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Early Season Canadian Rockies Route Explosion by Swiss Team


Steck on Not Flying is Not Trying (M8 WI6). The route is traditionally protected. [Photo] Courtesty of Ueli Steck

"We were not sure what we wanted to do. The second pitch is the hardest one. So if we fall on the second pitch, should we keep going and climb all the upper pitches, or should we try until we've free climbed the second pitch? We hiked up very early so that we would have enough time. At 8:30 a.m. we were at the start of the route. The first pitch went fast. Easy, only M5. Then I started for the second pitch. The climbing is not that hard but very unstable. The hooks are small and slippery... The first part of the pitch goes over a roof. After the roof you are awake. And then the real unstable climbing begins. It took a long time on that pitch to find the hooks, but I found them. After forty minutes the crux pitch was done. Very motivated, we kept going. [The route has] several pitches where you shouldn't fall.

"After Pitch 3 there is a WI 5+ X pitch. This pitch is 59 meters long and there is no real protection. [You have to] just keep climbing and trust your ice tools... We topped out around 5 p.m., and we finished a perfect day at 7:30 p.m. in Lake Louise [by] having a coffee. Another great day in the Canadian Rockies."


The new route joins Rocketman after four pitches for a new route titled Rocketbaby (VI M8+ WI5+ X). Steck recommends that, in addition to the ten to twelve short ice screws, you bring "a strong head."

Two days later, the two returned yet again to Howse Peak. "Yesterday we had again an early start to Howse Peak. 3:30 a.m.: When we arrived at the parking lot, there were already 20 centimeters of fresh snow. So it must have snowed quite hard the day before. We knew from last time... that under these conditions there is no way to go to the face. So we slept for another two hours in the car, just to get daylight and see the face from the car. And we began to think about big avalanches up there. So, no climbing on Howse Peak... We drove back to Canmore, quite depressed. The weather was just too good. Since our arrival in Canada it was the first day with blue sky..."

The duo, half the day gone, drove to Banff, dashed what is normally a two-and-a-half-hour hike to Mt. Rundle in forty-five minutes, and proceeded to repeat Sea of Vapors (WI5/6, 165m) in what they described as WI7 conditions. "The short ice screws were mostly too long. And the protection was just not nice. But we climbed the route, and we were back in Canmore, and it was still daylight."

Approaching Crowfoot Mountain in the early morning light. [Photo] Courtesty of Ueli Steck

After weather yet again prevented an ascent of Howse Peak, the Swiss climbed Sacre Bleu (WI5+) and Ten Years After (WI5+ M5), which Steck decided to solo. "I was very much motivated to climb the route once more, but without rope. I had a pretty hard time since my accident at Annapurna, and I had some problems getting focused again. I felt it was time to climb this route again and get back my strong head. It took me about half an hour to get focused before I started the climb once more without rope. I am very happy, because it worked out really nice. I enjoyed the whole climb and I was really sure about it."

On November 3, the duo was back at it on Mt. Rundle, repeating Razor Blade (WI4+ R, 125m), which Daniel Dulac, Eric Dumerac and Steve Holeczi had climbed the day prior, adding four pitches through the icy rock band above to create the new Leviathan (WI5+).

Next, Steck and Anthamatten put up another new route, Not Flying is Not Trying (M8 WI6) on all natural gear.

"The first pitch was 60 meters, WI5+. The second pitch took us a long time to get the gear in. But there are no bolts on this route. Simon did all the gearing."

"Afterwards it was my turn to free the pitch. I climbed up on all this scary gear. I climbed all the way up to the crux and just before you can clip the good angle-pin, I broke the hook, and I went for a ride... I remember that I realized that the knifeblade was ripping off. The fall was stopped by a sling that was around a small ice icicle of maybe 10 centimeters of diameter... but it held. After this I finished the pitch and Simon lowered me down.

Approaching the new route on Crowfoot Mountain. [Photo] Courtesty of Ueli Steck

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