I’ve always trusted my gut when it comes to who I should climb long routes with and when I met 16-year-old Cory Rogans, I knew I’d found someone I could trust up high. His mom, once a top climber who’d roped up with the late Yosemite climber Todd Skinner, was more than stoked for Cory to go up high with me. I met him at Elevation Place, the local gym in Canmore, and asked if he’d join me for a lap up my route Soft Moth on Ha Ling. He was keen and assured me about his rope skills. Having been on the national biathlon team as an athlete and coach, I knew his cardio would be up to the task of moving quickly.
Although the 11-pitch route has some 5.9 moves, it’s mostly 5.6 and 5.7. We left late in the day under a clear sky with winds howling from the south through Whiteman’s Gap between Ha Ling and eeor on Mount Rundle. The water in the reservoir was white-capping as we ran across the dam, through the trees and up the scree. Soft Moth is the first route on the wall’s north face when approaching from the west, so we were at the base in about 20 minutes after leaving the car.
Rogans and I completed the route in under an hour, having simul-climbed a number of pitches in a howling wind. We ran back to the car and before the sun set, completed Godzilla, another four-pitch 5.9. We rappelled in a serious rain storm and were soaked to the bone. It was our first day of climbing together and I could tell that he was hungry for more. Back with friends an hour later, Rogans told them, “Rapping off Godzilla was interesting with a rather stout rain storm. We were so wet and cold. Such a quality evening.”
It continued to rain, but Rogans trained at the gym and visited dry-ish crags. He was making 5.12s look like 5.10 with his big wing-span and steady balance. “With all this rain and being tied up at home, I’m having withdrawal symptoms from climbing,” he told me after a few days of rain. “It’s amazing how addictive it really is.” With a good forecast, we packed our bags for the 600metre Ship’s Prow, an old-school line on the Nakoda Range south of Canmore. The prow was first climbed over 40 years ago and freed in the 1980s. We left the car at 5 a.m. and Rogans charged up the trail to Grassy Knoll. His speediness got us up the three-hour trail in only one. Big clouds rumbled with thunder as we sussed out the route. I’d never met anyone who’d climbed it and the line was loose with no way down but the walkoff. Rogans really wanted it, but I suggested we find a more mellow line. We traversed under the massive wall to the south end, a section you can’t see from town. We spotted a few lines and Rogans insisted he wanted to attempt a striking crack up a slab.
I led the first pitch up amazing stone with good gear. At the belay, Rogans said, “Insane dude, I’ve never been so stoked. Probably like 5.8, eh?” I said, “Probably not that easy, but if you’re stoked, then take a look.” He racked up but left the hammer and pitons behind. Moving into the crack, he got a sinker three-inch cam before moving onto the slab. The vegetation was wet from all of the rain and he was slipping on it. The crack narrowed, but he could get a few small nuts. He said, “This is pumpy and slick and I think I need the pitons. I clipped them and the hammer onto the tag line and he pulled them up. “I’ve never placed a piton,” he said hanging onto small edges. He managed to get a piton off a biner and place it in a thin crack. With his first big swing, the piton pinged out and flew off the wall. “Just light taps,” I said, as he readied the second piton. After a few good swings of the hammer, he had a solid piton. He placed three more on the 5.10c crack pitch before building a brilliant anchor. I finished the route up a stellar 5.9 corner and we walked off in light rain. Rogans called the route Scurvy, because of the Ship’s Prow theme and for his exhaustive lead.
The summer continued like that; we’d go on fast adventures up classic routes. We climbed Mother’s Day Buttress near Banff, which normally takes four hours car-to-car, in just over an hour. It was Rogans’ stoke and efficient rope-work that helped us move quickly. On my 2006 five-pitch route Yeti Buttress up Cougar Creek, Rogans’ positive attitude helped me send a pitch I didn’t think I could. On the 5.10c crux, I spent 20 minutes of pensive up-and-and-downing while gripped, but Rogans kept the right attitude. “Just focus man,” said Rogans. “Just like you did it all those years ago, no rush.” It was the encouragement I needed to complete the crux above bad gear.
This winter, Rogans started ice climbing and quickly picked it up. He was a confident WI4+ lead climber after only a few months. He’s still on the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Youth Team and is a decorated National Biathlon competitor, but it’s clear that Rogans recent discovery of his skills on technical alpine and rock terrain will be taking him to more serious objectives. As a confident 5.12 climber, nationallevel mountain endurance and with a good head, Rogans is hoping to complete some big mountain routes this summer.—BP
Left: Cory Rogans with the Three Sisters behind
Bottom: Rogans on the first ascent of Scurvy’s stout second pitch