Type: Trad, Alpine
FA: Conrad Kain
Page Views: 9,597 total · 90/month
Shared By: Hans Bauck on Jul 31, 2015 · Updates
Admins: Dave Rone, Tom Jones, Richard Rose

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Description Suggest change

The original route on Mount Louis, the Kain route was pioneered by the legendary Conrad Kain in 1916 and was a landmark achievement at the time. The first ascent took just four hours, and they down climbed the route to descend. Today, most parties will take a long day to complete the route, and the large number of bivy sites on the upper portion of the route and on the summit are a testament to the number of climbers that either underestimated the route or ran into trouble.

Note that I found the route finding to be tricky and some of the belays were difficult for me to locate. As a general rule, consider that the rock was quite good for Canadian Rockies limestone, and so if you end up on anything particularly loose you may be off route.

When viewed from the approach trail, the southeast face is the one that is immediately visible, with prominent slabs at its base. The northeast face forms the right side of Mount Louis, and the east ridge splits the two faces. The Kain route climbs the northeast face to the east ridge. A rappel provides access to the southeast face which is followed to the summit. The pitches on the southeast face are shared with the Gmoser route.

From the scree below Mount Edith, cross the boulder field and follow a faint trail up to the base of the south face of Mount Louis. Rope up near here rather than at the base of the climb, as the descent does not go back to the base. Locate a trail that traverses below Mount Louis and follow it to the right. This trail traverses below the east ridge. At a fork, stay left for the Kain route and climb up to the base of the cliff. The right fork continues further to reach the route Homage to the Spider. To help locate the start of the Kain route, there are three scoops low on the northeast face. The Kain route begins roughly below the rightmost scoop and then climbs up and left through the middle scoop.

Most of the route is fourth class to easy fifth, with a few very short sections of 5.5 or 5.6. The exception is the Perren crack, which is more sustained at 5.7 or 5.8 though it protects very well.

P1: Scramble up and left to belay at trees.

P2: Climb up and left to a groove passing two bolts. Follow the groove to a two bolt anchor.

P3: 5.6 Climb up and left to the base of the middle of the three scoops. A bolt protects a tricky move at the end of the pitch. Belay at two bolts.

P4 to P7:  Climb the middle scoop up and left to grassy ledges. Follow these on a rising traverse left to the east ridge. Follow the east ridge, variations are possible, to a single bolt belay.

P8: 5.6 Climb up along the ridge, across a small notch and then up a short wall to to a two bolt anchor.

Make a 25 metre rappel to a ledge with a single bolt.

P9: 5.5 Traverse left along a ledge, crossing a small gap to a two bolt anchor. The remainder of the route is shared with the Gmoser route.

From here the trend is to climb up and left to reach a rib that marks the right edge of a giant gully system. This rib is followed straight up to the summit. The correct route has good rock and some light polish on some of the holds, presumably from years of traffic on the Kain and Gmoser routes.

P10: 55m, 5.5 Climb up then left across a gully, then up to a two bolt anchor.

P11: 50m, 5.6 Again climb up and left crossing another gully to a short steep wall with a nice crack. Climb this was, then continue to an anchor with a single bolt.

P12: 60m, 5.5 Climb up along the rib past two short steep sections to a gear anchor.

P13: 60m, 5.0 Scramble up an easy low angled section towards a large chimney. At the base of the chimney, move right to a two bolt anchor at the base of a crack.

The original route climbs the chimney, though I doubt many do that anymore. Most choose the crack on the right, originally climbed by Walter Perren.

P14: 35m, 5.8 Climb the crack past several fixed pieces (bolts/pitons), mainly using holds on the face to a two bolt anchor right of the crack.

P15: 55m, 5.7 From the anchor climb up then back left into the crack. Follow this to the ridge crest.

Follow the ridge crest, easy but exposed, to the summit cross.

Gear and Beta Suggest change

The main gear requirements are for the Perren crack, which eats gear and has many fixed pitons and bolts. Bring many draws on long slings, and a single rack of cams from BD #0.2 to BD #3 along with a set of nuts.

Retreat would be difficult from this route and would likely involve a lot of down climbing. From the rappel on the Kain route it would be possible to rappel the Gmoser route with two ropes, though locating some of the anchors may be tricky.

I recommend a pre-dawn start as this is a time consuming route for typical parties. At the very least, leave early and bring a headlamp and some extra clothing. Experienced parties may wish to simulclimb the lower pitches, or even all the way to the Perren crack.