A climber goes up to the anchor, typically less than 30 meters above the ground. They are then lowered back to the ground or they rappel down. There are often many different single pitches along a rock wall which is called a crag.
This photo is the Roadside Attraction crag at Moose Mountain. There are numerous bolted routes up this rock face that end at two bolt anchors near the top.
Multi pitch routes are longer than 30 meters, sometimes hundreds of meters. The climber goes up to an anchor and then belays the second climber up to that anchor. Then one of them leads up again, climbing a second pitch to a higher anchor, and belays the second climber up. In this way, they can climb many pitches up a big wall to the top of a route. Then they either rappel down, completing many rappels, or walk down a hiking trail if one is available.
The route in the photo, marked with a yellow line, is called Minihapa. It climbs rock beside a beauitful waterfall on Cascade Mountain near the town of Banff. The route has four pitches. Climbers descend by walking along the ledge on the left side which joins a descent trail that can be walked down.
Multi pitch climbs can be sport climbs, which are fully bolted with bolted anchors. For these routes, climbers need only bring quickdraws to clip the rope to the bolts, and gear to build anchors, rappel and belay. Multi pitch climbs can also be traditional ("trad") climbs which have few or no bolts. Climbers must bring and place their own protection gear ("pro") such as cams and nuts. The leader places gear on the way up to the anchor and then the second cleans the gear on the way up.
I led two friends up Aftenroe, on Mount Cory, in 2016
There are many multi pitch routes in the Canadian Rockies that I really want to climb. Some are moderate sport climbs that will be fun and somewhat adventurous but fairly relaxed days out in the mountains. There are also some routes I want to do that will be a bit more intense (but still fun!).
After we learned and practiced trad climbing in Joshua Tree this spring, we want to try some easy trad multi pitches. Trad multi pitches will be more challenging, with attention needed for placing gear, finding the route and finding an anchor or building an anchor at the top of each pitch.
Trad multi pitches are a skill that is key to entering the realm of Alpine Climbing. Alpine Climbing is my ultimate goal, my ideal of mountain adventure, my longing and my dream.
But for now, back to my wishlist. The routes on this list will help us gain some of the skills and fitness needed for alpine climbing but mostly, they will be fun adventures.
A four pitch 5.6 sport route on Cascade Mountain near the town of Banff. This beauty follows the waterfall that is visible from the highway. The climbing on this route will be fairly easy for us but it will be a great start to the season. We can focus on practicing the multi pitch system and enjoying the stunning setting.
UPDATE: We completed this climb on May 17, 2023. It went really well and we went on to climb another mulit pitch above Minihappa.
A seven pitch 5.7 sport route also on Cascade Mountain. This one has been on my list since Brandon Pullan put it up a few years ago (he also put up Minihappa). Promises to be another fun day out on Cascade Mountain. A little longer and a bit more challenging than Minihappa.
A nine pitch 5.7 sport route on Mount Cory west of the town of Banff. This was the first multi pitch I ever climbed. It was in 2014 with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures on the final day of their Outdoor Rock Intro course. In 2016 I went back to the climb with a couple of friends. I led every pitch and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. This route has become such a classic in the Canadian Rockies, I would love it share it with Dan.
I heard about this 7 pitch 5.9 route years ago, when I first started rock climbing. At the time, the idea of leading 5.9 was exciting but a little bit scary. I felt a climb of this length and difficulty would be over my head. I always feel like before I attempt any multi pitch, I should be able to onsight the most difficult pitch on the route. Now with a couple of 5.10c onsights under my belt, I feel more than ready for Plutonian Shores. Maybe 2023 will be the year?
A five pitch 5.9 also on Mount Cory, not far from Aftonroe. This one seems to be less well known and probably gets a lot less traffic than Aftonroe. It will probably be a "Plan B" climb if Dan and I go for Aftonroe and then see a bunch of climbers already there. One thing we've learned over the last few years is to always have a Plan B alternative route that we have researched and prepared for.
This is a relatively new route and I have been keen to climb it since I first heard about it a few years ago. I call it a "mega route" because it is a lot longer than the routes previously listed here. This 17 pitch, 1,061 meter, 5.9 route takes climbers to the top of Heart Mountain. You then descend the hiker's trail.
This long route will encourage us to be efficient at transitions. Transitions are where the second climber finishes a pitch, joining the leader at an anchor. Certain steps must be taken to get ready for, or transition to, the next pitch. It is easy to waste time during these transitions as you transfer gear, make sure the rope is organized for the next lead, and switch the belay. It can also be a good time to have a drink of water and a quick snack, loosen or tighten shoes, put on or take off a layer of clothing. However, even an extra 5 minutes at each transition can add up to well over an hour of extra climbing time on a route with 17 pitches. This can affect whether you make it back to the car before dark or top out before an unexpected storm hits you. Efficient transitions are key for Alpine Climbing.
A seven pitch 5.10a route on an area called Nanny Goat near Exshaw. This one has been on my list for a few years. A bit more challenging climbing than the previous climbs on this list.
This multi pitch requires some trad gear placement but the anchors are bolted and there are some bolts on the route. It's a great introduction to trad multi pitches in the Canadian Rockies. Dan and I climbed it a few years ago after we took a trad gear placement lesson from our mountain guide friend Jean. It's a six pitch 5.6 on a climbing area called Kid Goat. There is a walk off trail from the top.