The Number 34?

I started rock climbing in the summer of 1994. At the time I lived in Saskatoon. After reading the book "Men for the Mountains" by ex-NP warden Sid Marty, in my final year of high school, I had to get out to the Rocky Mountains and try climbing.
My first trip to the MEC in Calgary resulted in the purchase of "A Climbers Guide to Yamnuska". The book was $1.25 at the time, which is likely why I bought it. On my first rock climbing trip to ' the mountains', seeing as I started in the local climbing gym in Saskatoon, was nothing less than life changing. Although we were only sport climbers at the time; the feel of moving over stone, the many psychological aspects that started to present themselves, the sore muscles, the cheap living, the camp fires, the cool nights, the camaraderie. We spent these nights, reflecting in the glory of tiring days filled with discovery, in the meadows below Mount Yamnuska.
In the mornings we would see climbers walk by with big racks of gear and helmets off to 'mountaineer' on the big cliff above.

In September 1996 I caught a bus from Hope, BC, at the end of a summer of tree planting, to meet my friend Chris Stolz in Calgary for some rock climbing. I knew Chris from the 2 years of treeplanting we had done together. Chris was now a teacher in Calgary. When we first met he mentioned he had done some climbing with his mother, "but it was all easy stuff". He expressed interest in trying 'sport climbing' that I had so passionately talked about.

September 1996 was my time to learn to 'trad climb'. I had bought some gear second hand from a friend in Saskatoon that got out of climbing before he even had a chance to try the gear. A set of stoppers and 4 cams. I proceeded to spend a couple days at local Bow Valley Crag "Barrier Bluffs" and teach myself to climb on my own gear. Not without "moments" I managed to stay alive on those first few very dangerous days.

Chris wanted to get on something bigger. I was going to be his guide as he had much more faith in my abilities than I did.
"Lets go up on Yam" Chris suggested.
"I'm not so sure I can handle that yet"
" Come on, I did Grillmairs Chimney's with my mom and Leo Grillmair when I was a little kid, in running shoes, and it was easy."

We decided on "The Calgary Route". Chris had already done "Grillmairs Chimney's", the first route put up on the cliff. "The Calgary Route" was the second route done on the cliff and only went at 5.5. We ventured up, leaving the parking lot at 1pm, marched straight up the famous scree run descent, and the epic that ensued is one of my most memorable. We both lived and got back to the car at 1am. To this day I don't understand why I still climb, especially with Chris :)

The original Yam guidebook has 34 routes listed. The routes range from 5.5 to 5.8/A3 (now 11b), 3 pitches to 12. The descriptions say that some of the routes will take 2 to 3 days(most are done in an 8 hour day now).

The guidebook states "..Loose rock and scree is found on almost all ledges and great care should be taken." and "Climbing on Yamnuska can serve as a good introduction to the different techniques used on limestone." I couldn't agree more!

Yamnuska has served and with continue to serve as an amazing 'training ground' for local alpinists, both budding and seasoned veterans. Yam has it all; difficult route finding, intricate gear placements, loose rock, big runouts, and huge exposure.

On April 28/06 I climbed "Mum's Tears" with Lilla Molnar and officially ticked every route in my first guidebook. This will surely be the only guidebook that I will ever do this for. There are now over 130 routes on Yam and a new guidebook is due out this spring. The cliff is now full of bolted routes and semi-bolted routes which has increased the popularity immensely.

There is now a huge push for the 'old routes' to be retro-fitted with bolts for anchors and fixed pro. This may be inevitable but is sad. Where will the next generation of climbers learn to place pitons, create solid anchors, handle runout climbing?

Thanks to Mt. Yamnuska for the past 12 years of memories and for playing a huge roll in who I am and how I live my life.

My Top 5 Yamnuska Routes/Experiences:
1.Calgary Route- my first big lesson.
2. CMC Route- my first 5.11 route on Yam.
3. Balrog- it has a reputation!
4. Freak Out- every pitch has a name!
5. Yellow Edge- finally, solid rock!

My Favorite Pitches:
1. Pitch 1 Freak Out- "take a set of wires 10-13 cams from #00 tcu to #4 including a couple extra in mid sizes, a small selection of pitons, 15 slings....all of which will be used"
2. Upper chimney of Calgary Route
3. Pitch 8 on Balrog (10b pitch)


Blogger Butch said...

Hey, bones, you forgot to mention how that last chimney on the Calgary route was soppng wet...also one of my most memorable experiences.

7:41 PM  

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