Plan A: Early Season Aftonroe

So after Saturday's gong show of driving all over the Bow Valley, you'd be forgiven for assuming Katherine and I would find something to do other than rock climbing on Sunday.

But you'd be wrong. Super, super wrong.

See, the upshot of driving all over the Bow Valley is that we also go to scope out what was in and what wasn't and one thing we saw that was in was Aftonroe. Aftonroe is 8 or 9 pitches (depending on how you do things) up to 5.7. Lots of slab, super pleasant route. We didn't jump on climbing it Saturday because by the time we were somewhere we could scope it out, it was too late in the day to realistically start up it.

So, we came up with a plan.

We decided to rope some friends of ours - Suze and Bode - into joining us. While they don't normally go in for this sort of early season shenanigans (something about not enjoying misery), Bode's having ACL surgery later this week so this would be her last chance to get on rock for a few weeks.

We met up at 8am in Calgary, stopped in Canmore for breakfast and then were hiking up to the climb by 10am.

Suze and Katherine on the approach to Aftonroe.

The approach to Aftonroe is pretty straightforward - from the parking lot on Highway 1A, you just follow the well defined climbers trail steeply up the hill. The face is really two buttresses split by a deep groove. The trail begins to braid and you want to trend right to the right hand buttress. There's a couple of obvious lines of bolts on this buttress, you're looking for the right hand one with a small tree right at the base of it. 

Bode, stoked about the snow squall that just rolled over us

We started up some broken slab as two rope teams. There's not much rockfall potential on Aftonroe, so we really climbed together, regrouping and sharing anchors as we went.

The advantage of sharing belay stances with another party is you can all huddle for warmth...

At the start of the climb, the wind had been howling and cold. I have to be honest that I don't think we would have finished the climb if it had stayed like that. Luckily, the weather would be howling wind and light snow followed by periods of bright sun and no wind - these breaks gave us just enough time to warm up and remember that this was fun before the next snow squall would roll in.

5.7 slab in howling wind and blowing snow as the rock gets wetter and wetter. Bode was a rockstar on lead.

For all that the wind and snow were dramatic, thinking back on the day, what I remember was the super nice periods of calm sunshine. Maybe that's the difference between people who like this stuff and people who don't. If you fixate on the parts that sucked, you probably won't do it again. If you just remember having fun, you probably will.

Katherine kept huddling under ropes for warmth.

About half way up the route, there's a large plateau, followed by a short step up to a ledge where we paused to have a bite to eat, warm up and hang out.

The pitch that leaves the ledge starts up a tree. Seriously, if there's a way to start that pitch that doesn't use that tree, I don't know what it is. Katherine comfortably leads deep into 10s, and she used the tree. I've climbed this route a couple of times with people way, way stronger than me, and I've never seen someone not use the tree.

Katherine leads out of the tree.

From there, we just had a couple more pitches to climb, which was good because the most impressive storm of the day rolled in.

Warm and happy despite the snow. Photo: Jenel Bode

The last pitch to the top was dicey as for the first time the rock was genuinely wet, but as soon as we topped out, the weather once again broke.

Happy on top of Aftonroe with the last few flakes of the day.

The rappel down the route was actually super pleasant. We worked as one team of four and did single pitch rappels. Katherine would lead off while I coiled the other rope, I would then hand off the rope to Suze or Bode who would go next. When I got to the bottom of that pitch, the next rappel was already set up and I would immediately pull and coil the next rope. It made for quick work of things and had a lower risk of getting a rope stuck than if we did double length rappels.

Suze raps a pitch with a horribly coiled rope around her shoulders.

When I got to the plateau, I discovered I was getting the most apathetic fireman's belay ever as all three of my climbing partners were culled up like cats in the sunshine.

Finally, down at the bottom of the route, Suze noticed a tick on her glove, so heads up out there, tick season is definitely back on. In fact, despite doing a tick check at the car and a full 'get naked in the shower' tick check when I got home, I still found one crawling in my hair later that evening. I hate ticks.

 Moral of the story? With a little recce, even the latest snowfall hasn't been enough to delay the climbing season. Yea, there's snow on some routes, and yea, the weather isn't totally ideal, and yea, it's still frickin cold out there some days, but the climbing season is here. 

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