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Yamnuska Slammed on Last Open Weekend of 2021

Dozens of rock climbers got on old and new classics as Alberta Parks prepares to close access on May 21

Albert’a famous south-facing peak was more busy than it’s been since last summer this past weekend. Yamnuska closes for the year on May 21, so Alberta Parks can build a new and safer trial.

The parking lot, which holds hundreds of cars, was packed as thousands of hikers and climbers made their way up and down the edge-of-the-Rockies mountain. The log book at the base of the trail, made for climbers to enter their daily objective into so others can plan accordingly, had over 30 routes listed over the past few days, from Dreambed, Pony Express and Kahl Wall, to Red Shirt.

Barry Blanchard and Kevin Doyle made it out for the classic Dickle 5.8 on the east end. Cory Rogans and Rory O’Donnell linked Yellow Edge 5.11b and Devil’s Right Hand 5.11c in a day. Stacey Weldon sent the famous East End Boys 5.12 trad. And a number of climbers sustained minor injuries, such as busted ankles, after taking early season whippers on old-school routes.

Countless hikers were seen off trail, descending random scree slopes into the forest below. It’s clear that the trail update is long overdue.

The Alberta Parks press release said: Please be advised that Alberta Parks is closing Yamnuska / Îyâ Mnathka this summer from the end of May to November. Trail crews will be on-site upgrading sanctioned trail sections, constructing new sections and decommissioning non-sanctioned routesTo support trail construction activities, Alberta Parks is closing all access to the mountain for the following reasons: To reduce danger to hikers, scramblers and climbers as contractors work on the mountain by moving heavy equipment around sloped terrain, long-lining heavy helicopter loads, and dislodging rocks. Vice versa, the contractor needs to be safe from members of the public moving around the mountain, potentially dislodging rocks that quickly become dangerous projectiles down-slope. The contractor needs to be able to work efficiently without keeping track of the public in the area. Visitors looking for alternatives can call the Kananaskis Information Line at 1-403-678-0760 or stop by any Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre.

Yamnuska is one of Canada’s most popular multi-pitch rock climbing walls, and was the cliff where technical climbing was introduced to the Canadian Rockies with Grillmair Chimneys back in the early 1950s. There are now dozens of classic routes from 5.6 to 5.14. The original 34 rock climbs were documented in a guidebook by Urs Kallen and have gone on to become the must-tick list for all hardcore Yamnuska climbers. Modern classics include Pony Express 5.10b, Devil’s Right Hand 5.11c and Blue Jeans 5.13.

Read about Yamnuska and The Chief, another of Canada’s iconic mountains for hiking and rock climbing, here. For a story about some of Yamnuska’s history by legendary Calgary rock climber Andy Genereux see here.