Home > Rockies

CMC Valley Has Old-School Feel and Classic Routes

This quiet and secluded valley lies immediately north of Yamnuska and contains a number of south-facing cliffs smaller in height than Yamnuska and frequently more sheltered.

Access up the valley from the east is blocked by private land, coupled with its remote location, gives the valley a quiet charm all of its own. It was popular as an early and late season climbing area in the 1970s as it shared Yamnuska’s favourable weather conditions and offered shorter, more sheltered climbing.

The Simpson Hut, owned by the Calgary Mountain Club, played a large role in this early development. Weekend-long forays were common as CMCers explored the crags by day and socialized into the night.

It was one of the more magical times for the CMC and for Bow Valley rock climbing. By the early 1980s disuse, water-damage, out-of-control stove fires and vandalizing youth turned the Simpson Hut into a decrepit, trash-filled liability of squalor.

In 1996 the CMC, under pressure from the Department of Lands and Forests, organized a weekend in which a dozen members volunteered their time to clean up the area. The hut was burned and dozens of bags of garbage were hauled out.

Today, the valley sees little climbing activity and most of this is centred around The Maker, one of the finest routes anywhere. There are a handful of other top-notch climbs including one multi-pitch bolted route.

Michelle Kadatz on Out of the Silent Planet 5.11b. Photo Jon Walsh

Considering the vast amount of rock and favourable weather conditions, CMC Valley is ready for a renaissance in new route activity, especially bolted routes and sport climbs. There are some obvious challenges left to those with an adventurous attitude and a willingness for hard work.

Pitons are required on many of the existing routes as the rock is often compact and difficult to protect with gear. Fixed pitons should be viewed with extreme caution—some have been in place for nearly 30 years. The grades are definitely “old school” and were established when 5.6 was real climbing and 5.10 existed only in Yosemite Valley.

Getting there: From the Yamnuska parking about 45 minutes west of Calgary, hike up the “hiker’s” trail on the east shoulder.

Keep a look out for the CMC Valley sign on a tree after you switchback west. There are few areas in Canada that are about an hour from the road with so much history and little activity.

A: Ephel Duath / B: Wakonda Buttress / C: Ripple Wall / D: Frodo / E: Runes / F: Bilbo

Areas and Routes: There are six main climbing areas that make up the majority of climbing in CMC Valley.

On the remote Ephel Duath where there are many new lines to be climbed, check out the 600-metre South Pillar, a 5.8 adventure that likely has only a few ascents.

On Wakonda Buttress, the two routes to climb are Post-Orgasmic Disgust 5.11b 285m and Mayflower 5.7 100m. Out of the Silent Planet 5.11b 115m is a modern bolted/mixed route to the right.

In the Ripple Wall area, check out Fourth of Firth 5.10b 160m (video below, click to play), Parboosting 5.11d 225m and The Maker 5.10bR 200m.

On the steep and solid Frodo Buttress, the classics are False Modesty 5.10a 200m, The Iliad 5.8 170m and Luminous Pidgeon 5.7 145m.

In The Runes, the best lines are Weed 5.6 60m, Hurricane Holocaust 5.9 125m and Mona Bona 5.6 170m.

On the tall Bilbo Buttress, the best old routes are El Cid 5.8 85m, The Soal 5.8 90m and Dog’s Biscuit 5.7 70m.

– The above words are by Chris Perry from his book Bow Valley Rock, which you can find online here.