Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Direttissima - 5.8+, 9 pitches (Yamnuska)

Grade 5.8+, 9 pitches, 325m
Bolted or piton belays
Trad (with occasional bolts)

Direttissima means "The Shortest Link" in Italian according to Wikipedia, and is an old climbing term describing the direct line to the summit. Direttissima on Yamnuska is just that. The direct line to the top of the mountain. It's been a few years since I have climbed on Yam, and just the thought of it gives me the butterflies. It's big, it's chossy, it's sand-bagged and it is always a full value day. I had always considered Direttissima to be a bit out of my league, but with Connor willing to get on the sharp end, I was happy to tuck in behind him and cruise up the route with Kyle at my side.

We left Calgary at 5:30 on Sunday to meet Connor at the parking lot for 6:30. We did not want to be below any parties on the route due to rockfall hazard. Nobody else was around as we packed up our gear and hit the approach trail. Hiking to the base of Yamnuska is a mission on it's own. After an hour of steep uphill, we reached the bottom of our route, right in the centre of the wall. We had to walk past it then scramble up the steep triangle of rock to the base of Direttissima.
Checking in at the climbers log
Approach trail below the Yam face
Looking up at our line (in the large central shadow) from the descent trail
Scoping out the line from below. Yam is notorious for route-finding difficulties
The first pitch starts just to the left of a line of bolts and follows a crack systems up and left. This is graded as one of the crux pitches so I was feeling pretty confident when I didn't find it too tough. Connor was leading and bringing Kyle and I up on half ropes. I managed to drop a bowling ball-sized rock down on Kyle near the top of the first pitch which snapped me out complacency and reminded me that we were indeed in the rockies, and on a huge choss pile. Good thing we were climbing close together as the slow moving rock bounced off Kyle, leaving him a bit sore but no worse for wear.
Connor starts up the 1st pitch
Kyle and I following up the big corner on pitch 1
Even one pitch off the ground, you start to feel the exposure. Pitch two (5.8) had some airy moves and I actually found it more difficult than the first pitch as you had to move through a small roof that required some powerful moves and hand jams.
Great views from the belay station
Connor starts up pitch 2
Pitch 3 has a few options. Connor opted for a 5.8 variation, then traversed right to the 5.6 variation. It was easier climbing but more difficult route finding to a bolted belay at the bottom of a large right-facing corner.
Kyle goofing around
Pitch 4 was a cruise up the corner to the start of the traverse pitch. While Connor was leading, some rocks came down from above. We knew there wasn't anyone above us so it had to be from either mountain exfoliation, or hikers on the summit chucking rocks down.
Connor stemming up the corner
View of the very vertical "suicide wall"
Good times at belay stations
Pitch 5 is a traverse out right and around a big corner. It feels very exposed and you start to realize just how high up the wall you really are. The climbing was easier if you stayed low, but it was tempting to climb upwards towards old pitons and other tat. The route is full of old pitons, some sketchier than others. Although Connor clipped a number of pitons, he also made sure to place his own gear for protection!

As Connor climbed around the corner, we heard the high-pitched whistle of a rock whizzing by, exploding onto the ledges below us. More projectiles came sailing down. Somebody was obviously throwing rocks. We screamed up the route and the rockfall ceased, but we were all pretty shaken up. By this point, there was another party below us on Mixed Emotions and I am sure that they were in the firing zone as well.
Scurrying up the awkward corner into the safety of the cave at the top of pitch 5
Squishy cave belay station
Belay station views at the top of pitch 5
Tensions were high as Connor moved right out of the safe belay cave and onto pitch 6. Shortly after he pulled through the big moves and gained the face, another barrage of rocks came pouring down. Profanity and shrieks of terror followed, directed at whoever was above us and the torrent stopped. Kyle and I climbed as quick as possible through the exposed pitch to the safety of the next belay.

Pitch 7 started with an easy but exposed traverse left before following the face up to the bottom of a big chockstone. As we were climbing, a helicopter was making trips back and forth from the valley. We watched as it flew people in on a long line to the base of the scree run, then picked someone up and flew them down to the staging area. We wondered if they had been hit by a rock or taken a spill down the descent.
Where are we??
Connor moves out onto the face of pitch 7
We had calmed down significantly once we were able to see the top of the route but were looking forward to topping out in one piece. The last two pitches climb through a wide chimney up and over a few big chockstones. The final pitch was the crux of the route, with a very slippery slab move onto a ledge, followed by more polished rock up to a big chockstone. There is a fixed sling that I grabbed to pull myself through the steep move. Once at the chockstone, it looks like you might be able to tunnel behind it, but we climbed out and around to the right with a very desperate and exposed move onto the final slab. We traversed out right, following bolts across the thin slab to a bolted anchor which I believe is the top of Mixed Emotions.
Here I come over the chockstone on pitch 8
Tough moves out of the cave for the polished final pitch 
We topped out at 2:30 and joined the swam of hikers on the top. Finally we could relax without fear of death and dismemberment raining from above. What a fun route with a great variety of interesting climbing! We made quick work of the descent down the west side of the mountain and took the steep scree run back down to the main trail. 

As we were descending, the helicopter came back in to pick up an injured climber from the bottom of Grillmair's Chimney. Kananaskis Public Safety was busy this weekend, thanks guys and girls for all you do!
Summit photo - cheers to Connor for guiding us up the route!
Heli coming in for a rescue at the bottom of Grillmair's Chimney

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