50 Years at Guides Rock, Alta.

Im­pec­ca­ble Rock­ies Multi-pitch Lime­stone is Per­fect for Spring

Gripped - - CONTENTS -

Guides Rock is one of Banff Na­tional Park’s most his­toric multi-pitch crags and is only about a 10-minute drive from down­town Banff. The ap­proach is steep with a num­ber of calf-burn­ing switch­backs, but only lasts about 20 min­utes be­fore you ar­rive at the base. The lime­stone is stip­ply with some nat­u­ral cracks, but more deep water-run­nels that pro­vide fun pinch­ing and foot jams. Most of the climbs are bolted, but some old and bold tra­di­tional lines ex­ist. It’s south fac­ing, so it’s al­ways in the sun and can get breezy in the sum­mer, but it’s a per­fect place to climb in early spring.

Guides Rock is a Ver­don-like steep ridge above the Bow River on Mount Cory. It was once only used by lo­cals for guide and res­cue train­ing back in the 1950s and ’60s, but once tech­ni­cal rock climb­ing be­gan,

the po­ten­tial for high-qual­ity climbs was dis­cov­ered. The first route up was by Brian Green­wood and Tim Auger in the mid1970s up an ob­vi­ous fea­ture they called Three Rooves. It was climbed once with a few points of aid be­fore go­ing free at 5.10b, now 5.10c due to pol­ished rock. The steep crack climb avoided the more chal­leng­ing fin­ish up the strik­ing head­wall.

In 1978, Mike Sawyer saw a line through the head­wall that would even­tu­ally re­de­fine bold lo­cal climb­ing. He called his new route Pa­per Chase 5.11 and it was a to­tally new style of rock climb­ing in the Rock­ies.

It ven­tured onto a blank look­ing wall and had var­ied cruxes on the out­stand­ing fi­nal pitch that surfs up waves of stone. Sawyer climbed it with Carl Aus­trom and their first as­cent caused a stir lo­cally and even out in Squamish. The next route through the head­wall was in 1980 and was called Rain Check 5.10b. From the se­cond roof on Three Rooves, Chris Dale and Dave Mor­gan climbed the di­rect head­wall on small holds. They climbed it in a rain storm and ran the cruxes out over 20 feet.

The next route was Take It For Gran­ite 5.9 up the lower an­gel rib east of the main face by Bob Sawyer and Dan Guthrie. It was 30 years later that the now-fa­mous Afton­roe 5.7 was bolted up an 11-pitch line. My Wish Has Been Gran­ite 5.10 was added to Sawyer and Guthrie’s line a few years later. Then in 1984, Sean Dougherty and Mike Gla­ti­o­tis es­tab­lished Di­rect Start to Pa­per Chase, 5.10c. Then Mark Dube and Guthrie added The Hook 5.10a as a new fin­ish to Rain Check. Joe Bu­zowski, who helped de­velop Back of the Lake, got in on the ac­tion and climbed Close to the Edge 5.10c with Pat Paul.

Dougherty and Brian Bax­ter then climbed Street Life 5.11a af­ter a close call on the wall due to too much Mex­i­can food be­fore the climb. Then Dougherty and Jim Se­vi­gny climbed the sus­tained new Solid Air right of Street Life at 5.11b/c. Bu­zowski sought out a wild new route with Hugs Not Drugs, which he worked on and drilled holes for bolts that Josh Kor­man later led and free climbed, a bold un­der­tak­ing. Bu­zowski, Peter Ar­bic and Guthrie tra­versed the up­per head­wall, though de­tails are vague they called the route Ad­ven­tures in Flesh Land, all on gear in the up­per 5.11 range.

While some hard pitches were added over the next decade, de­vel­op­ment slowed

un­til the bolt­ing of Sea of Dreams 5.10d up a stun­ning arete and through the up­per head­wall by Mark Whalen. The route was con­tro­ver­sial at first, but Whalen was used to the at­ten­tion af­ter bolt­ing the 600-me­tre Sisy­phus Sum­mits 5.10d and the six-pitch True Grit 5.10c near Can­more. Over the past 20 years, a num­ber of new routes have been added, in­clud­ing Cure for Aid 5.11c up a stun­ning arete, Turf Wars 5.10c and the 2018 route called The Wan­derer 5.9.

For 50 years, climbers have been head­ing to Guide’s Rock for windy ad­ven­tures on steep clas­sics. There is still room for mod­ern

routes, like the new The Wan­derer, and the old clas­sics will al­ways be favourites for lo­cals and visi­tors. If you’re pass­ing through Banff this year, es­pe­cially in spring, be sure to stop at Guides Rock to see what all the fuss is about.

How to Get There

Take the exit for John­ston Canyon off the Trans-Canada and drive for just shy of three kilo­me­tres to a pull-out on the left. From there, you can look up and see Guide’s Rock. Cross the road to the dirt trail that di­ag­o­nals up the road cut. Fol­low this to the rock.—Gripped

Top: Mark How­ell on Cheese Grater 5.8

Left: Nico Mag­nan and Will Meinen on Sea of Dreams 5.10d

Above: Small pack rat on Sea of Dreams

Right: Meinen on the up­per wall of Sea of Dreams

Bot­tom: Mag­nan on Sea of Dreams 5.10d

Be­low: Mark How­ell head­ing down Afton­roe on Guides Rock in Banff Na­tional Park

Left: David Smart and Es­ther de Bruijn on Afton­roe

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