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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I made a quick trip to Banff last weekend for various American Alpine Club and Alpine Club of Canada events, and we were so lucky with the late-fall weather that I ended up skipping most of the meetings and climbing three days in a row. On Friday, John Harlin (editor of the American Alpine Journal) and I did a short route on Yamnuska, Alberta's storied 1,000-foot limestone cliff. The rock on Yam is better than that on many Canadian Rockies peaks, but it's not perfect. Our three-pitch route, Smeagol (5.9) had one junky pitch, one decent pitch, and one superb steep pitch at the top. It wouldn't get the two stars the guidebook gives it in Eldorado Canyon or Yosemite, but it was a great introduction to the cliff on a gorgeous Indian Summer day.

On Sunday, John and I returned to Yam with Phil Powers, executive director of the AAC, hoping to do a full-length route. It was early afternoon by the time we got there and the top of the cliff was in mist, but we figured we could rappel at any time and might as well just go for it. My guidebook weighed about a pound, and we were debating whether and how to carry it when someone had a brilliant idea: Two of us were planning to carry digital cameras anyway, and so we just snapped pictures of the relevant guidebook pages and then zoomed in on them when we needed to figure out where to go en route. Worked great!

Our route (Kahl Wall, 8 pitches, 5.10a) was wandering and ledgy at the bottom, but the upper half was excellent, with steep face and corner climbing on great rock. We got a bit of rain and shivered in our light jackets, and some graupel fell during the last pitch, but we made it to the top and the heavy rain didn't start until we had nearly finished the descent. The next morning it was snowing hard in Calgary. Snuck in another one! Yam reminded me of climbing in the Dolomites (perhaps my favorite destination in the world), and I loved it despite the grueling approach march. I hope to return someday a bit earlier in the season and try one or two of the harder routes.


Anonymous said...

Great shots of our Yam!
I've been returning there for years...Lately if for no other reason than to scramble Yam and relect on the fun and adventure so many of us have had there...It is a power place and a special summit...
"Summit-Stones" by DSD

Anonymous said...

Hey DSD,
Let me know when you want to scramble Yam again! We enjoyed your company and your stories.
Ken & Co.