May 25, 2015
“The Rundlehorn” is a popular multi-pitch sport climbing route (250 m, 11 pitches, 5.4/5.5) often used as an introductory for beginner-level climbers. Over the past few years I’ve heard awesome stories from quite a few friends and even the guides were recommending Rundlehorn so I’d been looking forward to try it out. The downside of being such a classic is the likelihood of drawing tens of climbers on its popular days. Like the classic alpine climbs (Assiniboine, Sir Donald, etc), my solution to avoid the crowds was to attempt on weekdays. This past Monday seemed like a reasonable day with some chances of afternoon showers in the forecast.
Brandon Boulier and I had a great day on Mt. Ishbel last year and ever since that trip we’d been trying to schedule another one. Brandon is a very experienced rock climber and having just attempted Rundlehorn a couple weeks ago (only to be turned around by high winds on the second-to-last pitch) he knew exactly where to go. As usual for Brandon’s trip we met at Shoudice Arena at 6 am in the morning and within two hours we’d already geared up at the base of the climb. The approach was very short (10 minutes or so) but fairly steep so provided some good warm-up. According to the Banff Rock guidebook there’re two options to start this route. One is to ascend directly up the ridge and the other ascends steep slabs on climber’s right side which is also the rappelling route. According to Brandon the latter is a lot more fun and has much better rock quality.
The 11 pitches on this route can be divided into two 5-pitch sections, connected by a single pitch of 3rd/4th class scrambling along an obvious ledge. The second half is slightly harder than the first but both sections have great rock quality (in other words, lots of Type 1 fun). As we approaching the climb I immediately noticed the terrain was a bit less intimidating than another 5.5 route I did a couple days ago – N. Ridge of Wasootch Tower. Brandon led up the 1st pitch efficiently and as I following up I confirmed this was indeed much easier for a route rated at the same grade, so the decision was made to swap lead for every pitch. This would be faster and also get me some essential experience on leading. The 2nd to 5th pitches went uneventful and the connecting scrambling pitch was as easy as expected.
The 7th to 11th pitches had slightly more challenging climbing. Again, we swapped lead for every pitch and it was fast and fun. There was some micro-terrain route-finding to deal with as I nearly missed a bolt or two by not paying enough attention, but overall it’s basically climbing straight up. Weather was better than expected so far but we could see the some dark clouds moving in from west so immediately started preparing for the rappel.
Due to the length of this route we got to practice a lot of rappelling. Theoretically we should have done 10 rappels, from station to station except for that scrambling pitch but having Brandon’s 70-meter rope we combined a few together. The process started to get mundane and tedious towards the end, but the highlight of this trip was actually meeting a guided group on their way up. After some brief chatting we soon realized the guide was Jay Mills – a celebrity in Rockies mountaineering (N. Face of Alberta, Infinite Patience on Robson, E. Face of Cline to name a few routes he’s done). The rest of the way back to car was steep and fast.
Overall this was a very fun day “stealing” a multi-pitch rock route given the questionable weather forecast. I think I’ll start ticking off some other classic routes in the near future!!