Like millions of people around the world, I have been somewhat glued to the Olympics this past week. I was excited to learn last weekend that rock climbing has been included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis and all the areas in between host some wonderfully varied options for climbing. For example, as I sit slaving away at my computer today, my fiance and 3 friends are headed up a multi pitch located just outside of the town of Banff, another friend is doing a separate multi pitch at the iconic Grand Sentinel near to Lake Louise, and I will join some friends later for some sport climbing just 20 minutes away. Short approaches, or miles away from anywhere, bolted sport climbs to multi – pitch trad… It’s no surprise then that Canmore has decided to host an annual Climbing Festival, that kicked off its second year yesterday.
I never thought I would consider myself a rock climber. I’m by no means proficient, and am constantly in awe of the people that I climb with and around, but I definitely enjoy it. It’s one of the most incredible ways to get into the mountains, to find perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise see. It can be absolutely terrifying, and I have definitely had moments where I wonder what I’m doing up there, but in the past few years it’s taught me a lot about myself. When you are climbing there is no room for distraction in your brain, and my thoughts bounce around and I would definitely say I lack concentration. When you’re climbing, its the epitome of being “in the moment”. More so than yoga, more than skiing; if you’re climbing and not concentrating, you’ll fall off. And that is enough mental pressure to make yourself focus entirely on the game in hand! The best thing is that I’ve been able to take what I’ve learnt from climbing and apply it in every day life. Not all the time, admittedly, but I never would have had the focus to start up my own business without it.
So what can you climb in the Rockies? The majority of the rock is crumbly, crumbly limestone. Helmets are not optional. I’ve witnessed and dodged many a dislodged pebble. Head out towards Lake Louise though, and you’ll find world – class quartzite. There are numerous spots for bolted sport climbing, rated from 5.4 all the way to the newest 5.15 put up just this week by Sonnie Trotter to welcome youth climbing prodigy Alex Megos to the valley for the Canmore Climbing festival. If it’s confirmed, it will be the hardest bolted route in Canada! There are many certified guides in the area who will guide you to the best places for your capabilities. Some companies offer multiple days of exploring and tuition, helping you develop your climbing skills in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
With my preferred ratings of 5.9, it’s safe to say I will never climb the hardest routes in the country, but it’s cool to live surrounded by people that are constantly pushing the boundaries. It’s one of the best things about sport; you challenge yourself through participation, and you help push others to achieve things never achieved before through spectating and cheering them on. How many world records will fall during the olympics this year? How many personal bests, lifetime achievements? Year after year, we progress physically as a species and its pretty amazing to live in a valley that thrives on that progression.