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Wheat Kings is New Seven-Pitch Bolted 5.7 in Rockies

Wheat Kings is a new bolted 5.7 that climbs to the top of Buffalo Crag in just over 200 metres. Gripped editor Brandon Pullan has been establishing new routes for the past 15 years.

Last year, he and Gaby James developed Soft Moth, an 11-pitch mostly bolted 5.9 on Ha Ling near Canmore. This year, the two established Wheat Kings ground-up over a few days. It climbs featured limestone similar to that on True Grit 5.10 on EEOR.

The route follows low-angled rock up a buttress for seven pitches. The third pitch is the crux with interesting fins and underclings. The stippled stone offers great friction.

Brandon Pullan on the first ascent of Wheat Kings. Photo Gaby James
Brandon Pullan on Wheat Kings. Photo Gaby James

Overall, the climbing is mostly 5.5 and 5.6 and while the route is bolted, it is not a sport route. Wheat Kings is named after the hit song by the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip.

Lead singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and the band is on its final tour across Canada.

Approach: Park at Cascade Falls parking area on the Lake Minnewanka Road. Take trail south past air strip into a forest heading west past one path up a slope. After 15 minutes take a faint trail right past a rock with a cairn that is flagged with orange tape. Follow the trail up a slope rising left to a big boulder on the left of the trail after about five minutes.

Follow the flagged path up to the base of the wall. There is no trail, but the flagging tape follows the easiest way to the start of the route. About 45 minutes from the car. Some pitches are between 30 and 35 metres, but they are rounded up to 35. The route is new for July 2016 and has dirty sections. Beware of loose rock. Gear: Eight quickdraws, two extendable draws and 70-metre rope.

Pitch One: Climb up and left past two bolts and follow a foot rail up and right past a third bolt. Climb the corner to a bolted belay at a tree. (5.5 30 metres, four bolts)

Pitch Two: Climb good rock left of the corner past two bolts and up and left avoiding dirty rock on the right. Angle up and right to a fourth bolt. Follow a crack up and right to a break in the rock and left to a ledge with a tree and belay. (5.6 35 metres, seven bolts)

Pitch Three: Step up and left and then follow fun features to a ledge. Take a faint crack right up to a belay. (5.7 35 metres, eight bolts) Note: There is an endangered whitebark pine far left of the second bolt, don’t damage or remove.

Wheat Kings on Cascade Mountain.
Wheat Kings on Cascade Mountain.

Pitch Four: Step up and left to a bolt. Continue up to a ledge and head left to a belay. (5.4 20 metres, two bolts)

Pitch Five: Up two short walls past two bolts to a ledge. Up and right to a corner that you climb for a few moves and then step left onto pillar. Up pillar to a bolt and then right on low-angle rib to belay. This is the Pretty Things belay ledge where you can see Mount Louis and most of the Bow Valley. (5.6 40 metres, five bolts)

Pitch Six: Up a steep move to a ledge and up the corner above past a hard-to-see bolt. Continue up easy ground to a belay near a tree. (5.6 30 metres, four bolts)

Pitch Seven: Up the rib past bolts to a break in the rock on the left. Up easy climbing to the final anchor. (5.5 35 metres, five bolts)

Descent: Rappel route with 70-metre rope using a rappel-only anchor between the top of pitch five and three. Alternatively walk off a flagged trail by heading up about 100 metres after the route and then left over small rock steps until you take the forest down.

Buffalo Crag is a south-facing wall on Cascade Mountain north of Banff. The crag has a few old routes up dirty chimneys and a new sport crag with lines up to 5.12. The sport climbing area is still in its early stages of being developed and few details are available. Watch the Hip perform Wheat Kings live below.

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