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Big Rockies M4R Requires “Steady Head” Up Exposed Rock and Turf

Ian Welsted, Ryan Patterson and Justin Guarino find a line up a featured quartzite wall above Lake Louise that included runouts and some loose stone

Photo by: Ian Welsted

Three climbers have established a 250-metre quartzite alpine rock/mixed route above Lake Louise. It follows a semi-obvious line and utilized turf, grass and moss sticks to overcome otherwise difficult sections. It gets an M4R grade, which doesn’t mean it climbs like an M4 at a drytool crag.

Ian Welsted’s house in Golden has long been a stopover location on my travels from the Bow Valley into the heart of B.C. It’s a modest, single-floor dwelling across from an always-busy-with-kids pump track at the base of Mount Seven. Welsted worked as a tree planter for 30 years before retiring to become an alpine climbing guide and avid gardener.

I was on my way to Skaha when I popped in for a beer and to chat about his recent guiding days. From taking millionaire L.A. clients up Hydrophobia WI6 to taking Alberta oil rig workers up Lake Louise WI4, there’s no shortage of fun tales from his sphere of escorting. And it was on one of his recent laps of Louise Falls that he spotted a weakness across Lake Louise at the base of Fairview Mountain.

I pushed on to Skaha and Welsted prepped to meet two climbers, Rockies climber Ryan Patterson and New Hampshire crusher Justin Guarino, for an attempt on his planned route. Welsted couldn’t leave for Lake Louise from Golden until 8 a.m., due to upgrades to the hill that separates the Columbia Valley from the town of Field.

It was snowing in Skaha and the forecast was calling for near-freezing temps with rain for a few days, so the following morning I doubled back to Canmore for a day of ice climbing. As I was passing Lake Louise, wondering how Welsted’s climb was going, I got a text, “Ryan Patterson just led a pitch we both agreed we wouldn’t, and is at the ends of the ropes trying to find an anchor.”

Ryan Patterson on the crux M4R pitch aiming for a clump of grass up high. “Although the climbing up to and above pitch-five is very moderate, the crux lead by Ryan required a steady head.” Photo Ian Welsted

Some time went by before Welsted added, “Pitch five. Getting dark in an hour.” Two hours later, the three climbers were on top of a new seven-pitch route. All Welsted added was, “Ryan led a crazy pitch.” I didn’t hear from Welsted until the next day, when he sent me his blog about Tourist Turf M4R 250 m, which you can read here.

The climb starts at the west end of the Rockfall Wall on the south side of Lake Louise and “features many sticks into solid turf, very unusual for the Rockies, and quartzite.” About the crux pitch, Welsted said it takes gear “but requires face climbing on the arete to its right on quartzite that is not beyond reproach, earning it an R rating.”

Like many runout, sometimes chossy climbs in the Rockies, Welsted said Tourist Turf is “not necessarily highly recommended” but added that if you’re on the search for six moderate mixed pitches with fun turf climbing “marred only by one runout pitch of choss (that does have amazing exposure though),” then this might be for you.

Tourist Turf required a “standard Rockies mixed route rack heavy on the pitons.” They rappelled it in six pitches and made it back to Lake Louise after 1 a.m.

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Lead photo: Ian Welsted