Sunday, May 25, 2014

Easy Street (5.6), Yamnuska

For my second and Liam's first climb on Yam, we decided to try out Easy Street, a 6 pitch 5.6 route that makes its way up the west end of the iconic wall. From the parking lot, our route looked much shorter than the ones that travel up any other part of Yamnuska, but according to the guide book, it was still over 200m of vertical climbing, and that doesn't include the hike up to the base! We left Calgary at 5am and it was already bright. The sun was up shortly after and it was amazingly warm when we left the car at 6:10 to head up the steep switchbacks to our climb.
Beautiful morning (6:30 am) for the hike up to Yamnuska
 We came to a fork in the climbers approach trail and chose to take the one that continued up rather than across. This proved to be a good idea as we discovered later in the day that the left fork is the trail for the hikers that have descended the huge scree slopes below Yam. That would have been a terrible way to get up to our route! Upon reaching the base of Yam, we took the scree traverse all the way over to the West end. It was easy going after the steep trail, and we were the first ones there!
Scree traverse below the face. Helmets required here in case of rock-fall
 We reached the bottom of the climb at 7:25, not bad! I am definitely going to have to come back and climb unnamed after seeing the bright orange pumpkin painted high on the wall. Liam took the first lead which actually is the first pitch of the Windy Slab route. It sure was windy! By the time I started climbing, my hands were very cold and it was nice to get moving. I found this to be the most difficult pitch of the route, maybe because my hands weren't working so well, or maybe because of the airy moves that have to be made back and forth around some large corners. Either way, I was happy to be following rather than leading!
Pitch 1 - 5.6 
 I lead the next pitch (5.5) up to a set of bolts. It was mostly a traverse and very easy. There were also pitons galore up there which made route finding a bit less challenging if you read the route description carefully. This route bypasses the King's Chimney which is another route I would love to come back and try.
Route-finding at the 2nd belay
 Liam took the next lead which was supposed to be a 5.5, but he took the more direct way up a bolted slab which was actually very fun. The wind had died down at this point and the climbing was much more pleasant than earlier in the morning. After consulting the topo and route description, we realized that we were at the wrong anchor station, but the correct one was about two metres below us. 
Liam leads pitch 3 - 5.5
 I decided just to downclimb to the lower ledge and then continue on up the route. Pitch 4 was a 5.4 and I was able to move up it quickly without placing very much gear. All too soon I arrived at the bolted belay and decided to link the 30 m pitch with pitch 5 (also 30 m). With centimetres to spare I topped out on the BBQ ledge and was able to use the bolts and a long anchor to set up a belay station in the sun. The rope drag was pretty terrible.
More route finding for the last pitch
Selfie on BBQ Ledge
I can see why they call it BBQ ledge!
 Instead of taking the bail out route, we wanted to go all the way to the top. Liam chose the left-most variation (5.8) as our top-out route. This involved a deep, narrow chimney that had good face holds, and could be used to stem your way up the pitch. When I reached this chimney, a draw that had been used to sling a chockstone deep in the crack got stuck and I had to worm my way into the hold to rescue it. Unfortunately I was not quite big enough to fit in forwards and my pack prevented any side-ways entry. I was not leaving my draw behind so I finally shimmied my way down to it, getting my hips very stuck in the process. I had to do a lot of wiggling and grabbing onto questionable holds (the rope) to free myself. Although the entire ordeal only took about 5 minutes, it felt like I was stuck for hours and would never be free! After that, the climbing was really fun and it felt great to top out just before noon.
Topping out after the chimney climb
 At the top, we had some celebratory chocolate and other lunch type things. Kelly and her friends had been hiking the peak that day and we were pleased to find out that they were just approaching the summit from the East side (couldn't have planned it better if we tried). After lunch and a bunch of photos, we left our packs at the side of the trail and started hiking up to the true peak to meet the hikers.
Long way down!
 We met them just below the summit where they had just finished lunch. Liam and I quickly ran up to the peak, snapped a few photos then raced down the scree to catch up with Kelly and friends. The descent was really fun! Most of the steep down parts are scree slopes that can be descended very quickly with relatively low impact.
Liam looking stoked
 Once we came around to the face of the mountain, we descended the large scree slope below the west end of Yam. This is when we discovered where the left hand fork of the trail goes. It was pretty easy going all the way back to the car, and much quicker than I expected. We got to the cars at about 2:15 and decided to go to Cochrane for ice cream on the way home. 
Kelly and Liam under a cool little waterfall
The clouds that had been moving in all day finally started to rain as we got our ice cream. Perfect timing!

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