We discovered the sport climbs at Moose Mountain in 2017. There was a small chapter, little more than a footnote, at the back of one of our guidebooks that mentioned the area. Dan rode his bike down the dirt road, closed to the public, to find the climbs described there.
At that time, there were about 8 climbs on the Painted Wall, all accessed from a ledge high above Canyon Creek. There were more climbs at Larry’s Gym, a shady short crag accessed by crossing the shallow creek. We biked out to look at them together and there was not a single person climbing there. These climbs were mostly too hard for us. We had just started leading and 5.9 was the most challenging grade I was willing to lead. We marvelled at all the climbs that would be available once we broke into the 5.10’s.
We spent most of that summer practicing at Wasootch, a beginners' crag with many easier climbs. Wasootch has a short, flat approach and attracts a lot of people. We longed to be at the solitary Painted Wall and it inspired us to work hard and learn to climb the harder grade. Once we gained the skills to climb there, the Painted Wall became our own private climbing area.
Over the years, we’ve seen the area grow and evolve, become more popular. Andy Generaux is the hard working genius behind most of the expansion, see his website at : ghostriverproductions.ca. Until last year, you had to go to Andy’s website to get information about the climbs. He posted pdf files with maps and descriptions of new routes and new crags he added like the Beach or Roadside Attraction. Last year the latest version of the guidebook "Bow Valley Sport" was published complete with a big chapter on Moose Mountain.
Fast Forward to Summer 2022
The summer was passing by quickly and we felt we hadn’t really tackled rock climbing in any sort of intentional way. We would ride our bikes out there, find a crag with nobody on it and decide on a climb. Sometimes we would walk along the base of the cliff looking at the bolts and find a route that looked interesting. We might work on it a few times, maybe send it, maybe not. We were climbing but we felt like we weren’t really improving or accomplishing anything.
In mid August, Dan suggested a project to climb every 10a and 10b in the guidebook chapter by the end of the season. I quickly agreed. It is just the kind of project that fires me up.
I prepared a list of the crags to visit and the routes to try. We would work on them until we got the send, climbing from the bottom to the top without falling or resting on the rope. I then created a schedule. Every goal needs a deadline and every deadline needs a step by step scheduled plan. Now our climbing days had structure and purpose. Our progress was recorded. I felt so motivated to climb more and climb harder. More importantly, I found my climbing improving.
Early on, I realized that what was holding me back most was the mental side of climbing. I found it very difficult to commit to moves above my last bolt. I was struggling with an irrational fear of falling.
I pulled out my old copy of The Rock Warrior’s Way, a book about mental fitness for rock climbing. I had picked it up a few years earlier and thumbed through it, hoping for a quick fix to the fear that plagued my climbing. This time, I read it cover to cover. It really helped me to understand and manage my fear. There were challenges and exercises to help me think differently about the commitment and push myself.
We worked our way through the valley, using hot days to climb at cool shady crags and saving the sunny crags for the cooler days of late September and October. We were lucky to have weather good enough to climb to Thanksgiving in mid October.
We managed to finish our project with a few exceptions. One climb was extremely difficult for the grade and Dan was injured falling on it. He eventually sent it but I didn’t even try it. I decided it wouldn’t count.
The climbs off the ledge at Painted Wall were not very comfortable. We hadn’t done the climbs at the ledge for a few years and now it seemed a lot more dangerous. Perhaps holds have broken off and made the scramble more difficult? A fixed line would be really helpful there. We decided to skip those climbs.
Andy published one of his regular updates on his website near the end of the season and there were new routes for our project that were not included in the guide book. We decided to push them into the next phase of our project. Phase 2 is to climb every 10c and 10d in the Chapter and in Andy’s most recent updates.
Phase 2 - 2023
We will start work on Phase 2 as soon as the snow has melted down and the rock is warm. Could be this weekend although on Sunday there was a heavy snow fall warning for the area. Ah spring in the Canadian Rockies.
Of course, I have created a page in my spreadsheet to list all the climbs and then count and schedule them. There are 60 routes altogether. If I can climb 2 per day, it will be done in 30 days. I would like to climb 2 or 3 times each week bringing us to the middle of July for a completion date. So many variables can affect this - weather, illness and injuries and most of all, my ability to send the climbs.
This new phase will bring even more challenges and push my climbing skills to a new level. I pulled out my copy of The Rock Warrior’s Way to refresh my mental skills because I anticipate the biggest challenge for me will be the difficulty committing. I’d like to deal with that early in the season this year because another goal this year is to climb more multi-pitches. There is no place for unmanaged fear on multi pitches where the level of commitment is even higher. Read about it here:
Great session! I felt so strong both physically and mentally. I was determined to send a climb or two in the project.
5.10b Corner Man at Roadside Crag
5.10c Ball Room for One at Painted Wall
I tried this one a couple years ago and bailed off at the crux. I could not commit to the moves needed to pull through the crux. This time, I tried different holds to move past the crux and when it didn't work, I climbed back down to my "rest ledge". I formulated a new plan and tried again. It worked! I found the moves and commited. Great feeling!
5.10c Art or Crime? at Painted Wall
Onsight! Tricky moves with tiny holds and I managed to climb it first try. Felt so good. Confidence growing.
A portion of my spreadsheet for Phase 2. Dan managed to send a couple of the 5.10b/c's last year before the end of the season. I tried these climbs but I needed a "take" to get up them so I didn't get the send :(
Afternoon session at Creekside crag.
No warm up climbs available at this crag.
No sends today. I felt mentally strong and I was able to commit to a move I wasn't even able to try last year. I nailed it. But I was so tired today! My hands and arms weren't able to hold on through the powerful moves required to climb the three routes at this crag.