The Climbing begins in Jasper
Jasper was our first destination on our first week of our (hopefully) three month climbing trip.
The national park is stunning and currently at this time of year not too crammed with big coaches of tourists. The weather is still cool as you are up in the mountains but some of the approaches soon have you sweating in your t-shirt. The rock in the Rockies is known for being a little bit chossy but we didn’t as much loose rock as we have done in the Bow valley.
The trip started off with us leaving Golden on Monday afternoon with the hope of getting part way up the Icefield parkway to camp. As with all true travelling though it did not go according to plan, about 3\4 of the way to Lake Louise we realised that we had left our Parks pass in a friends car the previous day, who was now in Canmore. After much debate we decided it was just easier to go get it off him, this meant a roughly 160 km round trip de-tour.
So on Tuesday morning, bright and early we set off from Canmore, reunited with our Park pass and headed up the Icefield parkway. We saw a bear!! Pretty much as soon as we started along the road, a little black bear, this was Matt’s first bear sighting so it was all very exciting.
The journey along the Icefield parkway should have taken about 4 hrs from Canmore, we left at 10 am and reached Jasper at 5 pm-ish. We decided to make the most of the scenic drive and pulled in at quite a few lakes, waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. Definitely worth the extra time.
Jasper National Park was our first stop on our climbing trip, it had been about 30 degrees C in Golden for the last 3 weeks, so of course when we arrived in Jasper on our first day it rained, all day and it was cold. So instead we got up super late, had coffee and second breakfast in a cafe and then went for a walk. We wondered around the Valley of the 5 lakes, we may have found something other than walking to entertain ourselves there.
We also checked out Maligne Canyon, which have decided we are going to come back in winter for to do some ice climbing, always looking ahead.
Having left Golden on Monday, it wasn’t until Thursday that we finally got on the rock. We decided to take it easy and head to place called Shredder reef where all the climbs were 5.7 sport routes. It was a very weird wall of rock, it was black, slabby and the texture of coral. Although the wall had 9 different routes on it, they all felt exactly the same. Of course Matt wanted to climb all of them as they were short and easy and then we could say we climbed every route on a crag once, but I’ve got to admit that I was bored after route 4. What was awesome though is that out friends Tom and Ali came to join us and Ali did her first ever sport lead, in the end she did 3 in total.
All in all the most interesting thing about the crag was that on the walk in and out you had to go through this steep little canyon and that provided a bit more interesting challenges than the climbing.
We decided to head to a second crag that afternoon called Rec Beach. This crag had much harder climbs on it, the easiest being 10b but we had a Tom with us and he could climb much harder than us. Again we were presented with an above average interesting approach this crag due to the presence of Big Horned Sheep, a flock of them, right at the start of the path. They were drawing a lot of attention from passing tourists who were pulling over and taking photos of them. There must have been in a mixture of horror, confusion and amusement among those stopped when for seemingly no reason at all. a group of four people with overly large rucksacks scaled the steep bank near these ridiculously big sheep and wondered up into the woods. The sheep made the start of the trail a lot more strenuous than it needed to be but we eventually got around them and made it to the crag.
Tom had come for a route called Coka-Cola King, it was an 11d sport route that looked to go, to me, up a blank piece of rock. Matt and I were much more interested in the 10b, our original plan had been for Tom to warm up on it and leave our rope up for us to top rope on. When seeing the route and staring at it for a few mins Matt decided he would actually give it a go on lead. He did pretty well, making it up halfway before finally being defeated. He lowered down and I took up the sharp end. It was a struggle at times, I rested 3 or 4 times but I did make it to the top, my first 10b on lead, even if it was dogged. Tom made an impressive clean ascent of his route on his second attempt, it was very inspiring to watch.
Friday saw us head to Juno Wall, a crag with stupidly sharp rock and possibly slightly under graded routes, that could just be our pride talking though. I managed one clean assent the whole day, it was a 5.8. I did try a 10d on top rope but I needed a lot of assistance to get up the first cruxy blank face, in my defence I had lead 3 routes by then and the guide book said the route was suited to those over 6ft, which I am not but Tom is. Thankfully my only clean assent was at the end of the day so I left the crag happy and with extremely sore fingers. We had found Juno a very intimidating place after our first couple of route choices had stiff moves for their grade close to the floor.
We awoke on Saturday to a very sunny morning so we eagerly headed to a place called Hidden Valley. I don’t think we were really awake that morning, as we drove to the crag we noticed it was much windier but thought nothing of it. Turns out Hidden Valley is a massive wind tunnel, which it alludes to in the book. but we totally ignored. We went there to do some easy multi-pitch trad and we choose two 5.6 routes that were in the top 30 of the guide book. Once again the rock at this crag was super sharp and our still sore fingers were not very happy with us but at least the holds were big and the moves easy. Although the routes we chose were supposed to be a mix of trad and sport we found them so simple that we only placed a total of 3 bits of gear over 7 pitches and just used the bolts that were here and there. They were fun and enjoyable routes and I would like to go back to this area again, when it is less windy and I don’t have to wear all the clothes I carried in with me.
Meeting up with Tom and Ali that afternoon we headed to the crag Rock Garden. It was a nice short walk in and a sheltered crag. Matt and I managed 1 route in the 3 hours we were there for. I think we had lost our physc for climbing that day, we were tired, hungry and our fingers were sore, wa wa wa, poor us. We dragged ourselves up a 5.8 because we were scared of the high first bolt on a 10a and there were no 5.9 routes that we liked the look of. Matt rested once and I managed it clean, probably because I watched him do the crux, we were done. We did find a great belay position for our route though, that made us happy.
In the end, after this sorry attempt at climbing we ran away and made a massive bowl of pasta, then I ate Toms leftovers once they had cooked, they stayed and climbed many hard routes, and matt had some instant noodles, then we ate some pancake and nutella dessert that Tom and Ali had made. I think we were hungry... And our fingers were sore.
Sunday turned into a rest day, we got some supplies and much needed things for the van such as chairs, table and an egg briefcase. Tom and Ali had told us lots of horror stories of soggy egg boxes and therefore broken eggs so we got them an egg briefcase too. We went to the Miette Hot Springs in the evening to have a nice warm soak and for our first shower since Monday morning, we are van camping so that’s acceptable…for us that’s actually pretty good.
Monday was our final day in the Park so we made the most of it and got up sooo early, 8.30am. We left the campsite by 10.30am, it was good coffee and breakfast. We went to the crag called the Lost Boys where Matt and I had hoped to do some more trad routes. The rock here was quartzite and much smoother, our fingers were happy with this. We were very un-inspired by the first trad routes we found but there were some very impressive hard sport routes everywhere, Tom was in his element. Eventually Matt decided to try a 5.9 trad route that was a very cool crack line up through some steep terrain and shared anchors with a 10a sport we had been recommended. It was a heroic battle between man and rock, from the 3rd to the 6th piece (spanning 4ft) of gear the rope was weighed but Matt was not one to give up, he made his way to the top. I was not inspired to lead it so I just seconded it and cleaned it. We set the top rope on the 10a with the great name of Satan's Hairy Semen and had a little project session. I top roped twice and then lead it clean on my first attempt and Matt top roped once and got a clean lead on his second attempt. It felt really good for both of us to complete that route and I think something we are going to carry forward to Skaha is to try to top rope and then lead harder routes. I managed to top rope a 10b clean before sadly we decided it was time to go, we will be back to this crag later in the summer I hope, I want to lead that 10b.
So in the first 8 days of our trip we have managed to get in 4 days of climbing which is a bit less than we were hoping but it we can only do more from here. We are sad to leave Jasper because it was such a beautiful area and we feel we barely scratched the surface, some of the rock we climbed on was soo sharp and if there hadn’t already been bolts there I would have sworn it had never been climbed on before.
Now it’s time for different rock and catching up with friends.