The Chief and Yamnuska: Two Iconic Canadian Peaks

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

May 12th, 2020 by | Posted in Profiles, Rockies, Routes, West Coast |

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 on top and Yamnuska

The Chief

First technical climb: South Gully in 1957 by Hank Mather and Jim Archer
Hardest climb: Cobra Crack 5.14b, Cirque of Uncrackables
Classic route: Grand Wall 5.11 A0
Rock: Granite, cracks, slabs, solid
Protection: Mostly bomber
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
Descents: 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 guidebook.
Guidebook: Squamish Rockclimbs by Kevin McLane and Andrew Boyd

Yamnuska

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 5.10
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
Descents: 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

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Will Gadd @realwillgadd on his Yamabushi 5.13 on Yamnuska in the Canadian Rockies. The eight-pitch bolted route has become a test-piece for the area. In 1999, Gadd and Raphael Slawinski @raphael.slawinski bolted the first pitch and start work on the second and third pitches. From 2000 to 2005, Gadd and Slawinski work for four more days from the ground-up and experiment with rap-bolting, which is not very successful due to the angle of the wall. Gadd also worked on the route with Kevin Wilson for a cold day. In 2006, Gadd and photographer Cory Richards @coryrichards spent 11 days cleaning and bolting. Kevin Dyck also puts a day in, as did Sarah Hueniken @huens. Gadd made a no-falls bottom-to-top ascent on Oct. 12, leading every pitch with Josh Briggs jumaring. The news story appeared in Gripped magazine in 2006/07. #rockclimbing #grippedmagazine #canada

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