I have been bugging Jeff to do the Calgary Route since I heard about all the squeeze chimneys last year. He finally caved and took Adrian and I up it.
The route starts with quite a bit of scrambling and rambling terrain. Adrian and I led the first 3 pitches, which had some awkward sections, but nothing hard and lots of protection. Those pitches popped us up on a big ledge beneath a long, intimidating chimney. They chimney was so intimidating that Jeff announced it couldn’t be correct. In hindsight, the intimidating chimney was correct and we should have climbed it. He took off exploring around the corner. After traversing, up-climbing and down-climbing, he eventually built an anchor below a chockstone roof and belayed Adrian and I over. Once we got there, Jeff announced that the roof looked familiar and he was fairly sure Tobias had led it, so we were all happy to be back on track.
Beta Photo: If you see this, you are not on the Calgary route anymore.
It turned out the roof was a lot harder than it looked. There was a lot of swearing and when Jeff pulled through, he looked back and yelled ‘5.6 my ass!’. He then continued up some laybacking/slabby corners which would have taken beautiful #’4s if we had any. The next belay was a little cave below a chockstone, where I got stuffed in the corner to stay out of the way. Jeff was once again wondering if we were in the right place and we were starting to wish we had brought some pins. Luckily there were enough chockstones that we thought we could rapell the route, if needed.
The next pitch was some fun corner rambling, followed by a piton ‘sport’ section that led back to a squeeze chimney. You had to crawl around a corner, go down a bit and then squeeze up and behind a chockstone. It was awkward, but Jeff was happy that this new way up took you into the chimney close to the chockstone. Apparently starting the chimney from the scree cone below was much scarier. We squeezed our way up the chimney, with more swearing and groaning, Jeff said something about bad life choices, but soon enough we were up on another ledge with a summit register. When we got there, Jeff announced we were only halfway up the route and had two more chimneys to go. It was 5:45 and we started feeling like it would be a late night.
This is what most of the climbing ‘should’ look like.
However, when Jeff started looking around for the directions on the next pitch, he noticed that there was a lot of light above us. It turned out we were only 20m from the top! There was technically another chimney, but Jeff scooted out left on the face and climbed up. There was no anchor on the top, but he dragged most of the rope out going up and over the other side of a scree slope and then gave us a pretty secure belay off his harness.
It turned out that what Jeff had though looked familiar was in fact not the Calgary route and not something he had ever climbed. We found a variation that we think is 5.8/5.9, but skips two chimneys. While I was a little sad at missing the chimneys, it was super fun climbing on the variation and I was just happy not to be looking at the lights of Calgary from the route that night!
With both the variation we did and the standard chimney route, you have to be willing to climb stuff that feels a lot harder than 5.6 and you cannot avoid some unprotected chimneys. This is not the same type of climb as Easy Street. The entire route was covered in slung chockstones that people had bailed on. You need a lot of long slings and cord, as your anchors in the chimney are chockestones and so is all of the protection.
The fun easy chimney at the bottom.
After doing a couple chimneys as a second with a pack, I have some suggestions for anyone else planning to do this route.
1. Prussic the back to the rope, so that the belayer is helping pull it up
2. Hang the pack from a long enough cord that it ends up dangling between your legs when you do the ‘froggy’ climbing maneuver. I tried a shorter attachment and ended up shoving the pack up with my head. It was awkward
3. Make the pack as small and light as possible. This is a long route, so some water and shoes are required, but when you are shoving the pack up with your face and wiggling for inches, you will feel like it weighs a lot.
Julie Morter, June 27, 2017
July 4, 2017