Updated: Jul 7, 2019
About two weeks ago I climbed what I consider the be the best low-end family-friendly multi-pitch climb in the entire Bow Valley. I had a less than 10-minute approach. The route was so easy to find if you had two glass eyes you'd find it. The rock is a compact, low angle slab. There is no chance of rockfall from any of the tiers above you. This is great because the place is trendy among new climbers trying out multi-pitch for the first time.
The grade is 5.4. For those who don't know the YDS grading system, 5.4 stands for pretty dam easy. No special footwear is required. The big bonus is that this grade is not at all intimidating for most people. First-time multi climbers can focus on climbing, clipping, and all the stuff that they need to think about to stay alive.
This area has a long history of being a low-end cragging for rock schools. The primary users of this area were the Army Cadet Camp. This national cadet festival took place each summer with the camp being located directly across the road. It only made sense that they utilize this piece of terrain. The cliffs were less than 400 meters from the main mess tent.
Parks Canada decided it had to be moved. A study on animal movement was showing
the cadet camp, airport (it used to have a flying club and planes actually stored there at one point), and the town was making it almost impossible for animals to move from one end of the park to another at this choke point. The solution was the removal of buffalo, cadet camp, airport, and throw in a few closures, all good.
Once the camp was removed, the cliffs pretty much stopped being used. I used these cliffs a few times the year we had the Kootenay fires with the Calgary Climbing Club. (Think that was around 2003. For the life of me, I can't remember what I used for anchors. I know I didn't drill any. I hope I didn't use those angle iron bolt hangers.)
The next twenty years the Cascade Falls crags saw no usage. This is very hard to believe in hindsight. Sure the rock is pretty low end for serious climbers but for a particular demographic it was perfect. It was about 5 years ago that I did a gig for Kris Irwin that I revisited the area. He had a half-day rock gig with some never ever's.
Trying to pull off a half-day gig in Banff is a bit of a challenge. There is almost no place you can go that isn't going to be crowded. In a town surrounded by rock, there is one small patch located on the golf course that is suitable for beginners. The thing is Rundle Rock sucks. The front slab is too easy, and the south wall is just too hard for most people. First-time climbers rarely do well here. However, Kris added about 4 or 5 bolted stations on the Cascade crag making the place usable. My 2010 eyes looked at the area a lot different than my 1987 eyes. Reminds me of that Mark Twain quote," I left home when I was 20, and my Dad was the dumbest man on the planet. I came back 4 years later, and I was surprised at how much he learned." Well, it was like that. The benches are comfortably wide. There is no overhead hazard even with the addition of a multi-pitch route. It is quick to rig and drop ropes on. First-timers can have a couple fun hours.
Ok enough with the history lesson. I am beginning to bore myself, and that ain't easy to do. The recap is that the place was unused till Irwin placed a few anchors and started taking groups there. End of story. Others might say that it was used quite often, but that would be untrue. There was/is no evidence of retro-fitting stations before Irwin's hardware. Everything else goes back decades some even to the turn of the century Swiss guides.
A guide goes up to this crag for the first time this year with a half-day group only to discover that his anchors had been removed. To throw salt in the wound a new Multi-pitch climb Minihappi 5.4 runs right through the middle of his crag.
The guide is understandably upset. His clients only had a opportunity to climb one rope which would get boring pretty fast at this location. I get that and I know I would be upset also. I also know that this stuff happens and you have to roll with when it does.
What I don't understand is why the route Minihappi has to be removed. I have run hundreds of outdoor low end rock schools and I know that I would have no problem running a school here with the route running through it. The addition of low end first-timers are more of an attraction for me. An opportunity to upsell a multi-day. Talk about something other than myself would be another added bonus for the guests.
These local guides are going to do whatever it is they are going to do. I just don't want to be associated with it. There is no reason why both the climbing area ( you are stretching to call it climbing) and the multi-pitch 5.4 Minihappi can not co-exist. If there is a reason, it has nothing to do with an added safety hazard.
I am only making this post because I think that the public is getting a real one-sided viewpoint. The other is that it would be such a miscarriage of justice.
By making this post, I will lose yet another popularity contest among the local guiding community. Least I am consistent. I think I am breaking some sort of unwritten rule about who's side I am supposed to be on.