The Gmoser Route
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BETA PHOTO: Mt Louis topo
Highly recommended, the Gmoser route climbs the southeast face of Mount Louis in 15 long pitches. Many of the belays are bolted, yet despite this the route is time consuming and the route finding can be challenging. Start early, and bring a headlamp. 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 on the upper pitches 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. The Gmoser route climbs the lower slabs to a prominent corner, and then joins in with the Kain route for its upper pitches.
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. Two short corners are visible at the bottom of the face. The leftmost one has an inviting crack, but the right one is the one you are looking for. A single bolt marks the beginning of the route. To help locate the start, make a note of the crux corner of pitch five. The start is roughly straight below this.
The trend for the first four pitches is to climb roughly straight up to the pitch 5 corner
P1: 60m, 5.7 Climb the corner than follow the slab straight up past an anchor to a two bolt belay at 60m. This pitch is quite runout, with some enjoyable face/slab climbing near the top.
P2: 55m, 5.5 From the belay climb left to a rib. Follow the rib to a two bolt anchor.
P3: 60m, 5.5 Climb up an easy gully then step right to belay at two bolts on a small ledge.
P4: 45m, 5.6 Climb up and right below an overhang then up through a short steep section to a belay at two bolts on a small ledge at the base of the obvious corner.
P5: 50m, 5.9 Stem up the corner past 2-3 pitons to near its top, then move left past another piton to a two bolt anchor. Though this pitch is the crux of the route at 5.9, it is on good rock and is extremely well protected in its entirety.
The trend for pitches 6 through 9 is to climb up and left to reach the right to left traverse of the Kain route.
P6: 60m, 5.6 Climb up an easy low angled section to a gully. An awkward move over a bulge leads to a two bolt anchor on the right wall of the gully.
P7: 40m, 5.6 Move left and climb the rib, runout at first, then left to a bolted anchor.
P8: 40m, 5.6 Climb left across a gully, then up to a two bolt anchor.
P9: 60m, 5.6 Continue up for 15m or so to reach a ledge system. From here the Gmoser route joins the Kain route. For those familiar with the Kain route, the point on that route where they join is at the right to left traverse after the rappel. Traverse left to a two bolt anchor.
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 then 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 to a short steep wall with a nice crack. Climb this wall, 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. Alternatively simul-climb to the base of pitch 14.
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
I carried a set of nuts and a single rack of cams from Black Diamond #0.1 to #3 with an extra #0.75, and I seemed to always have the piece that I needed. The pitch 5 corner and the Perren crack have a lot of fixed pieces and will eat gear, and so I suggest bringing a large number of draws.
As with any mountain route I would recommend double ropes and extendable draws. Leave the short draws at home.
Experienced parties may wish to simulclimb some of the route on a short rope to speed things up.
Bring a headlamp and some extra clothing.
It's reasonable to do the descent in rock shoes.
BETA PHOTO: Typical of the bolted anchors on the Gmoser route....
Mt Louis from the approach trail.
Looking down from the pitch 1 belay. This is typic...
By Henry AB
Jul 12, 2016
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
A single rack from #.5 to #3 C4s felt reasonable. I don't recall needing anything larger. Also, this climb seemed to take small cams (.1-.4) more frequently than other limestone trad routes I have climbed. Bear in mind, though, that there is still a lot of runout climbing.
At least the first half dozen belay stations were fixed.
The descent beta in the Rockies Central guidebook was spot on. Mount Louis is covered in both the Rockies Central guidebook and the Banff Rock guidebook, and I think both books use the same route/descent descriptions.
Aug 26, 2016
The corner makes everything worth it. Some great climbing that asks for technique. Don't know how this is occasionally referred to as 5.10, but whatever...it was originally 5.7... Other than that everything is quite unmemorable (aside from the headwall of course). That being said, if you find yourself waiting behind folks on the upper 2/3 of the climb, I strongly suggest simply finding your own way, it is all very climbable and leads to the same ledge below the Perren crack. The new Banff book beta for the descent is solid, though I found down climbing the Kain route easier and faster than those damn raps.