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For the Tick-List: Northeast Face of Ha Ling, 11 Pitches at 5.6

We'll be highlighting classic routes across Canada for you to add to your tick-list in 2020

The Northeast Face was first climbed in 1961 by Brian Greenwood and party. It’s the classic route of the peak and sees more ascents than all others combined every year.

It starts up third-class slabs and climbs a series of corners and easy face moves to the upper dihedral. The final four pitches offer esthetic views down the route to Canmore below. All of the anchors are fixed to rappel, but it’s not recommended as the route still has tons of loose rocks.

In saying that, it’s important to note that people have died from rockfall and from falling off the route so despite the moderate grade, it’s not to be taken lightly. In the late 1990s, two climbers from Northern Ontario fell off the wall when pitons between them failed during a leader fall, they both died.

Many of the pitches have protection bolts, but you still need a rack of gear. A number of variations have been climbed up this part of the mountain. Tread lightly and beware of other climbers above and below.

The best topo can be found on Chris Perry’s guidebook site here, however it should be noted that many new bolts have been added over the years. The pitch-six traverse right is one of the cruxes, be sure to add protection between bolts late on the pitch. The next pitch’s roof move is another crux, but a variation left of the roof on nice crimps has been added over a bulge.

The upper dihedral pitch is 45 metres and takes good pro, but is slightly run-out. Be sure to avoid pushing or pulling on the stacked blocks in the corner and stay more left on the slab.

Pulling onto the summit for your first time is a great feeling. The route has been soloed car-to-car in just over an hour by Cory Rogans, but due to loose rock, soloing is highly discouraged.

Looking down the classic dihedral Photo Brandon Pullan

Ha Ling, the Mountain

Ha Ling is a Canadian Rockies landmark found above the town of Canmore. The peak is a popular hike and has some of the most sought-after multi-pitch routes in the Bow Valley.

It was in October 1886 that a 28-year-old Chinese cook named Ha Ling was bet 50 dollars he couldn’t climb an unnamed, but sometimes referred to as the Beehive, 2,680-metre peak near Canmore. He had to climb the peak and make it back to town in 10 hours. His victory was met with doubters and the following day he took a group of people to the top and placed a larger flag next to the one from the previous day.

A newspaper in Medicine Hat wanted to name the peak Ha Ling, but the anti-Chinese sentiment at the time created a 100-year naming controversy. In the 19th Century, the mountain’s name was Chinaman’s Peak.

In 1965, the Historical Society of Alberta reprinted the 1896 story. Banff historian, Jon Whyte, wrote an article in the local newspaper suggesting the name be changed to Ha Ling, but he was ignored.

The second last pitch of Ha Ling’s Northeast Face Photo Brandon Pullan

In 1980, the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographic Names and the Alberta Historic Sites Board ratified Chinaman’s Peak as the official name of the mountain. People objected, saying the name was offensive. Some 1,522 Canmore residents signed a petition to keep the name Chinaman’s peak.

It wasn’t until in 1997 that members of the Chinese communities in Canmore and Calgary formed a committee to rename Chinaman’s Peak. The Committee’s appeals followed the Government of British Columbia’s decision to remove four names with “Chinaman” in the titles.

Finally, in July 1998, the name was officially changed to the century-old suggestion and called Ha Ling Peak.

By the time the name was changed, there were a half-dozen traditional routes on its north face. Over the last two decades, a few modern routes have been established, but potential for long and difficult new routes remains.

On the summit post-climb with the new Freestone Love Handles, learn more here Photo Brandon Pullan