Another Day, Another Climb, Another Snowstorm

There's times when you start up an objective fully appreciating that you're pushing conditions and are therefore mentally prepared for when things get interesting.

Then there's when you go out expecting decent weather, but things don't quite pan out that way.

I've been working on a couple of upcoming articles, but I really wanted a few decent action photos before I post them. To try and make that happen, I pleaded my way into joining Katherine and Skyler on a climb Saturday. They were casting about for options that were clear of snow, moderate grade, and had low early season rockfall potential and Valley View fit every one of those requirements.

Valley View is on Cascade's Bankhead Buttress in the Bow Valley. Tabvar has a great description and topo. It's 6 pitches of climbing to 5.9. If you're coming from Calgary, get off Highway 1 at the exit for Banff and Lake Minnewanka. Instead of turning left into Banff, hang a right. Less than a kilometer down there's an intersection where you can go straight or right. Go straight. Shortly after that, you'll see drainage on your left and pull out just a couple of meters farther on the right. Park there - the approach is up the drainage. Follow the Tabvar route description from there.

The description of Valley View on Tabvar and Banff Rock say to bring a light rack. Both times I've climbed Valley View, we've done that and both times we never placed a piece of gear. Skyler commented a couple of times about great cam placements that have a bolt within two feet. I'm not sure if it's rebolted since the description was first written - but while you should feel free to bring some pro, it's not strictly necessary. 

Anyway, so we met up this morning at 8am at Katherine's loaded into the PWDRWGN, and hit the road. After our obligatory stop for coffee and bagels in Canmore, we finished the drive to the start of the approach.

Westcomb Ambassador Skyler Des Roches in his technical approach Dr. Martens, taping his fingers.

The approach goes quickly - my advice is to stick to the trees on the right side of the drainage and not get suckered into following the creek bed. As you get to the base of the wall, you scramble up a ways. It's a decently stiff scramble, but if you aren't comfortable downclimbing it, you can rap to the bottom.

Katherine and Skyler on the scramble up to the first belay stance for Valley View

The base of Valley View is a touch confusing. As you scramble up, you'll eventually reach an outcrop of rock. To climber's left there's a rib with bolts leading up. To get from the outcrop to the rib, you need to traverse a narrow ledge. The traverse isn't difficult, but it's unprotected.

Westcomb Ambassador Skyler and 'Phil's Usual Rope Gun' Katherine getting their shoes and game faces on. The route starts by scrambling across the ledge below - it's a bit of an awkward start.

Not realizing the intent of the first bolt was to be a belay bolt, we chose to belay from the approach side of the ledge. To mitigate the danger (basically so that if Katherine fell she wouldn't take Skyler with her), Katherine scrambled across trailing a rope but off belay until she clipped the first bolt. Six of one, half dozen of the other. 

Valley View starts with a scramble across a small ledge and one move of 4th class climbing before you get to the a belay bolt. Take your time. We belayed from the other side of the ledge, but let Katherine scramble across off belay first so that if Katherine fell before reaching the first bolt, she wouldn't take Skyler with her.

At the base of the route, there were warning signs. It wasn't warm. It wasn't freezing, but it wasn't warm. Katherine did what Katherine does and took off up the first pitch so I dicked around getting some photos. We were planning of flipping leads and doing a lot of faffing about to get some photos - but by the time we were on the second pitch it started snowing. Super.

It's been blazing sunshine and warm lately, but the second we go to get out on rock, it starts puking snow. Typical.

The result was a bit less photo faff - especially after Skyler's camera died, and we realized we were frickin cold, so we hussled up the route. It seemed like every time Skyler and I ended up belaying Katherine, it would get windy and start snowing which made us cold. We probably should have spared a thought for Katherine who was getting to lead through it, but mostly we were commiserating about how cold we were.

Yep, just a classic 'Phil and Katherine go climbing' mid-route blizzard.

Luckily, just like on Aftonroe the other weekend, we got enough breaks in weather to keep us from pulling the plug. Blizzards while Katherine climbed, blazing sunshine while Skyler or I climbed. I think there was maybe two pitches where it didn't snow on Katherine while she was climbing.

Katherine, on one of the few pitches she didn't lead and didn't get snowed on.

All in all, it was a colder day than I'd expected, but still a great day. If you're looking for an early season objective, I think Valley View is a great option. Earlier in the season, the Minnewanka road is closed at the forkk for wildlife, but it's a super quick walk to the start of the approach, so not a big deal. It gets tons of sun (even when it's snowing) the grade is moderate, it's well bolted and the views really are incredible. Definitely worth a climb, especially before it gets crowded.

Katherine huddles for warmth while waiting for me to stop playing with my camera.

Really the only downside on the day was getting home and finding a tick buried into my chest - though assuming I don't get riddled with one of the countless, awful diseases they carry, even that isn't the end of the world.

I hope.

Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.