Sunday, September 23, 2012

The End, and a new Beginning

First, the End.

In August, the end of our time in northern Alberta was approaching fast.  We were moving to southern Alberta (Lethbridge) in September, and I had far too many projects to wrap up.  Problems to clean at Bear Mountain, new areas to explore at Babcock, and sport routes to climb at Hasler.  In particular, I had two projects at Hasler; the .12+ extension to Revelations, and a new 23 meter route (the "Agent Orange" project) that I cleaned a bolted several weeks ago.  I had worked the Revelations extension enough to know the moves, but the Agent Orange project was a lot harder, and more sustained.

Fortunately, the Revelations extension also had a short, but hard crux - really only a half-dozen moves, of which only one was really hard.  I kept my fingers crossed that I could get out to Hasler to give it a try.

On my last possible climbing weekend in the Peace River country, several of my climbing friends (Chris, Carlee, Phil, Carl, and Andrew) planned a trip to Hasler.  I excitedly joined the group, and off to Hasler we went!  A stop at Subway for lunch, and we were at the crag.  Carl and I warmed up by climbing Revelations, and trying the extension.  Maybe not the best way to warmup, in retrospect!  Still, we put in a bit of a work session (first on lead, then on toprope), and I was psyched to get all the moves.  I pulled the rope, took a bit of a break, and sent it next try!  It went pretty smoothly, but still like solid 5.12.  It's probably .12b or .12c.  I called it Armageddon Destructor (in homage to old-school sport routes like Pumping Hate, I figured that it needed a funny / intensely aggressive name).  Carl almost got it too, but it started getting hot, so we moved on to other routes.

At the end of the day, the whole group went over and we played on the Agent Orange project for awhile on toprope.  It's such an amazing route, with long cruxy sections and three reasonably OK rests.  Power-endurance routes aren't really my forte, but I did manage to do all the moves on TR, although CERTAINLY not with any big linkages of the bottom half, which is where all the hard climbing is.  It is going to be a really special route, very high quality climbing on solid sandstone and conglomerate.  It is probably .12d or so, but it will have to wait for another year! 

I would to thank all my climbing friends in the Peace River country.  They are such an amazing group of people; funny, psyched to climb, always up for sessions in the gym or trips to the boulders.  The Peace Country is slowly becoming a genuine climbing area.  Bear Mountain will have hundreds of boulder problems (albeit on less-than-perfect rock), and Babcock will have thousands of problems on bomber sandstone and conglomerate.  Hasler and Commotion Creek will eventually have 150 routes or so, from 5.5 to 5.13+.  Plus, there are many new crags waiting to be developed.  It is an exciting time to be a climber in the Peace country!  My hat is off to all the people who are making things happen!

My new guide to the Bouldering at Bear Mountain is now being hosted by the good people (well, good person!) at  You can check out the guide at Sendage.  Thanks Jamie! 

Now, the beginning.

Shelley, Aya, Rowan, and I have moved to Lethbridge, in Southern Alberta.  Shelley is heading up a new research lab down here, so it's a good move for us.  I am a little sad to have moved from a land where there is SO MUCH potential for new bouldering, but I am excited by the prospect of finding new climbing in southwestern Alberta and southeastern BC.  Plus, Canmore is only 3 hours away, which will be nice.  I've been to the climbing gym here several times; it's got a great toprope/lead wall (an older but very nice EP wall), and a reasonably decent bouldering cave (ok, it's short, and really old-school with bulges everywhere, but it has good holds and it's reasonably big).  I'm getting to know the climbers here, which is an interesting process.

But I am most psyched on the potential for new things.  Everyone I have talked to has said pretty much the same thing; that the rock in the Crowsnest pass area is terrible and chossy, and that the potential for new routes is limited.  I went on an exploratory mission this weekend (aided by Google Maps, the crag-finders best friend), and I was moderately encouraged by what I found.

First, the bad news.  The rock is, by and large, choss.  Most of the mountains are rubble-covered heaps. However, two thick bands of Palliser Limestone DO reach the Crowsnest area, and this is encouraging.  I didn't find armloads of new crags, which is not surprising.  However, I did find enough to pique my interest.  Which brings us to the good news.

First stop: Frank Slide.  This boulderfield is ENORMOUS.  Unfortunately, most of the boulders are fridge-sized.  However, there are probably 100 boulders that are big enough to hold multiple problems, and I saw several boulders that had good problems that looked like they hadn't been done.  I saw three classic-looking hard projects (that looked like virgin lines, although it is hard to tell), so I'm happy with the potential there.  Next stop: the Crowsnest Pass lakes.  I checked out a wall by Emerald Lake that looked like it would hold several short multipitch sport routes.  This wall is close to the road, has a really nice view, and is in the shade for much of the day (all good things).  It is Palliser limestone, so it should be reasonably solid, although a more extensive exploration is needed to discover how good the rock is.  There is another potential sport-climbing area nearby, at Gargoyle Ridge, but I couldn't find the trail.  Next time!

Next stop was an area I had scoped out using Google Maps.  Line Creek, near Sparwood, BC, appeared on satellite images to have a number of steep limestone walls.  I was not disappointed; if the rock there is solid (and it looked reasonably so), it would have room for hundreds of sport routes on vertical to overhanging rock.  The only problem is a BIG one; it is just inside a mining lease.  The pictures I took of the area are very encouraging, but not particularly grand because I couldn't walk up the crags.  I'm going to contact the mine operators, to see if access for climbers can be arranged (climbers wouldn't have to use any roads, or come near any actual mining to access the crags, hopefully the mine operators can be convinced!).  Here are a few pictures of the area...

The first picture shows the lowest tier of rock, which is just barely visible in the second photo (there are four tiers in total).  Although the picture isn't great, the rock looks steep, compact, and streaked (a good sign!).  The first tier is also the shortest of the four tiers, but is still probably 40 - 50 m high.  The three higher tiers look much taller, and are probably 50 - 100 m tall.  A truly amazing amount of climbing, and potentially one of the biggest rock climbing venues in the entire southeastern portion of the province.

The future?  First, a more serious trip to go bouldering at Frank is in order. After that, it may be time to start thinking about bolts...



Grzegorz said...

Welcome to souther Alta, the land of oil and rock. Those pictures look promising. Keep up the good work, get good hiking boots and see you soon.
Greg Tos

Trent Hoover said...

Thanks, Greg! I do need some better hiking boots, since some serious hiking is obviously going to be necessary in order to find the crags. I'm really on the hunt for some canyons, but so far no luck... We'll come up to see you someday soon!

Anonymous said...

Hey Trent, I was wondering if you made any progress in your hunt for crags in The Pass and Sparwood area? I just bought a place there and I was hoping there would be some areas in Sparwood developed. We checked out Knob Hill and Res Slab at the Gap, do you have any other areas to recommend for sport climbing. P.S. I can't wait to be so close to Frank Slide

austin neill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
austin neill said...

Hello Guys, I use to live in Fernie BC and did several climbing trips out to the cranbrook area. while there the one time i met a older dude who had been establishing multi pitch routes around the pass area. not exatly sure of the loction, i can try and find more info. but supposely he has been working on the area for a couple years and is putting togeather a electonic guide book. hope this helps you out