Mixed Rehab

A new user-friendly crag may offer the best fix of all.

By Rock and Ice | December 14th, 2009

Will Meinen took the dares and completed a ‘coming of age’ stunt at the Kicking Horse ski resort in Golden, B.C., that left his ankle in pieces. He returned home that weekend sporting a fashionable pink leg cast. Our big winter of hard ice routes was spoiled, or so we thought.

A few weeks after Will’s failed stunt, I caught wind of some unclimbed mixed routes tucked up Evan Thomas Creek, just outside of Calgary, Alberta. I suggested to Will that we check them out. With his ankle still locked in a cast, Will figured that climbing and hiking would be the exact rehabilitation he needed to speed his recovery. He cut the cast off and we were gone.

Evan Thomas Creek already housed great ice climbs such as Chantilly Falls (WI 2), Moonlight (WI 4) and Snowline (WI 4). The area has no avalanche danger, which is a treat here in the Rockies.

After an hour and a half of hiking—post-holing through ice into the creek—we reached a picturesque wall, about 600 feet long and around 60 feet tall. We lit a fire to dry our socks, drank Whisk-tea (the whiskey/tea combo that warms the soul) and scoped the wall.

Compared to such classic Rockies mixed crags as Hafner Creek, Bear Spirit and Stanley Headwall, this area was a pleasant change, offering unique horizontal bands of limestone that create perfect pick placements for tools.

The next day we hiked back in and Will, favoring his busted foot, climbed Fun and Fitness, a thin WI 4 smear that widened near its top.  With a Hilti in tow, on lead, we established Yoga Monster and The Treatment, both rated M5 WI 4.

The next day I climbed Acupuncture (M4 WI 4), a name birthed when the hot drill bit hanging on my harness burned through my jacket, fleece and baselayer, singeing my skin.

All that remained was the plumb line of the crag. I threw “rock” and Will threw “paper,” and he took the sharp end for Physio-Therapy, a 150-foot pitch of excellent steep and juggy rock no harder than M8.

I asked Will, now on the ground, “How you feeling?”  With a swollen foot and pumped forearms, Will replied, “Rehabilitated.” We therefore dubbed the crag: Rehab Wall.

Only a 40-minute drive from Calgary, with easy access and nearly a dozen routes, including the ice climbs, the Rehab Wall offers great climbing on any given day.

—Brandon Pullan

ACCESS: Park at Evan Thomas Creek (signed) in Kananaskis Country off Hwy. 40, about 40 minutes west of Calgary, Alberta. Start hiking east up the trail and creek, and after about 40 minutes you’ll reach the Moonlight and Snowline ice routes. After 15 more minutes, the creek bottlenecks: take game trails up through the forest on the right side of the creek. Reach an open slope and regain the creek. Soon you’ll see the Rehab Wall.

ROUTES: The Rehab Wall has eight climbs from M4 to M8, and WI 3 to WI 5. All the mixed routes are bolted.

GEAR: A 60m rope; 14 quickdraws; 10 screws (at least one stubbie); rappel from fixed anchors or walk off.

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