Joy

Story and photos by Gryphon Black-Wallis.

Location: Mount Indefatigable
Discipline: Traditional climbing
Time: Seven hours, car-to-car
Elevation Gain: 300m climbing, 900m total

“Felt that one!” I yell down at Dustin as the wind picks up, catching my pack and forcing it to the side.

The wind started about 30 minutes ago and, as we climb, the gusts continue to intensify. Options are limited as I start off the belay ledge, climbing toward our next station. Dustin laughs. We silently agree to keep moving; the brief moment of hesitation has passed.

Joy is a climb in the traditional style where the climber places the protection as they ascend. It is situated on the sweeping face of Mount Indefatigable between the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes.

The climb itself terminates on a west-facing ridge. Some scrambling is required to gain the south summit followed by a sheer walk along a ridge to access the true summit to the north.

Approximately 10 individual pitches of climbing begin after a short hike out from the parking area and up over some loose scree at the base of the mountain.

A fair amount of equipment is required for the ascent. The protection needed for a climb like this includes both cams and nuts – arguably the most common forms of trad gear – which will need to range in size from fingers to fists for use in crevices and cracks in the mountains face.

There is very little fixed protection, and, while the climbing remains moderate, technical gear knowledge is required as individuals will need to build their own belay stations and anchor points. The climb ranges in difficulty from 5.5 to 5.8, depending on the line you choose to ascend.

Joy follows an enormous dihedral – or corner – where the climbing is usually harder, but better protected to the right in the dihedral itself, and somewhat softer but more run-out on the slab to the left.

Mount Indefatigable has an unmistakable presence above the two lakes and, as you climb, the surrounding peaks and valleys unfurl around you. The sharp break where the dihedral joins seems to cut the skyline, jagged and cold. Wind whistles past, pushing whitecaps across the surface of the lake far below.

Joy is committing and, in extreme circumstances, people have found themselves spending the night on the mountain, underestimating the amount of time required for the day’s expedition.

Complications can also arise on the descent as the two main methods each have an element of danger. The first is a descent by way of a steep scree slope; the second is described as the ‘Bear Descent’ because the backside of Indefatigable is prime grizzly habitat and has been officially decommissioned because of this since 2005.

The descent on the backside links up in a number of places with the hiking or scrambling route up Mount Indefatigable.

“I think this is where we get down,” Dustin says, sounding unsure. Staring back at us from our position on the north summit is a steep gully full of loose looking rock. It is, however, our only obvious option for descent.

Once over the first few blocks, we can see the trail wind down into the trees in front of us and know that we are on the right track.

The stoke is high as we skip down the last few steps to more solid ground, shouting our victory at the sky.