Friday, July 16, 2010

Trad Climbing Course in the Bow Valley

Leading a gear climb at Wasootch.

On the weekend, three great guys joined me for a Trad Climbing Course. They were all experienced sport climbers and were able to pick up the basics of gear climbing in no time! The terms "trad climbing" and "gear climbing" refer to leading rock climbs that don't have bolts on them. Instead, the climber must place a variety of metal objects, such as cams and nuts, into cracks in the rock in order to have something to clip the rope to.

Searching for gear placements at Wasootch.
For our first day we hit the limestone of Wasootch Creek in Kananaskis. The first couple hours was spent on the ground, practicing placing nuts & cams into a variety of cracks. Once everyone was getting the hang of things, I set up a couple top-ropes on crack climbs and everyone took turns climbing them and placing gear as they went. By lunch time we were pulling the ropes and taking turns leading! Most of the afternoon was spent leading a variety of climbs, and it was good to see everyone placing good gear and climbing safely. We also spent some time building anchors by equalizing three or four pieces of gear. On the drive home we stopped at a small bit of rock near the road and I demonstrated placing pitons and everyone took turns hammering in a couple of their own.

The beautiful crags at Back of the Lake. Mt. Lefroy in the background.
Sunday we switched rock types and went to the world class quartzite at Back of the Lake in Lake Louise. Since we have already practiced many skills the day before, everyone was leading in no time. In general the gear is more solid and easier to place on quartzite, so everyone pushed their limits a bit more on some harder climbs. After leading a number of routes, we practiced the basics of multipitch climbing and how to transition through each belay station. Later in the day I set up some harder climbs so that they could experience removing gear and climbing on harder routes. Just to make sure no one left without getting pumped, I set up the mega-classic's Extra Dry and Violet Hour at the end of the day.
It seemed like everyone left with the skills and confidence to get out leading gear climbs on their own, and I look forward to hearing about their future adventures!
J. Mills

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