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