Saturday, July 10, 2004: Fist (failed) attempt on Mt Louis. We get up really early and start hiking at 4:30 AM. The book claims 1 ½ hour to the base of Mt Louis.
It takes us a lot longer than that, mostly because we somehow cut left from the main trail a few hundred meters too soon and end up traversing and bushwhacking cross-country along the base of Edith all the way to the pass... Our book talks about a faint trail… we found cairns and a faint trail, so we followed it. It turns out (we now know this after our successful climb on July 20) that the correct trail is more like a highway, complete with signs and all! We probably lost over ½ hour because of that mistake. Regardless, we finally reach the saddle about 2 ½ hours after starting up, only to realize that the start of our chosen route "Homage to the Spider" is way up a really steep slope around the NE side.
It looks like a lot more than the additional 20 minutes mentioned in the book… sandbaggers! It takes us 45 minutes to trudge up there! No trail, just painful, super-steep unstable terrain all the way. Finally at the top of those slopes, we realize that the first pitch of the route is dripping wet… We're also not that impressed with the line, which follows mediocre-looking corners and slots to the ridge. The rest of the way along the ridge to the summit looks really long too. Anyway, after getting eaten alive by mosquitoes for a while, we make our way back down to the saddle with painful knees. Back at the saddle just before 10 AM, we hesitate for a while about starting up the "Gmoser route" (which we think looks better), but figure it is a bit late to get on such a long route. Besides, we're feeling pretty tired and discouraged from all the trashing around this morning.
The weather is gorgeous though… makes us even more disappointed. Around 10AM, a pair of climbers shows up and appears intent on starting up the "Gmoser"… a bit late we think, particularly since they're starting up the wrong crack! Hope they make it; we're just going down.
Perhaps, if the weather holds as forecasted, we'll come back tomorrow. We make it back to the car around 12:30 PM and drive back to Canmore tired. We get everything ready for the next day (just in case) before going to the library to check the forecast.
First time I look, they're forecasting good weather with some clouds. Ten minutes later, they've updated it to "showers, with a 60% chance of rain in the afternoon and chances of thunderstorms". That's that. We missed the window - it sounds like we'll have to wait for the next one. Disgusted, we go rent a movie and go to bed early.
We're back two days later with the intention of climbing the "Gmoser Route". We leave the parking lot at 4:20 AM and follow the correct approach trail this time… It is still a long way up there; it takes us about 2 hours to the base of the route. We traverse the scree to the base of the route, have a bite to eat and slowly get ready. We start climbing around 8:15 AM.
The first "pitch" turns into a long (maybe 120 meters or so), very sparsely protected simul-climb on slabby rock with small ledges covered in rubble. I could not find any reasonable belay anchors along that section, hence the simul-climbing. It's OK climbing on easy terrain though.
I finally set up a belay at the start of a better defined groove, well below the roofs. From there, two pitches of easy, unremarkable terrain lead to a belay at the bottom of the crux corner.
The corner above looks like good climbing: very steep, clean, and on what seems like good rock. The pitch is fun indeed, quite sustained and solid 5.8.
Above this, it turns to unprotected slabby junk again, only with more rubble. We simul-climb several rope lengths, to where the "Kain route" joins ours.
Two other climbers are arrivingfrom the Kain route as I simul-climb below them. I pick up the pace a bit; I'd rather not be below others on this thing! Unfortunately, in the rush to move fast, I neglect to look around a corner and instead go up an obvious short face in a large corner. This leads me to a bolted rap anchor at the base of a steep wall, and on the arete. Bad sign… rap anchor, and the rock above looks a lot harder than what the "Kain route" has to offer. I think I'm supposed to be on the next rib to the left. Oh well, we'll see. Lucie follows up and I start up the next pitch, following a very steep crack a bit left of the belay. This is clearly not the route: steep 5.9+ climbing; actually some of the best climbing of the day so far! But once at the top of the pitch, my mistake becomes clear: I am two ribs too far to the right. I cannot believe the other guys did not mention anything when I went off route; they were right next to me and obviously knew where to go. Now they have passed us, which is probably what they were hoping for in the first place. Shit. I think I can see a way back down the other side of the rib to a point from where we should be able to traverse across the gully and rejoin the correct route. Looks steep and loose but doable. I belay Lucie up then she downclimbs, traverses and belays me down.
Another short traversing pitch and we're back on track. We are now at least one pitch behind the other party. So be it. The next few pitches have OK climbing up various cracks up the crest of the rib to a huge notch in the rib and the large ledges at the base of the upper headwall. We reach that point around 1 PM.
The other leader is in the middle of the first pitch of the Perren Crack, the exit of choice. That crack goes straight up to the top of the mountain, paralleling the large chimney of the first ascent a few meters to the right. No way do we want to be below them on those two pitches; we would be right in the line of fire. So we lie down on the ledge, have a bite and relax while they make their way up. They're obviously not worried about keeping us waiting… they take their time at the belay. We end up waiting for about an hour. Finally, it's our turn: we make an easy pitch to a stance at the base of the steep crack.
The next pitch is a clean one but the climbing is not that enjoyable, I thought. It is a bit awkward in places with strange, rounded features. Clean and stiff for the grade (5.6) but hardly worth its reputation of a great pitch! Anyway, near the end of the rope, there's a cramped belay spot with a piton and a bolt. Lucie comes up and finds the climbing quite stiff as well.
From here, more steep climbing for a few meters is followed by a ridge scramble to the summit. Finally we're there; it's 4 PM. It's been a much longer climb than we expected. We've done about 17 pitches of roped climbing, although several of those with running belays. We sign the register, snap a few shots and start making our way down.
Scary looking descent: very loose, narrow and steep scree gully to who knows where. We downclimb a bit past the first set of anchors then make a long double-rope rappel from the second anchor, a few meters down the gully. As expected, it's a shooting alley. I sure would not like to have others above me in this descent.
I start another long rap and, as suggested in the book (at least that's what I understood), I head left after a few meters, over the rock rib at the left edge of the gully, and down the clean, vertical wall to another, even looser gully. This felt like a sensible rap, as gets you out of the nightmarish gully above and on steeper clean rock. However, once at the base, I cannot find any anchor. I look around for a while… nothing. From here, the gully steepens and turns into a rubble covered slab with running water, seemingly heading straight for a steep drop-off. No way in hell I'm downclimbing that way. Eventually, just before Lucie commits down the steep wall as well, I finally locate the anchor: it is a few meters above me, in the original gully. Lucie raps directly there while I make an exposed, wet, and insecure 5.9 move up to the anchor. Scary. At least this anchor it bomber: new bolts and chains.
A long rap from here brings us to the end of the gully systems, where they discharge into the void. A slopy rubble ledge leads up a few meters to a notch and the top of a huge dihedral and chimney.
Two raps down this (with great anchors), bring us to another ledge. A few meters across that ledge is another bolt anchor. Three more raps from that point, down a shallow, slabby and wet gully finally deposit us on "firm" ground (actually unstable scree on the SW side of the mountain).
A party who had climbed "Homage to the Spider" has been a couple of pitches behind us throughout the descent. They dislodge loose rocks from time to time…
We made a total of 8 raps to get down. I consider those raps mandatory in view of the horribly loose and exposed terrain you'd have to downclimb to avoid them. The guidebook is very misleading about this descent.
We put our approach shoes back on, and then carefully make our way down the tricky slopes back to the saddle. From here, it's a short stroll back to our pack at the base of the route. The mosquitoes are eating us alive. We move as fast as we can so they cannot do too much damage. Once back at the pack (7PM), we copiously spray ourselves with DEET and finally get some relief. Our sandwich bag has been raided by rodents, even though we had hung it from the rock… Time to pack and get out of here.
It's a long way back down the trail. A couple km short of the trailhead, we find fresh bear dung in the middle of the trail. That and the bear warning posted at the trailhead make us sing the rest of the way! We make it back to the car around 8:30 PM.
Gear notes: one set of cams from small aliens to #4 Camalot, one set of nuts, and one set of 3 or 4 large Hexes.
Mont Louis - Gmoser Route
|Mont Louis from the highway.|
|Views of the Bow Valley taken from the approach to "Homage to the Spider"|
|The Gmoser Route.|
|Starting pitch 1.|
|Eric belaying "pitch 1"...we simul-climbed for about 120m before finding any reasonable belay anchor.|
|Eric starting the 2nd pitch at the start of a well-defined groove, well below the roofs.|
|Higher on pitch 2.|
|Traversing right on the 3rd pitch to join the main corner system.|
|Higher on pitch 3.|
|Views from the belay.|
|The steep corner of pitch 4 - a fun pitch.|
|Higher on pitch 4.|
|Belay atop pitch 4 (I think...).|
|The pitches above the steep corner are very non-descript.|
|We simul-climbed for a while till we reached (and missed) the Kain route.|
|Getting lost off route - but getting some good climbing in...|
|Views from the top of the "bonus" pitch.|
|Climbing back down to re-join the Kain route.|
|After loosing about an hour, we're back on the Kain route.|
|Here is the correct route and one of the two climbers who failed to mention we were heading the wrong way...|
|Eric on the same pitch.|
|Taking a break...|
|...before simul-climbing a couple more pitches to the base of the upper headwall.|
|The upper headwall has some of the better looking climbing on the route...|
|Waiting for the other party to finish the upper pitches.|
|Views from the comfy ledge below the upper headwall.|
|Close-up view of the upper headwall.|
|Looking back toward Eric on the huge ledge.|
|More views from the huge terrace.|
|Eric starting up the headwall (Perren crack exit)...|
|...and belaying half-way up.|
|The second pitch of the Perren Crack.|
|Higher on the same pitch.|
|Looking back toward Mt Rundle.|
|The last pitch before the summit.|
|Views from the top - Assiniboine can be seen in the distance.|