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Rock Climbing on The Chief and Yamnuska

A brief look at their history, rock type and longest routes

The Chief in Squamish and Yamnuska in the Rockies are two of Canada’s most iconic peaks for rock climbing. They are steeped in history, have dozens of classic routes, offer amazing multi-pitch and single-pitch lines, have bolted, trad and mixed routes and give amazing views of the area. Below is a brief look at both.

The Chief

The Chief
The Chief

First technical climb: South Gully in 1957 by Hank Mather and Jim Archer.
Hardest pitch: Cobra Crack 5.14b, Cirque of the Uncrackables.
Classic route: Grand Wall 5.11 A0, 9 pitches.
Rock: Granite, cracks, slabs, mostly solid.
Protection: Bomber for the most part.
Bolts: Some anchors, some protection, few fully bolted.
Approach: 10 to 90 minutes, flat or gentle slopes.
Aspect: Biggest walls face north and west.
Season: February to November, season depending, mostly May to September.
Closest town: Squamish.
Longest routes: Stairway to Heaven 5.10, 15 pitches / Angel’s Crest 5.10, 14 pitches.
Descent: Rappels and walk-offs on hiking trails in trees.
Exposure: Often near trees on slabby terrain, sometimes feels exposed.
What to expect: Pleasant but technically challenging climbing. A 5.11 on The Chief is way different than a 5.11 in the gym. Route-finding is mostly straightforward and many teams will climb on a single route at the same time. The rock is solid and you’ll be dealing with a lot of vegetation depending on the route. Expect crowds.
Gear: Most routes can be climbed with a single rope. Some climbs require a single rack, but most require more. Check the guidebooks.
Guidebooks: Squamish Rockclimbs by Kevin McLane and Andrew Boyd and Squamish Select by Marc Bourdan.



First technical climb: Grillmair Chimney in 1952 by Leo Grillmair, Isabel Sprit and Hans Gmoser.
Hardest climb: Blue Jeans Direct 5.14b.
Classic route: Kahl Wall 5.10a, 9 pitches.
Rock: Limestone, bulges, slabs, corners, loose and solid.
Protection: Very bad to OK.
Bolts: Most anchors, some protection, few fully bolted.
Approach time: 45 to 90 minutes, steep scree trail.
Aspect: South.
Season: February to November, season depending, mostly March to October.
Closest town: Exshaw.
Longest route: It’s All McConnell’s Fault 5.11 A0, 88-pitch traverse.
Descent: Walk-off north slopes on scree trails.
Exposure: Steep climbing high above valley. Often Feels very exposed.
What to expect: Yamnuska has a lot of loose rock, run-outs and hard route-finding. Storms can creep up from the north. Never climb below another team and always bring a pack with a warm jacket, food, water and communication device. Yamnuska should be taken very seriously and don’t underestimate the grades. A 5.8 on Yamnuska could have 10-metre runouts, loose rock and hard-to-find anchors.
Gear: Double ropes for multi-pitch climbs. Always wear a helmet. The rack will depend on the route, but most routes require a double rack with many long runners. Check the guidebook.
Guidebook: Rock Climbs of Yamnuska by Andy Genereux.