I’ll be turning 25 this month and in honor of the completion of my 25th year, and to make sure I have a few goals within this road trip I’m doing, I’m making it my goal to lead 25 new pitches outside. The “# of pitches” for “age” goal is not new. It was an idea given to my by this short film, “35” narrated by Brendan Leonard.
Being the gym rat that I am, I find it mildly-to-quite terrifying to lead pitches outdoors unless they are well within my known climbing ability. The gym has been a great place for gaining strength and speed, getting a workout, and becoming familiar to the feel of different pitch levels. However, I’ve found that my route-finding abilities are somewhat less than great once I’m on real rock and I no longer have a color-coded path to follow up the wall. Holding yourself up by your little chicken wing arm while fumbling frantically around the wall, looking for your next hold is not the smartest way to climb. Hence, I’m looking to gain time and experience climbing in the outdoors to improve my self-efficacy and self-assurance.
Besides that, I also need to find a place to work for the winter.
So, I’ve built my sleeping platform, packed my little Honda Fit to the brim and headed out from Bozeman to begin my journey. I stopped in Calgary on my first night and stayed with the cousin of my aunt, Peter. (The drive from Bozeman to Calgary is the flattest five-hundred miles in my memory- thank God for Harry Potter books on tape). From Peter I learned that the Bow Valley has almost endless amounts of climbing, so I curbed my plans of heading to Banff and stopped the half and hour early to check out the crags around Canmore.
Luckily for me, the climbing community is a rather friendly place, and I was able to crash the first group of climbers I met at the Grassi Lakes crags. These climbing walls are situated in a canyon below a large dam south and up the hill from the town of Canmore (lovely town, by the way). With Michelle, Simon-called-Crispy, and Mel- all Australians- I climbed three pitches that afternoon, though I only led 1.
The three Aussies wanted to do a multi-pitch mountain the next day, and since I have gear and four is better than three, they invited me to come along. We headed into Banff National Park to do the 8 pitch route called Aftonroe on Guide’s Rock, which is a part of Mt. Cory. I was super psyched to do my first multi-pitch route. Michelle and Simon taught me the systems necessary for belaying a partner from above while hooked into the rock, and we set off.
As soon as we were one pitch up the wind took all the heat off my body. The next four hours were a practice in patience, shivering, and managing 70 meters of rope on tiny ledges. I lead two pitches on 5.7 slab (inward leaning rock with few and tiny holds), but we had to turn back two pitches from the top because a nasty storm was moving in from the South and Michelle and I really didn’t want to be repelling down in wind and rain.
The storm moved off and didn’t hit us, as it turned out, but we made the call we had to make.
The next day, we went back to Grassi Lake, and I lead a few easy pitches before the group moved to the Meat Hook wall, where I destroyed myself top roping my first 11a. The route was on a super over-hung, juggy (really big, good holds), piece of limestone. I had extreme doubts about being able to do the wall at all. But, after much yelling and resting, I did indeed make it to the top. It was a great thing. It also gave me a lot of perspective on what it’s going to take to do those sorts of climbs on lead: strength, mental stamina, and smoother climbing all around.
The long weekend is now over, and a lot of people have headed back to their normal lives. I’m taking a break from climbing for a few days, but am hoping to be able to check out the rocks behind Lake Louise before heading north across the Icefields.
Thanks to all the great people who have helped me out and become my friends the last few days!
25 for 25 pitch list: (starting the month before my birthday, including Bozeman)
Lead: (7 total as of 9/6/16. 18 to go before 9/20/16)
- 7-11 Spur, Allenspur, Paradise Valley, MT
- Gobis in the Dark (5.7)
- Jens (5.7)
- White Imperialist, Grassi Lake, Canmore, AB
- Gizmo (5.8)
- Guides Rock, Mt. Cory, Banff, AB
- Aftonroe- 2 out of 6 (5.7)
- The Golf Course, Grassi Lake, Canmore, AB
- Chip Shot (5.6)
- Hole in One (5.7)
- Gardener’s Wall, Grassi Lake, Canmore, AB
- Pothole Alley (5.9+)