The coveted north face of Mt. Alberta (3619m), Rockies, Canada, showing the
new route (V 5.11 M6, 1000m) established by Jon Walsh and Chris Brazeau on
September 7 in a thirty-hour push. The face was drier than shown in this
image, which was taken a few years prior. [Photo] Jon Walsh
On September 7, understated Canadian hardmen Jon Walsh and Chris Brazeau established a remarkable new route–difficult, fast, and free–on the 1000-meter north face of Mt. Alberta (3619m), one of the most coveted alpine faces in the Canadian Rockies.
After getting lost in the dark on the rappels approaching the face (yes, it’s committing), the pair crossed the ‘schrund, simulclimbed two mixed pitches and then unroped for the big icefield to the headwall. From there they climbed six pitches of challenging but excellent rock and mixed, every pitch going at 5.10 or M6, aside from the 5.11 crux. They onsighted every pitch, on lead and second, did no hauling or jugging, brought no bolts or bivy gear, and summited after just 15 hours of climbing. Thirty-and-a-half hours after leaving the Alberta hut–thanks to getting lost again on the descent, also in the dark–they returned for a well-earned sleep.
Despite its prominence among alpinists and its beautifully intimidating final headwall, the compelling north face of Mt. Alberta has resisted suitors for years. Walsh and Brazeau’s new route was likely the first one-day and first free ascent of the face. It also may be the first climb of the face in more than ten years, as the hut logbook (backed up by local knowledge), which dates back to 1996, has no recorded ascents of the nordwand despite many attempts. George Lowe and Jock Glidden’s acclaimed North Face route (VI 5.9 A3, 1972) is the only other route on the face, and has seen just a handful of ascents. Sean Dougherty’s classic and notoriously sandbagged guidebook, Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, calls the Glidden-Lowe, “Perhaps the most sought-after of the Rockies ‘grand cours’ routes.”
Walsh reports the face to be in “primo” condition, and describes a stylish finish to their tour de force, one befitting their climb: “At 2:30 in the afternoon we awoke, made a big meal, drank all our coffee and scotch and hiked out.”