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North face of Athabasca

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Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

I am researching the north face of Athabasca for a possible May, 2017 attempt. Well aware that the 5.4 crux is now generally considered to be 5.8 / M5-ish.

Would anyone have any recent pics of the crux they would care to share, or any beta from recent attempts within the past couple of years?

Thanks in advance!

jon jugenheimer · · Madison, WI · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 2,149

The crux is condition dependent at the time of your climb, it could look like it did last summer in Aug or April depending on what happens in the rest of their winter. Just bring some high powered glass, and scope if from the parking lot. If you don't like what you see, do the N. Face bypass, or the Silverhorn if that looks good.

Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks for the prompt reply.
I guess that makes sense. Wasn't sure how visible the crux would be using glasses from way off.

jon jugenheimer · · Madison, WI · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 2,149

You will be able to see the rock crux from the road, but to the detail of 5.6 or 5.8, probably not.

Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

You have done the route?
Is the crux visible from part way up the ice face before you get too high? i.e. once on the mountain the decision could be made to continue to crux, or opt for the bypass route (without having to screw around with down climbing to regain bypass route)

jon jugenheimer · · Madison, WI · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 2,149

I have done a variation of the N. Face. I saw a ice runnel out left and took that to the top as it looked more interesting years ago. Yes, you can see the rock finish from the glacier if i remember correctly.

Also, when the time gets closer, GravSports ice conditions page would be worth posting on. Usually the classics are talked about throughout the season.

Steven Kovalenko · · Calgary · Joined May 2014 · Points: 25

You can do the crux no problem if it is completely dry. I climbed it in August 2014. Even giving it a "Rockies 5.8" grade i.e. sandbagged, I feel is a bit much. Can't be that much harder than M4-ish 5.5 technically. Of course it might feel harder in boots. It's not that bad.

It also has a ton of fixed pins. I placed maybe 2 pieces of mid-sized rock gear, and clipped a ton of pins. I would bring a light rock rack of nuts, tricams pink to brown if you have them rather than cams (if you're familiar with them - lighter weight, low probability of usage) and 3-4 pins in case you need to whack in some new ones if you want to give it a go late season.

Crux, NF Athabasca Aug. 2014
Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks so much foryour thoughtful reply and pic.
Now I am confused! A friend asked Barry Blanchard about the route on my behalf. Barry said its heinous,30m of unprotectable rock at 5.8. He no longer guides it and would not climb it himself.
Route pics dont tell the whole story, but doesnt look too bad in your pic.

What time of year did you climb it? Any isues with ice that wouldnt take a screw on the face jst below the crux?



C Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 551

I met Barry Blanchard in the Bugs last summer and he said something similar - in fact several guides I met from Yamnuska guides stated they won't guide it anymore.

This is a recent TR of the North Face, honestly does not look that bad - it must be highly condition dependent…

Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0


Thanks for your reply and the link to some pics.
You are right - the crux covered in verglas is going to be a different proposition to if it is bone dry.

Still pondering :)

Dow Williams · · St. George, Utah; Canmore, AB · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 240

In May, it will not look anything like that pic. Will be mixed climbing.

Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

Yes, forgot to add, that we are now looking at a July attempt

Steven Kovalenko · · Calgary · Joined May 2014 · Points: 25

If you can climb an M6 at the crag, it will feel considerably easier technically. Lots of good feet everywhere. In my opinion, it will climb easier in early season, but pro will be harder to find. More of a headspace pitch.

Just go do it, and don't overdo the rock gear.

Syndicate · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 0

Mid July 2013

Really straightforward, agree that it is substantially easier than M6. It is loose, I've barndoored on there due to loose holds other times. However, it's not vertical, and it's only a couple bodylengths of the steep. Of course, it's above a thousand foot face, but the pro is good lower down, just don't spike yourself if you fall :)

I think I placed a pink tricam and a smaller nut and just climbed through, it's not that steep.

CCChanceR Ronemus · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 130

I'll be up there through May and keen to give'r on that pitch if you wanna rope up. Also down for some other alpinizing? Shoot me a pm if you're interested. 

Quentin Hamilton · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0

Hey guys,

Well our Athabasca trip took place last weekend.

Ended up doing the Silverhorn instead of the NF for a number of reasons. Heavy rain the morning before had me freaked about snow stability on the A-A col descent slopes, so wanted speedier up and down time. Also, partner had the shits. At the end of the day, we made the right call, as our fitness was on par for the Silverhorn (11hrs car to car). A few more hrs on NF would have been pushing it. We ended up reccying the NF route from the base of Silverhorn. Still looked a fair bit steeper than WI2-3, but what the heck. One weird thing was that on the Silverhorn we encountered a couple of body lengths of rock-hard ice. Kinda suprised me how hard (i.e. opposite of soft) it was, given its exposure on the slope. Bullet hard ice on the NF would be a pain :)

Of course, a few days later and we are already planning returning to do the NF next year!

Once again, many thanks for everyone's input.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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