Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer at Acephale

Once again, we decided to spend time climbing in the Canadian Rockies during the summer. With heatwaves blasting the middle of the continent, the decision seemed easy. High elevation cliffs with lots of north-facing aspects provide great conditions for mid-summer, and the area is beautiful to boot!

A view looking east toward Calgary along the Bow Valley. The outskirts of Canmore can be seen in the lower left of the photo.

Besides climbing, we've spent lots of time hiking and exploring the valleys and forests. There's so much to do! This is the Tower of Babel near Moraine Lake. It's a popular multi-pitch or scrambling objective on hardened quartzite.

Glacier above Consolation Lake.

Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks in behind. This region is very close to Lake Louise, home to excellent cragging at the "Back of the Lake".

There's no shortage of wildlife.

Around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, grizzly bears can be a problem. Groups of four are required for many hiking objectives, and this is strictly enforced.

We've spent much of our time climbing at the Upper Wall at Acephale. The wall is about a 10-minute drive from Canmore and a 45-minute, pleasant uphill hike. It's entirely north facing so sun is never a concern. In fact, we've lit a fire twice at the crag to keep warm on windy days. In August, no less! This is a local climber, Kat, on the super popular 12d, Jingus Americanus. The overhanging stone provides intricate and bouldery routes.

Another local, Joel, on a route at the far right end of the crag, an area dubbed "The Pavement" for it's smooth, super-compact nature. This is "Cochon Grochon, a very bouldery 5.13b. The climbing at this end of the cliff is not nearly as steep as in the middle.

Derek Galloway, author of Bow Valley Sport, working a new project right of "Existence Mundane" (5.14b). It will likely be in the same ballpark, grade-wise.

We've been here throughout the month of August and the wildflowers are in full bloom. This is Indian paintbrush, a common local plant.


This peak is known as "Ha-Ling" and it's a giant that towers over the town of Canmore. There are a multitude of popular traditional climbing routes (and one huge sport route) that breach the main wall, but the most popular way to reach the summit is up the backside trail. It's a big climb (over 2,ooo feet), but the locals seem to love it.

View from the summit.

Fossils by the trail.

Don't throw rocks onto the climbers below!!!!!

Hiking off the summit.

A pika. These little creatures are common amongst the rocks. The look like little rabbits.

The Banff Springs hotel. Shot taken from Sulphur Mountain, above Banff. If you want to stay here, bring your platinum card!

There is climbing for all abilities around Banff and Canmore. Here is our daughter Elise, five years old, climbing a bolted 5.6 at Grassi Lakes. The wall is called "The Golf Course" for it's plethora of holes. It's perfect for beginners and kids!

Pictographs at Grassi Lakes.

Back at the Upper Wall of Acephale. This is Tony, a local climber on Sweet Thing (5.13b/c). This route is awesome and takes a bulging blue streaked wall up the middle of the cliffband. Bring your bouldering skills, and some endurance!

The crux bulge on Whale Back (5.13c), considered by many to be the best route of the grade at the wall. Powerful crossovers in pockets and holes lead to a desperate, slopey sequence mantling onto the "whale back" feature near the top. Wolfgang, shown here, hiked it!

If Whale Back seems too easy, try the most popular 5.13d at the crag, Endless Summer. Bouldery moves through a steep bulge lead to an immaculate headwall on blue streaked stone.

Acephale is a destination crag, but there's not much here sub 5.11+. If you do come and are looking for excellent routes in the 5.10 to 5.11 grade, I'd highly recommend both the crags at the back of Lake Louise, Carrot Creek (always shady) and the new cliffs in Echo Canyon. This area has the goods, and is a great place to beat the summer heat!

Marc Bourdon - Squamish, BC

No comments: