So after vaguely scaring the piss out of myself on the Grand Sentinel, I figured a more relaxed day was in order for the following day. I rounded up a willing co-conspirator and we started trying to figure out what would be something pleasant to climb.
Cascade is a mountain that is home to a bunch of long, mellow and pleasant ways to spend a day on rock, so after briefly considering returning to an old favourite we decided that instead maybe we should go check out something new.
As luck would have it, last July Brandon Pullan and Gaby James put up a new 7 pitch 5.7 route called Wheat Kings that I had heard had was nice and pleasant if a little dirty. Another thing I'd heard is that finding the bottom of the route wasn't a completely trivial task.
We parked at the Cascade Parking lot and absolutely immediately got lost. I'm not really sure what the deal is, but the route and approach description in Gripped isn't the clearest...
The first thing the approach description says to do is park at the Cascade parking area which is easy enough to find and do - get off the highway at the first Banff exit and turn right instead of left. The first parking area on the left is your destination. From there you are supposed to walk past the air strip and gain a small trail. This does NOT mean skirt across the top of the strip and gain the Cascade Waterfall trail. You know, in case you are dumb enough to make that mistake... No, instead, follow the jeep road down the entire length of the air strip.
Just past the end of the air strip, look for a small cairn on the right and trend right through a mess of increasingly faint and confused double tracks which quickly become single tracks. The key is to find an old, somewhat overgrown road bed that follows the base of the cliff.
A ways down this trail, a somewhat larger cairn is sitting on the right again - look for a connection to a decent trail continuing to follow the base of the cliff but now beginning to climb through the trees.
Eventually you will reach a fractured boulder just off the trail which seems to match the one in the approach description, but isn't. If you start switchbacking up here, you face a miserable scree slog. Instead, you want to keep going until there's a second (solid) boulder seemingly sitting right on the trail - this is where you want to start switchbacking up. A few minutes of switchbacking up will bring you to the base of the cliff - look for YAC (yet another cairn) with a couple of bolts above.
Congratulations, you found the route. Hopefully in less than the hour and a half of brush thrashing and creek crossings it took us.
Okay, onto the next piece of confusion.
If you look at the Gripped route description, buried in a paragraph about the Tragically Hip and Gord Downie, is a curious statement about how while the route is bolted, it isn't a sport route. Hmmm...
Well we didn't bring trad gear and we didn't miss it. The route IS a sport route - it's just run out in places. I ended up leading the 'harder' pitches and despite my terrible fear of heights and non-existent lead head, the runout never bothered me. The route climbs at low fifth class most of the time with only short steps of mid fifth - bolts felt well placed to protect the 'difficult' moves.
As with other Pullan routes I've climbed, the grade seemed a little soft to me - if you are a 5.7 climber, I wouldn't expect you to have any trouble.
Anyway, once on route we cruised up and got to appreciate some of the best views in the Bow Valley, mellow 5.fun climbing and great weather. I definitely recommend Wheat Kings if you are looking for a mellow day out or have a less experienced climber with you.
After the high-stress, high-reward day on the Grand Sentinel the day before, Wheat Kings was a perfect reminder that you can have a fun, rewarding day in the mountains without scaring the crap out of yourself.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.