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Achilles Spire

5.8-, Sport, Alpine, 1000 ft (303 m), 13 pitches, Grade III,  Avg: 3.7 from 47 votes
FA: Mountain Guide Eric Dumerac, Sid Cupido, Chad Casey, September 7 2012
International > N America > Canada > Alberta > Icefields Parkway > Mt Hector & Mt Androm…

Description

Thanks Paul for the Topo and the trip report!

Rock and route: This is a fine route on dolomite rock up a striking spire. As an alpine rock route, there is still loose rock on ledges that could be knocked down onto a belayer. For the most part the rock is very sound. The route is entirely bolted. Most parties will complete the route in mountain boots perhaps putting on rock shoes for the crux pitch. The route is set up for 30 m rappels. The summit commands excellent views of the Rockies central group. When viewed from the road, the spire seems as it would be a long approach. However an existing trail to start and then linking up goat trails and ledges makes the approach very reasonable usually in under two hours. Enjoy!

P1: (6 bolts, 30 m, 5.6) From the gully trend up and right then left to the first bolt (10 m up). Follow bolts to a left facing corner and up over a groove/roof/ to a station on the left under a small dirt ledge.

P2: (5 bolts & past a rappel station, 45 m, 5.4) Climb straight up, past a left facing corner to the big ledge above. Continue past the ring-bolt rap station trending up and right to the next ledge and station. Watch for loose rocks on the ledge.

P3: (7 bolts, 40 m, 5.6) Climb the steep wall up and right gaining an arete. Continuing up a groove to belay at a rappel station on the right. There is a two bolt anchor another 7 m up at the base of the steep rock but the rap station provides better communication with your partner and better visibility to belay for the next pitch.

P4: (4 bolts, 25 m, 5.6) Locate the first hard to see bolt up and right of the alternate belay station in a black band of rock. Overcome the steep bit and keep trending up and right to a large ledge. Belay station is under the roof.

P5: (4 bolts, 20 m, A0 or 5.6 or 5.8 ) Climb up and left of the station past two bolts. At the third bolt traverse horizontally left past another bolt (use long slings) and climb up to a ledge and small overhang. Climb straight up for one 5.8 move, pull on the draw at A0 or risk the pendulum easily climbing off to the right of the bolt at 5.6 (recommended). Climb up to the next ledge and continue to a station. Use of a double length sling on the last bolt is recommended to reduce rope drag as the anchor is far right (especially if combining pitch 4 & 5).

P6: (1 bolt, 20 m, 5.2) Climb left of the station on easy rock past one bolt and straight up to a station found on the right hand side just below the ridge top.

P7: (3rd class. 70 m) Walk right of the anchor, behind the ridge and left (NW) until the main buttress, go around it on the left (W) to the base of a beautiful wall and bolt station facing the highway.

P8: (6 bolts, 28 m, 5.7) Climb up and left, then straight up to an alcove atop this perfect vertical rock wall.

P9: (4 bolts, 20 m, 5.6) Climb up the short awkward chimney gaining a massive sandy ledge and station on the right. Pitch 8 & 9 can be easily linked.

P10: (8 bolts, 25 m, 5.7/5.8) The crux of the route and one of the best pitches. Follow the groove, climbing the central wall with cracks on either side. Side step a roof by traversing left and come back right of the crack to a semi-hanging belay on the right. The second bolt on the left traverse is no higher than the first can be left unclipped to reduce rope drag.

P11: (6 bolts, 25 m, 5.6) Angle left up the groove then out right following bolts to a good ledge and station.

P12: (4 bolts, 25 m, 5.5) Climb up great rock with fantastic positions on the arete to a huge ledge and station. Pitch 11 & 12 are easily linked.

P13: (5 bolts, 50m, 5.5) Scramble up about 10 m to the first bolt and continue up to eventually move up and left around the arete climbing up a small slab, past ledges and a rappel station to another station on the summit.

Descent: Rappel the route.

1) Short 12 m rap from summit ring-bolts to next station.

2) 30 m rap back down and climber's right back around the arete to reach a good ledge. From here it is a scramble down about 8 m to reach the next anchor on the big ledge below.

3) 25 m rap to a station on a good ledge.

4) 20 m down to hanging station.

5) 20 m down to the massive sandy ledge.

6) Short rap climber's left back down the short chimney crack and alcove belay.

7) 28 m back down to the flat base of the upper mountain.

8) Walk back around the buttress to the left side of the flat ridge. Find the station on the right hand side at the end of the ridge.

9) 20 m - rappel down and climber's right to the ledge below and the station on the edge of the arete.

10) 20 m - From the edge station, rappel down to the next ledge and find the station hidden under the roof.

11) 25 m - Rap down to the flatter terrain and continue walking back to the ring bolts close to the edge.

12) 30 m overhanging rappel to a large ledge and rap station. Put knots in your rope! Warning - hard pull from the bottom here with lots of friction over the rock but the rope comes down!

13) 20 m rappel to the large ledge below - station is on the far climber's left side of the ledge.

13) 20 m rappel to the pitch 2 ring bolt station, small dirt ledge - directly below.

14) 28 m rap to the ground, follow the cairns home.

Location

Park in the pull out on the West side of HWY 93 North in front of Hector Ck. (Hector Lake 82N9 UTM: 479/172) 20 minutes North of Lake Louise. Cross the road and on the right (South) side of the drainage pick up the trail for Mt. Hector.
Follow the easy trail through the forest, up the left side of an avalanche bowl to the top of the waterfall (45 min - 1 hour).

Cross to the other side of the creek (South side) at the top of the waterfall and make your way to the little hanging valley between Mt. Andromache and Little Hector. Mt. Hector seen behind Little H. Looking towards the North, spot the towers connected to Mt. Andromache. Follow cairns towards the two tiered tree island, thence several cairns and goat trails will lead one up and left via a series of benches. The cairns will take you scrambling up an easy gully gaining bigger upper benches. Atop these upper benches, cross left (North West) across a bowl (big boulder) and follow the steps of a dry watercourse within the basin to gain the base of the towers. Follow the base of the towers until in the farthest left bowl (do not keep go around highway side).

Warning: It is easy to mistaken the right hand tower as being Achilles Spire. Achilles Spire has a small crumbly tower to its left, a prominent very pointy tower to its right and narrowing drainages/chimney on each side of it. A large black roof near the right drainage/chimney is a good landmark for Achilles start, the central tower. Make your way up the basin to the base of Achilles Spire.

Start: Below and left of the big black roof with white rock below are smaller overlapping overhangs and a one bolt station at a small scruffed out ledge. (45 min -1 hour from top of waterfall - 1.5 - 2 hours from road)

Protection

Equipment: 60 meter rope, 10 draws, mountain boots, headlamp.

Fully bolted

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Location of the first bolt on Pitch 1 is somewhere in the yellow zone. Notice the big black roof, top right of the photo, as described in the approach.
[Hide Photo] Location of the first bolt on Pitch 1 is somewhere in the yellow zone. Notice the big black roof, top right of the photo, as described in the approach.
Thanks Paul for the photos and topo!
[Hide Photo] Thanks Paul for the photos and topo!
looking from the traverse section to the far right,  nice view,  route isnt shown in this photo at all
[Hide Photo] looking from the traverse section to the far right, nice view, route isnt shown in this photo at all
There is a trail that splits left here, but keep going up keeping on the right of the creek.
[Hide Photo] There is a trail that splits left here, but keep going up keeping on the right of the creek.
Climbing one of the last pitches
[Hide Photo] Climbing one of the last pitches
For the start go past the black chimney and around the pinnacle. Then go up the gulley towards the white rock and look for the first bolt left. See start of climb picture
[Hide Photo] For the start go past the black chimney and around the pinnacle. Then go up the gulley towards the white rock and look for the first bolt left. See start of climb picture
More from Paul (thanks Paul!)
[Hide Photo] More from Paul (thanks Paul!)
When you reach the first waterfall you'll cross the creek and ascend the rock band via climbers left.
[Hide Photo] When you reach the first waterfall you'll cross the creek and ascend the rock band via climbers left.
Climber seconding the crux 10th pitch
[Hide Photo] Climber seconding the crux 10th pitch
Climber seconding the 8th pitch. First pitch off the big ledge after the walk
[Hide Photo] Climber seconding the 8th pitch. First pitch off the big ledge after the walk
Excellent scenery.
[Hide Photo] Excellent scenery.
Dropped pin is the route. Line shows roughly the approach
[Hide Photo] Dropped pin is the route. Line shows roughly the approach

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Brice Pollock
Mammoth Lakes, CA
  5.7
[Hide Comment] I found the description of approach, climb and raps to be very good. If you are unsure if you are at the right pullout look for the geological bench mark sign (small blue) across the road from the pullout and match your surroundings from Paul's start photo and the perspective of the mountains. Hector creek is not marked.

Also, know that you may cross the creek a couple times while hiking along it. You will cross Left across it just before the first waterfall section and then cross back right across it at the top. There is a variation that goes along the waterfall we took down but it connected back up at the lower crossing.

General Info

Climb got sun in late morning at 10:30 at P3. The rock is quality and surprisingly frictiony and sharp. Rope gets snagged like crazy on rappels, consider saddle bags.

The lower, easier section was kind of boring but once it got into 5.7 things became more interesting. Would definitely recommend this climb for the interesting rock, views and learning multi pitch.

Huge thank you to the party that bolted it but it felt like they bolted a trad climb. Lots of potential for sharp crack variations in the higher quality upper section.

Details

Approach: 2500 ft, 1.5 mile

Timing:
2:15 hrs approach
4:45 hrs climb
3 hrs rappel
2 hrs decent Aug 6, 2017
John B
Calgary
 
[Hide Comment] Bring some alpine draws to reduce rope drag on the top pitches if your using a single, took us a while to find the start of the route because I didn’t bring a picture of it which is in the pictures on this site, just brought the description. 3 teams climbing it that day and we went first. Seems pretty busy during the weekends even on the shoulder season. We went and the forecast was for no snow, but got caught in a cloud and a couple centimeters fell. We only had one opportunity to double rap with 2 70m ropes from the section over top of the traverse skipping 1-2 anchors. Better to bring a single 60m if there are only 2 of you going. 12 hours car to car with my bad knees and taking it slow on the hiking. Plenty of bolts and solid dolomite rock. The pitch right after the traverse is amazingly steep with good pocket holds Oct 9, 2018
DaveTO
Squamish, B.C.
[Hide Comment] Did the route early Aug, 2019. Super fun route. The perfect "intro" route for Rockies alpine; short, well-marked approach, bolted gear and anchors and raps, all in a super beautiful setting. Car to car in 11 hours with a slow hiking partner. A competent team, efficient on the approach and descent and linking pitches (as we did) could do it in closer to 9 hours c2c.

As others mentioned, the route beta as described here is really solid. I'll add a few more comments, and link my GPS track for the trailhead and approach (below).

Additional approach beta:

- Approach no longer cairned much. Rather, there is a stellar trail pretty much all the way to the base. It branches at times, but if you've got good trail sense and follow the dominant trail and know generally the direction you're going, you'll figure it out.

- The waterfall mentioned in the description and comments consists of two main falls. You cross rightward across it after the "second" (and final) falls. Stay leftward on the massive trail when approaching the first falls, and follow it to the top of the second where you'll cross over a small creek that feeds the falls system. You'll encounter a fixed line just below the second falls (as of Aug, '19)

- Further up, you will go leftward and through a large, loose gulley / slot to get to the upper approach section. This is not really mentioned elsewhere.

- The bolt that indicates the start of the route (and functions as an anchor) is about 3 feet high and in the middle of the face where the route starts. It's hard to find. I've included a pic.

- We linked a bunch of pitches with a newer 70 meter rope (ropes shrink, so an older 70 may not reach some). Can't recall which. But just add up the pitch lengths mentioned here and make a call. I think I was 3 meters short on one link up, but had my partner on belay the moment she started moving. Note, I used alpine draws a great deal to reduce drag and keep the rope running straight to get the most length out of it.

- On that note, bring a bunch of 60cm alpine draws and at least a 120. Especially if linking. Totally reduces drag. I only used quick draws when they did not impede the efficient running of the rope. Also skipped many bolts on easier terrain, but that's a personal call.

- As of Aug '19, many rap stations had orange flagging which was helpful in locating them as -- in many cases -- they differ from the belay stations.

- You can skip the first short rap and just down climb. Easy 4th class. Note that the rap after that (technically the 2nd rap) goes slightly climber's right (skiers left). If you drop the line straight down (as I did) you'll end up 10 feet climber's left of the next rap station and that's a bit of a drag.

- Having now rapped the route, there is a place for double-rope raps for about half the rappels, but you'd not know which these are your first time down, so best to go with single rope raps as others suggest.

- Careful with rock fall (of course) when pulling your ropes, esp. if there is is a party below you.

Link to my GPS track on GaiaGPS. Create a free login to download GPX or KML. Also, if you don't already have GaiaGPS on your phone, get it; you'll thank me later.

gaiagps.com/public/xE9kNxWr… Aug 11, 2019
Russell Cohen
Redwood City, California
  5.8
[Hide Comment] Some pitch linking beta for those who want to plan ahead. We used a 60m rope and 14 draws, 10 alpine. One double-length alpine was also useful.

Link 1+2 with significant but manageable drag and 10 feet of simul climbing. Skipping some bolts on the easy terrain will help.

Link 4+5 -- the last few bolts zig zag. You'll need to skip one and run it out over easy terrain to avoid significant drag.

Coil the rope for the 3rd class walk, the rock is very grabby.

Link 8+9 -- bolt line is pretty straight, a few alpine draws will keep drag to a minimum.

Link 10+11 -- be sure to skip the anchor since it's off to the side. Minimal drag. Aug 24, 2019
Tom Jones
Calgary, AB
  5.8
[Hide Comment] @Jen try this route June-September, best to try July onward Feb 27, 2020
[Hide Comment] Great intro to alpine style climbing. Rock was generally solid and fun to climb Approach took us 135mins. Total time was 9hrs car to car with a nice 30 min break at the top. Belay ledges were generally all good, with most of them able to go off belay entirely. Simul'd the first couple pitches to save daylight. Would recommend as a longer 5.fun outting. Oct 7, 2020
Paul Stoliker
Canmore, AB
[Hide Comment] We climbed Achilles Spire today (June 29, 2021). Car to car in 8 hours: not bad for a couple of old guys. 1.5 hours for the approach and to gear up. 3.5 hours for the climb. 2 hours for the rappels. 1 hour to hike down.

We linked 4 and 5, 6 and 7 (the 70m scramble), 9 and 10, and 11 and 12. Thus we did 9 pitches. We took one 60m rope and about 15 draws to be able to link pitches. I would advise taking at least 5 shoulder length slings and one double-shoulder-length sling (in addition to belay anchor gear) if you want to link pitches.

Achilles is a pretty good route but:
- Most of the pitches are over graded. I would give them 1=5.3, 2=5.0, 3=5.6, 4=5.6, 5=5.6 (no need to climb straight past the bolt), 6=4th class, 7=walking (if you take the obvious trail just below the ridge), 8=5.6, 9=5.6, 10=5.7, 11=5.4, 12=5.4, 13=5.3
- Much of the route can be done on trad gear. Too bad so many needless bolts were placed.

Note that the route is shaded in the mornings. We reached the top at about 09:30 and had no sun. If you plan to do this climb in cool weather be sure to bring some warm clothes. Jun 29, 2021
Aimee McRae
Bend
 
[Hide Comment] A big thanks to the route developers for bolting this. It’s bolted perfectly! I’m so grateful I didn’t have to carry a trad rack up that approach. And the bolts are really helpful to show where the route goes. Without them, the route finding would be really challenging. It’s the developers prerogative to develop the route in the way they see fit. If you want a pure gear climb, there’s plenty of other 5.8s to choose from or go develop your own. You can always haul a rack up there and skip the bolts you deem unnecessary as well.

Anyways, my partner and I had a great time despite the high winds and cold (49 degrees) in July! We simul-climbed the first 10 pitches. Did the route in 2 hours 15 minutes. Almost took longer to rappel due to having to saddlebag the ropes for most of the raps because of the crazy wind.

BTW, we never saw the fixed line at the second waterfall. Jul 20, 2022
Dave McRae
Bend, OR
 
[Hide Comment] Huge props to Eric, Sid, and Chad for developing a great route! The bolts are spaced enough to keep it feeling adventurous. It usually requires voyaging out above the bolt you’re clipped into to see the next one. So, it still takes some route finding skills and definitely isn’t a clip up. Unlike some of the hardmen on here, bold enough to downgrade the 5.4 pitches, my party found the climbing solid and relatively sustained within the given grades. We were happy to have our rock shoes on for the whole route.
We simul-climbed it in three pitches and a little under two hours.
Amazing to have an alpine experience like this with just a rack of draws! Jul 30, 2022
Locklyn Price
Calgary, AB
 
[Hide Comment] Here's a video from our recent ascent: youtube.com/watch?v=SJHqxFA…
Here is the location in Google Maps for the trailhead: goo.gl/maps/hFxcn6wYFbPtdQW36
Heading North it is the pull out just after the Hector Lake Viewpoint.

A classic climb, and very moderate the whole way up. The holds were great, the bolting was exactly where you would want it. We skipped a couple, but for a route at this grade, I'm sure there are parties that use every single one. In relation to the trad comments, there were likely paths up the route that could easily have been done on trad, and probably were, but the best pitches would have needed bolts anyway, so I'm glad that the developers went for an alpine sport line, instead of a mixed line.

It was cold and doesn't get a lot of morning sun until you get up to the third pitch, then at P7 you go back into the shade. As of September 19, 2022 there was snow in quite a few places, but the climbing was practically unaffected by the small deposits of snow.

P4, the hard to see bolt is not as far right as you might think. There is a big stack of rocks that makes it look like you head up above the stack, but it is further left, closer to the anchor.

All of the other climbing beta from this route description was spot on. The "cruxes" were pretty mellow and were not as sandbagged as some other traditional 5.8 cruxes on Bow Valley Routes.

It would be nice if someone mapped it out, especially the rappells, but it isn't necessary, and it is pretty straightforward.

We did think that the upper rappel descriptions were a bit different than described, but that could be the fact that we were on a 70m and each rap felt really short [MY COMMENTS IN ALL CAPS BELOW]:
1) Short 12 m rap from summit ring-bolts to next station.

2) 30 m rap back down and climber's right back around the arete to reach a good ledge. From here it is a scramble down about 8 m to reach the next anchor on the big ledge below. EITHER THIS IS NOT 30M OR THERE IS AN INTERMEDIATE STATION THAT WE HIT. IF YOU USE THE SAME STATION THAT WE DID, DON'T GET CONFUSED LOOKING FOR THE SCRAMBLE. THERE IS ANOTHER STATION A SHORT RAP DOWN

3) 25 m rap to a station on a good ledge.

4) 20 m down to hanging station.

5) 20 m down to the massive sandy ledge.

6) Short rap climber's left back down the short chimney crack and alcove belay.

7) 28 m back down to the flat base of the upper mountain.

8) Walk DOWN back around the buttress to the SKIIER'S LEFT left side of the flat ridge. Find the station on the right hand side at the end of the ridge. THERE IS A WELL ESTABLISHED PATH, BUT IF YOU READ THIS AS CLIMBER'S LEFT, YOU WILL START LOOKING ON THE WALL THAT FACES THE HIGHWAY. IT IS DIRECTLY DOWN OR AWAY FROM THE BEAUTIFUL WALL THAT YOU SAW ON P7, FOLLOW THE PATH, WHICH YOU DID NOT TAKE ON THE CLIMB UNTIL YOU REACH A RAP ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE AROUND THE CORNER

9) 20 m - rappel down and climber's right to the ledge below and the station on the edge of the arete.

10) 20 m - From the edge station, rappel down to the next ledge and find the station hidden under the roof.

11) 25 m - Rap down to the flatter terrain and continue walking back to the ring bolts close to the edge.

12) 30 m overhanging rappel to a large ledge and rap station. Put knots in your rope! Warning - hard pull from the bottom here with lots of friction over the rock but the rope comes down!

13) 20 m rappel to the large ledge below - station is on the far climber's left side of the ledge.

13) 20 m rappel to the pitch 2 ring bolt station, small dirt ledge - directly below. IF YOU GO DIRECTLY DOWN YOU WILL REACH 14, BUT IF YOU ARE ON A 70M LIKE WE WERE, YOU WILL PROBABLY GET SUCKED INTO RAPPING INTO THE GULLY JUST BARELY ABOVE THE START OF THE ROUTE. WE EASILY REACHED THE GROUND FROM THIS STATION ON OUR 70M

14) 28 m rap to the ground, follow the cairns home.

GENERAL COMMENT ON THE RAPPEL ROUTE IS THAT MOST OF THE RAPPELS FELT SHORTER THAN DESCRIBED, BUT YOU ARE BETTER OFF RAPPELING TO THE STATION THAT YOU CAN SEE, THAN CHANCING REACHING THE NEXT ONE, EVEN IF YOU ARE USING A 70M. WE THOUGHT ABOUT BRINGING TWO ROPES FOR THE RAPPELS, BUT I AGREE WITH THE OTHER COMMENTS THAT THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOU GETTING THEM STUCK IS HIGH.

Amazing route, highly recommend it. In the context of other people on the route, I could see how this climb would get traffic, but we were the only party we saw all day. We intentionally got up early to make sure we wouldn't get scooped, but were surprised to not see anyone else on one of the last days of the "summer", it was a low of 0C and a high of 10C, so maybe the cold kept others away. Sep 19, 2022
mbb
[Hide Comment] For those who like data... the approach is 2.6km and gains 700m on an easy to follow trail. I find it easier to estimate how long it will take to approach the route when I know these stats. For me it took 1 hour at moderate pace.

Trailhead 1,850m
Start of Route 2,550m
Top of Route 2,800m Jul 11, 2023