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Zardoz is New Six-Pitch 5.12c in Canadian Rockies

"I am biased but in 20+ years of climbing, I've never seen a location like this. That wall is so crazy!"

Zardoz is a new six-pitch all-bolted 111-metre 5.12c on the Little Russia wall near Nordegg in Alberta. It was prepped by Merrick Montemurro, Nitin Chidambaram, Thomas McElroy, Matt Maclair, Jan Nidelsberger, Bob Semborski, Laura Castro, Andrew Abel, Sean Willis, Charlie Mackie, Rhys Beaudry and Konstantin Stoletov between 2018 and 2020

Rhys Beaudry and Konstantin Stoletov made the first free ascent in July 2020. “It’s probably one of the most scenic multi-pitch climbs in Alberta,” said Stoletov, who’s established a number of big routes in the Rockies. It’s located in the narrow and steep Peskett canyon above a waterfall.

“It climbs beautiful limestone and has insane moves and exposure that will make this climb a must-do for whoever can climb/work these grades.” They spent 26 days on the wall.

The approach is only 30 minutes. Park and approach as for Little Russia. The climb is located on the obvious wall above the waterfalls at the back of the canyon. Climb two sets of ladders and pull five metres on low angle slab (fixed rope) to the base of the first pitch. It’s recommended to take your bottoms off on approach since you will have to wade knee deep at least for a few steps. Shoes are must since broken glass was pulled out of the creek a few times.

Zardoz 5.12c

Pitch one: 20m 10 bolts, 5.12a. Clip the first bolt and pull an awkward move on the short slab that has nothing but side-pulls or under-clings. Climb the slab up and right to the overhang section. Pull trough it and get on the left leaning rail of pockets and crimps. Campus/toe-hook trough it (crux) and finish with a technical face to a good notch, two bolts, rings, belay station.
Pitch two: 30m 14 bolts, 5.12c. Look at the monster and breath in Climb up and right on a sick wall above the roaming waterfall. Reach the menacing rotten flake pull trough it (~5.10) and get on a bullet-proof steep yellow streak. Clip from the mono pocket (yes, you read it right) and pull through the first crux to the no hands rest on a ledge. Get into another crazy sequence of side-pulls, dead-points and high-steps and finish on the short tricky slab with a two-bolt belay station.
Pitch three: 7m, 2 bolts, 5.2. Move your belay station left to a big warm ledge. 3 bolts, rings.
Pitch four: 20m, 10 bolts, 5.12b. Like technical face climbing on a razor sharp limestone? This is for you! Climb up and right on the lichen colored orange wall getting onto mosaic puzzle wall higher up. Crack the puzzle and get on a left leaning ledge with a semi hanging belay under the overhang (3 bolts, rings).
Pitch five: 11m, 7bolts, 5.11b/c. Maybe THE money pitch. Start under the overhang with an insane exposure below you. Do all points off jug to jug dyno (recommended for full experience) or use your technique to climb to it! Continue higher up on a juggy wall full of cool features ending with a technical mantel to belay station (3 bolts, chains). Look around, have you ever been in location like this?
Pitch six: 23m, 13 bolts, 5.10b/c. Climb a face to the little ledge below the steep face. Pull through it (crux) onto a positive angled wall and finish with some obligatory moss climbing to a wide ledge with big pine trees. Two bolts, rings. Enjoy the crazy views one more time.
Descent: Look for possible hikers below you and yell. 25 meters left pendulum rap brings you to the P5 belay station. From here 35m rap brings you to the top of the P2. Another 25m rap brings you to the top of the P1. From here you can do a 35m rap to the base of the second ladder (not recommended since you and your rope may get wet) or rap 20m to the base of P1 and downclimb the fixed rope.
Gear: 14 regular draws, 2 alpine draws for bolts 2 and 4 of P2, 70m rope, helmets.

Konstantin Stoletov on pitch two