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The Jimmy Skid Rig and that Scary Rappel

The rarely-climbed steep mixed route is on Pigeon Mountain in the Bow Valley, Alberta

From 2006 to 2009, Will Meinen and Gripped editor Brandon Pullan spent several days establishing The Jimmy Skid Rig before recruiting Will Gadd to send the route at M10/11 WI5.

Several pitches of mixed ice and rock climbing gain an overhanging wall with two long pitches that diagonal left to reach a steep ice curtain.

The Jimmy Skid Rig is found on the northeast face of Pigeon Mountain in the Bow Valley here. Most of the route is overhanging and climbs mostly broken rock. The exposure is comparable to the steepest multi-pitch rock routes in the Rockies.

“Because of the wandering and overhanging nature of the line, it’s hard to determine exactly how long the route is, but it’s somewhere between 200 and 250 metres,” said Will Meinen.

“It’s hard to rate the crux pitch, as it was more about being able to lock off repeatedly than dangle in a horizontal roof,” Gadd said.

“I like lock-offs and have trained a lot for that this fall and winter, but it’s hard to rate something like that. It’s a great route, though—nice combination of alpine-style mixed to start, then some vicious dry tooling, and then some ice. Mega!”

Looking down at pitch three Photo Raphael Slawinski

The climb has only seen a few known redpoints since 2009, by Will Gadd and Raphael Slawinski and a near-send by Tim Emmett.

After the first free ascent by Gadd, he and Pullan had to rappel in the dark at -30°C. Needless to say, there was an epic. The following was written by Gadd after the ascent.

Crux pitch with ice above Photo Jerome Yearly

Jimmy Skid Rig Rap by Will Gadd

When I drop a tool I expect that it will stay dropped. As we rapped in the near-darkness I tied an orange Black Diamond Fusion onto a white 80-metre rope and lowered it toward the snow (the route overhangs so much that you’re not anywhere near the route) so I could see if the end reached.

Normally, I’d know it reached ’cause I’d rapped from the same stance before, but part of the rope was still hanging over my head because it was attached to another rope that was very stuck somewhere farther up.

The Jimmy Skid Rig

I saw the tool land on the snow only to see the tool hovering in mid-air. A few rocks swirled around with it. I had never seen rocks get ripped off reasonably flat ground and levitated into the air before. Later, I read the historical weather from a weather station on a ridge close to us; the wind was gusting to over 160 km/h. We were in the lee and the wind roaring up the face was still strong enough to cause chaos. I’ve never felt wind like that in the lee before, it was kinda frightening.

Brandon partner rapped first, and I helpfully clipped my pack onto his harness so clearing out the belay cluster would be easier. Unfortunately the Fusion on the end of the rope managed to get stuck into something way off to the side, which resulted in some fun antics to get it unstuck.

I watched Brandon get blown through about a 100-foot arc and slam into the wall with two packs on, it wasn’t good. His knee should heal soon, sorry about that!

The crux pitch is long, hard, and aggressive. Lots of lockoffs, front-lever style tension and general giving it all-out. I’ve been training for this route and another one for months, but it still took everything I had to get it done.

Every lockoff, every one-handed deadhang from my tools and every front lever I’d done at the Vsion played a part in keeping it together on the redpoint. I was skipping clips, breathing like a horse and wobbling like a drunk when I finally reached the ice. I had to stand there on the vertical ice for ten minutes before I could swing a tool.

I haven’t been to that state of climbing in a while; where you decide that falling doesn’t matter, clips don’t matter, all that matters is GOING UP. The training, the psyche with my partner, it was all there in spades and worth all of it.

Rappelling the crux pitch five