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Andy Genereux Receives 2023 Summit of Excellence

He's one of the most accomplished route developers and climbers in western Canada

Photo by: (of) Andy Genereux on Red Shirt, Yamnuska

The 48th annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has announced that Rockies climber, developer, author, and mentor, Andy Genereux is the recipient of the 2023 Summit of Excellence Award.

Genereux has created a legacy of rock climbs unparalleled in western Canada. It all began with his first new route in the Ghost River in 1983, which promptly turned into a plethora of mixed bolted and traditional new routes in the 1980s. From this taste of new routing, Genereux set on a personal journey that would last decades, and he would become one of the main instigators who brought modern-era rock climbing to the Canadian Rockies. Most recently, he announced the completion of a new fully bolted 600-metre 5.8+ called Thriller.

At a time when there were strong ethical boundaries surrounding the traditional climbing scene and route bolting was hotly debated, Genereux established new crags and areas. Ignoring the naysayers, he ushered in the opportunity for climbers to seek even steeper climbs and higher grades. Today, his contribution to both the national sport and traditional climbing scene as a pioneer is considered exceptional. Not only is he recognized through his physical work as a route builder, but as an author and mentor as well.

To date, Genereux has put up over 600 new sport climbs along with hundreds of mixed protection traditional routes on several well-known local peaks and crags, including Yamnuska, CMC Valley, The Ghost River, Moose Mountain, Carrot Creek, Grotto Canyon and Goat Mountain as well as the nearby Selkirk Mountains. He has established more than 2,000 pitches, and he is revered for his ability to see new lines and create safe and accessible climbs. His commitment and dedication to safety often had him returning to each new route many times to build access trails, remove loose rocks, and, in the years that followed, he would regularly replace anchors, maintaining high standards that are part of his personal ethos. In 2021, he told Gripped here, “Going ground up on shit rock is detrimental to your health.”

Andy Genereux in the Ghost River Valley
Andy Genereux in the Ghost River Valley

Since his first rock climb on Yamnuska in 1975, Genereux was captivated. In the years that followed, he would put up 40 new multi-pitch routes on Yamnuska alone, including the first ascents of famous climbs such as CMC Wall Direct 5.11b, Master Mind 5.11d, Glory Days 5.11c, Direct Mail 5.10c, Mixed Emotions 5.10c and East End Boys 5.12a. At the time of these ascents, 5.11 was considered the hardest grade in the Rockies. Continuing to drive the evolution and difficulty of the sport, he also created 35 single-pitch routes along the base of the mountain.

Genereux is also credited for establishing many major alpine rock routes in the Canadian Rockies. A few, in particular, stand out: The West Face on Mount Robertson 5.11R 650m, The Warrior on Mount Lougheed 5.10X 550m, and Gatzsch Your Goat 5.12a 650m on Goat Mountain, Drain Game 5.11c 600m on Goat Mountain, Mixed Miester 5.11a 730m on Goat Slabs.

Genereux is generous with his knowledge and is the author of five guidebooks, including Yamnuska Rock: The Crown Jewel of the Canadian Rockies and Ghost Rock: Front Range Rock Climbs Near Calgary, both of which went to multiple editions. His writing has also appeared in several magazines, including Gripped.

Kevin Doyle, Steve Birch and Andy Genereux at a Calgary Mountain Club reunion in 2023. Photo by Brandon Pullan
Kevin Doyle, Steve Birch and Andy Genereux at a Calgary Mountain Club reunion in 2023. Photo by Brandon Pullan

When Genereux turned 50 years old in 2010, he made it his mission to climb 50 routes on Yamnuska in a year. Setting aside doubts about the benchmarks of his age, Genereux decided to embrace the challenge and completed 50 routes within the year, dodging severe weather and a slow start to the spring climbing season. Read the story he wrote about 50 Yamnuska routes at 50 years old here.

Genereux is still going strong in his 60s, and in 2022, he put up the new nine-pitch sport route in the Kahl Wall Area on Yamnuska, No Place for Old Men 5.12b 290m. Over the past 25 years, his pet project has been the development of new routes on Moose Mountain. The nasty rock in this area has taken many long hours to tame into lead climbing. To date, of the 400 plus routes found there, Andy is responsible for 290. This climbing area is close to Calgary, although most of his routes here are moderately difficult for the enjoyment of all. With a lot of work, he still manages to climb new routes with grades up to 5.12- grade.

Presented by Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival since 1987, the annual Summit of Excellence Award is presented in memory of Calgary climber Bill March, an internationally respected mountaineer, author, and educator, who led Canada’s first successful Everest climb in 1982. Recent award recipients include Grant Statham (2022), Helen Sovdat (2021), Raphael Slawinski (2020), David Smart (2019), Jacques Olek (2018), Don Serl (2017), David P. Jones (2016), Pierre Lemire (2015), Urs Kallen (2014), Ben Gadd (2013), and Geoff Powter (2012).

2023 Banff Festival

The 48th Annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has released its schedule of events. The nine-day fest will be held from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5 and will feature over 80 films, including world and North American premieres, live in-person events with adventurers, authors, photographers, and filmmakers sharing their inspiring stories, an expanded Festival Marketplace, happy hours with music, campfire conversations with special guests, downtown events and exhibitions, and much more.

“This year’s festival really celebrates our roots that are deeply embedded in mountain culture and climbing,” said festival director Joanna Croston. “Some favourite personalities return to our stage along with those new faces taking climbing into the future. They’ll also be free climbing sessions with Ashima Shiraishi and Sonnie Trotter. We hope to see you here in Banff for the 48th annual event.”

Trotter and Shiraishi open the festival in an exclusive on-stage interview with alpinist Ian Welsted. Gripped publisher and author Dave Smart will be presenting his new book on Royal Robbins along with alpinist Graham Zimmerman and his new book. Mountain photographer Alex Buisse will present his stunning book on Mont Blanc, and Jeff Smoot reads from his new book about the perils of free-soloing in All and Nothing.

Leo Houlding is back with an evening program chock-full of climbing and adventure. The world premiere of the feature length Yamnuska film will follow Leo’s presentation, sure to be a hit with locals. And Himalayan specialist Mingma G Sherpa joins author and climber Geoff Powter for our annual Voices of Adventure interview. For a full schedule of events visit here.

The 2023 Summit of Excellence Award is sponsored by Norseman Outdoor Specialist and The North Face Banff Owned and Operated by Highline Outdoors. The award will be presented during the Festival on Saturday, October 28, 7:30 PM in the Jenny Belzberg Theatre. The Award celebrates long-term contributions, service, and demonstrated impact within the mountain culture community in Canada by an individual or group from across the country.

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Lead photo: (of) Andy Genereux on Red Shirt, Yamnuska