Minihapa is a new four-pitch bolted 5.6 that climbs next to the lower tiers of Cascade Falls in Banff National Park above the town of Banff. At 90 metres, most of the climbing is 5.3 to 5.5 and the rock is solid. [Update: many climbers have suggested the hardest moves are 5.4/5]
It takes advantage of super clean limestone slabs near the bottom of the 300-metre waterfall on the east face of Cascade Mountain. The best part of the climb is that you have to jump across a section of Cascade Falls, which might be difficult during spring melt.
Throughout the route are old, rusty bolts that were added to the rock for rappel anchors for ice climbers over the past 60 years. Sections of the lower two slabs have been climbed in the past. The route is now well bolted and you can walk off down a good trail. Don’t climb the third or fourth pitch if climbers are cragging to the left because of potential rockfall. A project next to the upper waterfall is currently being worked on.
Cascade Mountain is a dominant peak in the Bow Valley and one of the most iconic in Banff National Park. In 1841, Sir George Simpson passed by and noted “a stream of water which, though of very considerable volume, looked like a thread of silver on the grey rock.” Then in 1845, Father Pierre-Jean De Smet wrote a “beautiful crystalline fountain issues from the centre of a perpendicular rock about five hundred feet high, and then pours its water over the plain in foam and mist.” But it was James Hector in 1858, who said he’d reached “a beautiful little prairie at the base of the “mountain where the water falls” or the “Cascade Mountain.'” The name Cascade stuck after that.
In winter, that crystalline fountain freezes into a 300-metre WI3 ice climb which is one of the most sought-after moderate routes in the Rockies. The only reason it will go some time between winter ascents is because of the overhead avalanche hazard. In the summer, thousands of tourist make the five-minute approach to take photos next to the cascading falls.
Long before Cascade Mountain was given its current name, it was called Minihapa by the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and Mount Rundle (the other major peak above the town of Banff) was called Waskahigan Watchi. Minihapa translates to “mountain where the water falls.”
Minihapa 5.6 90m
Approach: Hike up to Cascade Falls, cross the lowest creek and up a short dirt slope to below the first rock tier.
Pitch one: Climb the slab past a small bulge and up to a ledge (5.4 25m). Loose rock: There are small rocks on the ledges. [Update: community suggest grade of 5.2/3] Pitch two: Head up the fun slab on edges and clean stone. At bolt five, head left to an anchor, avoid the lone rap ring above bolt five (5.5, 30m). [Update: community suggest grade of 5.3/4] Pitch three: Move onto the ledge, walk to waterfall and jump over to corner. Be careful, the rock is slippery! Up the corner, slab and upper bulge to ledge (5.6 30m). Loose rock: there is loose rock on ledge out left throughout, stick to the line of bolts. [Update: community suggest grade of 5.4/5] Pitch four: Up the short slab to anchor on left (5.2 10m). You can link three and four with ease but you’ll miss the great photo op looking down pitch three. Loose rock: the upper slab has lots of small loose stones.
Descent: Walk left (south) until you reach the Mother’s Day Buttress/Rogan’s Gully descent trail.
Gear: 10 quickdraws, 60-metre rope, helmets
FA of Minihapa: Brandon Pullan, Alyssa Acchione in June 2019. Sections had been climbed and expect relic bolts on ledges. Most ledges are used during winter for ice climbing.