North­ern Faces

Cory Ro­gans

Gripped - - CONTENTS -

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

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