Monday, July 22, 2013

Bluff Wall, New Crags... and Frank Slide

I'm still, officially, on the couch.  My elbow improves every day, but it will be some time before I can pull on it hard enough to do any serious bouldering.  I'm fairly certain I could do a deadhang, but that's probably about it.  Open-hand grips aren't too uncomfortable, but if I try to pinch or engage my thumb, forgetaboutit.  I'll give it another two weeks, then try a little easy climbing.

In a way, though, having an elbow injury has benefits; it has allowed me to get to some of the non-bouldering things on my to-do list.  This past Sunday I went back to the Crowsnest Pass in order to check out the Bluff Wall (just to the west of Frank Slide) and do a little crag hunting.

From Frank Slide you can see the Bluff Wall clearly, and I have often wondered about a fairly clean looking section of the wall almost in the dead centre of the main cliff.  It looks like it is about 5 or 6 pitches high, without any ledges or breaks.  I wanted to hike into the base of the wall to take a closer look for a potential route (mostly to see how steep the wall is, and how protectable it is).  The Bluff Wall is Livingstone limestone, and while this rock often features faces with nice face holds, I'm not sure how much natural protection it provides.

Arriving in the Pass, I parked and hiked up to the wall with Lupin (my ever-eager dog).  I took a couple of pictures of the route from the valley, and many more directly below the route.  From the valley, the wall looks pretty sheer, but I was surprised to find that it looked like most of the pitches would go on natural gear! 

As far as I could see, it looked like it was about 6 pitches long.  P1: low angle ramps with a bit of slab to a small grassy ledge, maybe a few pieces of gear, maybe a few bolts.  P2 and P3: a real surprise, 2 pitches of what looks like continuous finger cracks in the back of a dihedral. Looks sweet!  P4: Can't really see it well, but I'm hoping that an angling crack will join up to another crack system under another small roof.  P5: Unless some magic pro appears up there, this pitch might need bolts.  This is where the route heads into the darker grey rock, which usually means coral-reef stone.  The good thing is that this rock often has really cool features, so hopefully it is a nice pitch.  P6:  This was the other big surprise, the last pitch is a looonnng wide crack, an opened up lieback that goes on for pretty much a full pitch (you can see it just left of the left-most huge roof near the top of the wall).  Looks exciting!

I scoped out another potential route to the left, it also looks like a great route, although it would likely need more bolts.

Potential route!  The line would (as far as I can tell) head up the nose between the huge roofs to either side.  It would likely start somewhere between the two conifers growing right at the base; a pitch of slab, then up a couple pitches of protectable dihedral (wall is stained orange), then a tricky pitch to gain another crack system. Above that the rock gets darker (and maybe steeper), but the last pitch is a fat lieback crack that goes on a long ways, pretty much right to the top of the wall! 

Another picture of the route, this time from higher and to the right of the route.  The dihedral is pretty much invisible, as it faces left.

The view from directly below the route.  The orange dihedral is visible, and the exit pitches head up through the obvious notch.  Straight up the wall, pretty much!

My second objective of the day was to try to find a sport crag in the Pass.  I had a couple of leads (from Google Maps, of course) I wanted to check out.  My first foray was into a canyon; I was excited to find lots of steep walls with cool features... but disappointed that they were composed of sandstone.  It's possible that they might turn into decent sport routes with a lot of work, but I am fairly certain that a limestone crag would be better received by local climbers.

My second foray was into a little watercourse on Bluff Mountain.  Lupin and I did find a nice little wall, nicely overhanging with climbable features. Room for maybe 15 - 20 routes, probably in the 5.10 to .12+ range. Downsides?  A 20 minute walk uphill (about 200m of elevation gain), plus it would take a fair bit of work to get the base of the routes in shape (there's a long steep slope of rubble and little cliff bands below the cliff, so landing pads and a bit of trail would have to be made).  Lupin and I spent a fair bit of time and energy adventuring up the side of Bluff mountain, and we came down completely knackered with sore knees and hips.  We're getting old!  A 2 hour bushwhack up a mountain nearly did us in...

Looking up at the crag from below.  It would be dangerous / tricky / adventurous to try and climb up to the base of the cliff from below, but luckily it looks much easier to walk along the base of the cliff (I think).  Another mission will be needed to find out how good the crag really is!  Looks good (and really steep) in this picture, though; it's about 20m high, perfect sport climbing height!

By the time we got back to the van we were pretty beat.  But with a little time left on the clock (it was about 5:00), I couldn't resist taking a stroll in the Slide looking for new problems.  I was surprised to find a stack of new problems not far from the road in an area I hadn't really explored before, including two hard-looking cave problems.  Lots of the problems looked moderate (V0 to V3), and the boulders were fairly close to each other, so it will be a great opportunity to develop another moderate circuit similar to the 'Superheroes' circuit near the House Area parking lot. So much to do in Frank Slide!

By this time, my knees were screaming at me, so Lupin and I drove down to the Crowsnest River, where I sat with my legs in the cool water for a half-hour.  A great way to end an exhausting day!

I would to thank Mike Doyle and Mark Guckert for sending me a link to a great website describing elbow injuries due to climbing.  It gives me hope that with a little work and a lot of care, I'll manage to get some climbing in this year all!    

Stay safe!  Cheers!

1 comment:

climbingamerica said...

Mountain climbing, also called mountaineering or alpining, can incorporate several aspects of the sport. It can be a mix of rock climbing, ice climbing and mixed climbing. Rock climbing is, of course, more likely to be done on areas where there is no ice and is probably more related to summer activities.

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