I don't think I've ever gone to Sunshine Slabs willingly. The funny thing is, it's my favourite crag to climb at. The thing is, if I'm climbing there, it's because several plans have gone wrong already. It's the gawdamned consolation prize of the Bow Valley for me.
So where the hell did it start?
Plan A was to ski a couloir, but the recent snow and stability forced us to write that plan off.
So instead, Katherine and I met up this morning to go try and recreate our success on the Shoe the other day by climbing another Bow Valley multi-pitch super early in the season. While drinking some sweet, sweet Oso Negro coffee in Canmore at the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company (go for the bagels, stay for the coffee), we considered our options. Katherine was stoked to try Valley View on Cascade and I sort of have unfinished business with Plutonian Shores at Raven Crag which I once bailed from the bottom of when it started raining and then bailed from top of the fifth pitch with Katherine when we got caught in a not-entirely unexpected monsoon.
We were trying to decide which routes would actually work since there was A LOT more snow in the mountains than there was a couple of weeks ago.
We vacillated back and forth while also considering a few other options before deciding on Plutonian - it's super tightly bolted and is easy to retreat from (after all, we have practice) if we discovered there was too much snow.
So, Plan B was officially selected as being Plutonian Shores. Of course as soon as we got to teh parking lot and looked up at the route, we could see the whole thing was blanketed in snow. We briefly considered giving it a go anyway, but then decided that was stupid, so we loaded back into the PWDRWGN and headed for Plan C: Valley View.
Plan C was looking super promising. Bankhead Buttress was almost entirely snow free so we thought we were gold. Right up until we discovered that the Lake Minnewanka Road that we needed was still closed for the winter as it serves as a wildlife corridor. Who knew.
Okay, so Plan C was a bust.
Plan D was an extremely half hearted look Mother's Day Buttress, also on Cascade. We could get far enough down the road to access parking for that closer route, but looking up we could see that while the route was free of snow, the walk-off the top would involve a pretty suicidal traverse through a snowloaded bowl. Slipping and falling or getting avalanched after a rock climb seemed like a poor idea, so we scrapped that one too.
Getting desperate, for Plan E we took a look at Rundlehorn, but while the route itself was clear, the unprotected ramp that connects the top and bottom halves is currently an icy slip and slide.
So that took us to Plan F. 1:30 in the afternoon, another day of driving up and down the Bow Valley and we slunk back into the parking lot for Sunshine Slabs. After a day of aborting for winter road closures, avalanche hazard, and snow covered rock, we found ourselves once again getting ready to climb at our old fail safe.
The rock was warm, it was dry-ish in most places and we only got mildly snowed on as a couple of minor squalls passed overhead.
We definitely weren't the only people who ended up there - there were a number of other parties sharing the crag with us. We scrambled up to 'The Ledge' which we had entirely to ourselves and then starting all the way climber's right at Panoramic (5.7) we just worked our way across the crag to the Geez Louise - a super fun and super balancy 5.10b.
That's the thing with Sunshine Slabs; I never choose to go there, but I end up there all the time when other plans go sideways - and every time I remember just how nice the routes are, how it is always magically warm enough, how the rock is always dry and how it might be my Plan F - but it's still a super good day out.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.