Walsh, Slawinski Establish Roadside Alpine Line

Posted on: April 8, 2008

Looking up the corner chimney of Dirty Love (M7, 12 pitches, ca. 500+m) on the west aspect of Mt. Wilson (3260m), Alberta, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies. Visible are the first eight, harder pitches of the headwall. Jon Walsh and Audrey Gariepy climbed most of the feature at the end of March, then Walsh completed the new line in its entirety with Alpinist Correspondent Raphael Slawinski from April 5-6, 2008. [Photo] Jon Walsh

Two weekends ago, Audrey Gariepy and I made an attempt on a prominent, unclimbed feature along the Icefields Parkway. For years I'd been eyeing the rocky cocktail, which ascends the big quartzite corner/chimney system high above Shooting Star on the west aspect of Mt. Wilson (3260m). In a 27-hour car-to-car effort, we climbed nearly three quarters of it. But Audrey left the Rockies for her tree-planting season, so this past weekend, April 5-6, Raphael Slawinski and I teamed up and sent the route.

Dirty Love (M7, 12 pitches, ca. 500+m) took us 23 hours to climb car to summit, and due to darkness and a whiteout, another 8 hours to descend. Some of the snow mushrooms and icicles cleaned from my previous attempt saved us some hard work. To descend, we rappelled Living in Paradise, as poor snow stability and very difficult trail breaking prevented us from getting to our intended walk off, Lady Wilson's Cleavage.


As Shooting Star rarely forms and wasn't in, we began with the first pitch of Totem Pole, which was in M5 shape, and avoided the sketchy-looking second pitch by angling right up a snow gully toward Shooting Star. After 45 minutes of hiking, we encountered a second approach pitch (30m of M5 drytooling). Fortunately our footsteps from the previous week were mostly preserved, making the next 2.5 hours of slogging a little easier.

The corner system starts around 2700m, about 1400m above the highway, and goes directly to the summit through more than 500 meters of vertical terrain. There was lots of thin ice, lots of chimneying—from squeeze to foot to back to stemming—and there were plenty of chockstones that created very entertaining and pumpy overhangs, always with ice above. It was amazing how much ice was on every pitch, yet almost all the gear was in rock. We climbed it in twelve pitches. The first eight are very steep and sustained at M6-M7 and average between 30 and 40 meters each. Above are three longer M5 pitches and one snow pitch to finish at the summit. We left the climb clean, no bolts added.

It was great to discover how much ice was on the route, so high above the road, and to find such high-quality climbing pitch after pitch. And best of all: it's roadside alpinism with plenty of technical, sustained climbing at a hard but fun difficulty.

Gariepy finishing the stem on Pitch 2 (M7) of the headwall. This chimney feature is typical of many of Dirty Love's pitches. [Photo] Jon Walsh

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