June 17, 2012
Kananaskis – Smith Dorrien Valley, AB
Rimwall is one of those summits that guards the Canmore / Bow Valley corridor from the south-west. It appears like a formidable wall from Bow Valley (hence its name), but from the backside it’s a straightforward scramble, well documented in Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. Neil (Travelin’ Jones), Andrea and I did not follow the standard ascent route and instead, we took a short-cut route up from West Wind Pass so encountered some difficult scrambling at places.
This was done as the second objective of this day, after successfully summitting the nearby Windtower. On the way down from Windtower, we studied the route up Rimwall. Because we are confident scramblers, we didn’t want to lose too much elevation to traverse around the rock band. From distance, it looks there might be a treed ledge running diagonally across the bands. We wanted to try this route.
Not far up, we encountered the first difficult section, a 3 m rock band. This provided a good warm up for the later use. At this section we caught up a group of three Calgarians also attempting the same route. The ledge was mildly exposed, and 5 of us didn’t have problem to traverse it. At this point, we had a high hope that this route would work. However, soon after traversing around the ledge, a big wall appears in front of us… It’s about 15 m high, with no apparent ledge or weakness.
Since we had already reached this point, we didn’t want to turn around unless it’s practically impossible. Well, it’s only 15 m high though. Even if it’s a lower 5th class rock climb, I would rather solo it then turning around. None of us brought helmet so at the base of the band, we each took a different line up. Andrea took the rightmost line, while Neil descended slightly towards left and found a way on that side. I took the most direct line which was a crack. Due to the potential fatal consequence if I fell, I tested every hold before grabbing of stepping on. At the top of the crack, I had to traverse slightly to the right with very small holds on solid rock, followed by a friction move to get through. This part is definitely a 5th class terrain. I felt more like doing bouldering in gym on a vertical wall, except for no protection and questionable rock quality. I can’t command on Neil and Andrea’s route. Andrea’s route might be the easiest as she topped out the first. The two Calgarians traversed further right but we never saw them after the rock band, so I’m assuming they didn’t make it through.
We all relieved after finishing this section, but what was waiting for us was, a long tedious rubble slog and side sloping. The brisk sized rock is the worst type. You gonna be patience here. After a long slog we crossed the alternate descending gully, and after that, the rock quality improved dramatically. However, looking back, we could see a storm was coming in. The summit was already soaked in. We tried to beat the rain, but looks like it’s going to beat us. Ten minutes later, we were in a white out, and surprisingly what was felling on us was snow, not rain. There are several 2-meter rock bands on the summit ridge, but nothing tricky. Another 10 min later we were standing on the summit. Now, the miracle happened. The sky started to clear and the layered clouds added drastically to the view. There was no summit register and we did a long summit stay before heading down.
On the way down, we took the scree ski route, which was just like the scree on Yamuska. At the treeline, the terrain got slabby and the gully soon narrows into a canyon. It reminded Neil about Isabelle Peak, and it reminded me about the false fault in Jura Creek. There’s a 15 m water fall that has to be skirted around in the trees on the left side. If wet, don’t venture too close to the edge, as only friction grabs you. If you slip, there’s nothing to stop you. Lower down, there are more interesting rock formation in the canyon, and it’s much fun than simply bushwhacking in the trees. At the bottom, the canyon disappears into thick forest, and we lost sight to each other. I was falling a bit behind since I wasted too much time taking pictures so I thought Neil and Andrea must be far ahead of me, and I speeded up in the forest to try catching them. About a few hundred meters later, I reached the road. Walking back to car, I didn’t find them. I thought they might went to lake shore for views so I walked down to Spray Lake and still didn’t find them… Damn… I thought there must be something happened, as it made no sense to take that long to descend. I walked back again and shouting, and thankfully they soon appeared. There was nothing happened and in fact, after we lost each other, Neil went back to the canyon to see if I was still there, so that’s why it took that long.
On the way walking back to car, we got showered. Perfect timing! Overall, a good two-peak-day under questionable weather forecast, with great companies.