awarded the prestigious Summit of Excellence Award for his lifetime of achievements, contributions and mentorship in the world of climbing.

Urs Kallen was born in Switzerland in 1943, and was an accomplished mountaineer by the time he arrived in Canada in 1965. After a year in Toronto, where he established new routes on the local crags, he moved west to Calgary and the Rocky Mountains.

Jim Elzinga and Urs Kallen on Yamnuska  Photo Brandon Pullan
Jim Elzinga and Urs Kallen on Yamnuska Photo Brandon Pullan

Over the years Urs has built up a solid record of difficult climbs: first ascents of Mount Fay north face (1968), Mount Athabasca north face (1968), Mount Victoria north face (1969), Mount Patterson north face direct (1973); the first winter ascent of Stanley Peak north face (1969); second ascents of Balrog, the east face of Mount Babel and the north face of Chinaman’s Peak; early repeats of theBeckey/Chouinard on South Howser Tower, the Supercouloir on Deltaform Mountain and the east face of Bugaboo Spire. However, Urs is best known for his new routes on Yamnuska. Climbing with Billy Davidson, he created CMC Wall in 1972 and Yellow Edge in 1974. These two aid routes were great achievements for their day. In 1997, with Jeff Marshall, he made a 25th anniversary ascent of CMC Wall, this time with no aid.

Urs recently philosophized, “The early climbs, when you just get into climbing, are the most impressive ones. Later on … you go climbing looking for that same feeling, but you don’t really get it any more … You know too much, and the only way you can get that kind of experience is by pushing the difficulties.”

Kallen has never shied away from sharing his, or others, successes. In 1970, together with Brian Greenwood, he published the first guidebook in the Rockies titled Yamnuska. In 1977, Kallen released the second guidebook to the area. The 34 routes in the book became known as the Kallen 34, and it became a popular list for aspiring climbers to tick. In the mid-80s, Kallen and Dave Cheesmond produced two magazines titled Polar Circus at his printing press and company in Calgary called Kallen Graphics. More recently, he has teamed up with Brandon Pullan to complete a book called Bold and Cold, which he started with Cheesmond and Tim Friesen back in the 80s.

And he has not lost his desire to climb. He can be found on Monday nights at the University of Calgary climbing gym, and in the fall of 2014, Kallen discovered two long alpine routes he wants to return to and climb in 2015. He is happily married and spends his weekends climbing with friends or playing with his grandchildren. He still owns and operates Kallen Graphics.

The 2014 Summit of Excellence is presented by The Banff Centre and Patagonia Banff.

[shareprints gallery_id=”9502″ gallery_type=”slider” gallery_position=”pos_center” gallery_width=”width_100″ image_size=”small” image_padding=”0″ theme=”dark” image_hover=”false” lightbox_type=”slide” titles=”true” captions=”true” descriptions=”true” comments=”true” sharing=”true”]Previous winners

Ben Gadd (2013), Geoff Powter (2012), Philippe Delesalle (2011), Peter Fuhrmann (2010), Sid Marty (2009), Don Vockeroth (2008), Bernadette McDonald (2007), Gill and Tony Daffern (2006), Glen Boles (2005), Craig Richards (2004), Willi Pfisterer (2003), Barry Blanchard (2002), Bob Sandford (2001), Chic Scott (2000), Guy Lacelle (1999), John Martin (1998), Sharon Wood (1997), Tim Auger (1996), Brian Greenwood (1995), Kiwi Gallagher (1994), Roger Vernon (1993), Jon Whyte (1992), Don Forest (1991), Pat Morrow (1990), Hans Gmoser (1989), Jim Davies (1988), and Bruno Engler (1987).