On May 17, 2023, we headed out to Banff to climb Minihappa. This 90 meter climb is in a really spectacular setting, following the waterfall on Cascade Mountain that is visible from the Trans Canada Highway.
It's a fairly easy, straightforward climb. The hardest pitch is graded 5.6 but most of the moves are 5.2 to 5.5 making it great for beginners or for two experienced climbers looking to shake off the dust and get back into multi pitch climbing after a couple years away. It is well bolted so route finding is not a problem and it never feels run out.
The climb is set up for 4 pitches but the fourth pitch is very short and can be combined with the third. We went up intending to complete Minihappa and then decide if we wanted to do one of the bigger multi pitches that start above Minihappa. I had reserached and printed information for Back to Batoche.
The bottom of the waterfall was still covered with avalanche debris. Even the recent summer temperatures have not fully melted the snow that piled up here over the winter.
The approach hike comes up on the left side of the waterfall and we had to take care to cross the avalanche debris where it wouldn't collapse and dump us into the creek. Didn't want to start the day with wet feet.
The climb starts at the top of a scree slope. I got to lead the first pitch. I had to step onto the avalanche debris to start up the slab. Easy slab climbing brought me to a large ledge. I think it would be possible to scramble up to this ledge around the far right of the slab but where's the fun in that?
I brought Dan up to the great big ledge and he led the second pitch. Another fun ramble up easy slab.
Looking across at the waterfall from the large ledge at the start of the second pitch. Smoky day, lots of wild fire smoke in the air.
I led the third pitch. It is kind of a thrilling start where you have to step over the waterfall as it churns across a small plateau. The water is pretty full at this time of year and it's inevitable that you must step on wet rocks as you cross but I managed to keep my feet dry inside my climbing shoes.
Here I look down at Dan belaying me. I have clipped the anchor at the top of the third pitch with an extended draw to avoid rope drag. I brought Dan up to the top of the fourth pitch and that completed Minihappa. Super fun, relaxed and casual.
At the top of Minihappa, we sat down to enjoy some lunch. Cheese buns, tuna, apple slices, baby carrots, minty chocolate and granola bars made a fine feast sitting high up on the slope beside the waterfall.
After lunch, we decided to wander up the slope and see if we could find Back to Batoche. We both enjoyed Minihappa so much and had a lot of energy and stoke for more climbing.
There are three routes that climb the upper section of the waterfall. We hiked up to find Back to Batoche but we saw the first bolt on Battle of Seven Oaks. We gazed up at the first pitch and it looked really fun.
We debated whether to continue searching for Back to Batoche or to just jump on Battle of Seven Oaks. I had no information about the Battle of Seven Oaks except for the photo here. We knew it was four pitches, the hardest being 5.6. We knew there were bolted anchors with rappel rings at the top of each pitch so we could always bail after a pitch or two if the climbing above seemed sketchy.
We decided we would climb it as long as we felt comfortable down climbing all the terrain.
Dan led the first pitch. It was fun climbing and he enjoyed it a lot, his favourite pitch of the day.
I led the second pitch with more fun slab climbing.
If there was a battle on this climb, it came at the third pitch. It was Dan's turn to lead. Problem was, we couldn't see any bolts or pitons in the rock above. There were two potential routes the climb could take. On the left, an easy looking corner system and on the right, a steeper corner.
We debated whether to call it a day and start our descent. Why risk a free solo? Dan was keen to go on so we decided he should go up and take a look around, as long as he felt comfortable down climbing.
He went up the left side. You can see the rope on the left side of the photo showing where he went. From there, he was able to spot a bolt far off to the right. He realized he should have gone up the corner on the right instead. He had not found any pro to clip at this point so rather than risk a traverse, he down climbed back to me at the anchor, then started up the right side.
After a few body lengths, he found a piton buried deep in the crack. Unfortunately, there were no more pitons or bolts for a few more body lengths and a fall would have sent him back down to me on the ledge. He was comfortable with the climbing and chose to run it out, clipping the next piton and then heading to the bolt he had seen from the left side.
We found out later that this section of the climb used to have five pitons protecting this corner but three have fallen out. We reported the issue to TABVAR on their website so the problem will hopefully be addressed.
With Dan's successful lead of the third pitch done, I led the easier fourth pitch and we were at the top. We rappelled the four pitches of Battle of Seven Oaks. The last rappel down pitch #1 was long and our 70 meter rope didn't quite make it. We down climbed a few feet at the bottom. We then found the walk off trail and made our way back down to the base of the falls and victory!
Remember, a climb is never a success until you're safely down on flat ground.