Multi-Pitch Rock Climbing

Welcome to our multi-pitch rock climbing page where we have compiled a bunch of great multi-pitch rock climbs for you to look at and consider on your next privately guided trip with us. Please note that the climbs we have highlighted below are not an exclusive list but rather a sample of typical multi-pitch rock climbs that we guide. Take your time & explore the rock routes highlighted below or click here to scroll down and read up on some related multi-pitch rock climbing topics (ie. Yosemite Decimal System, our Rockies rock season, etc). If anything interests you or you have questions, please feel free to reach out. Our contact info is available at the bottom of this page.

Some Things to Know

Below are some great topics to read up on that hopefully will help you familiarize yourself with our region and answer some questions you may have. If you have any remaining questions, please feel free to reach out using our contact info that is provided at the bottom of this page.

What is multi-pitch rock climbing?

Good question and let’s get right into it. Multi-pitch rock climbing is a term used when the rock climbing team climbs a rock route and breaks it into multiple sections or pitches. Say for instance you want to climb a route that is 100m tall but your rope is only 60m long. You physically cannot climb the whole 100m route at once with your 60m rope (unless you simul-climb but we won’t get into that discussion here). So, what do you do? Well, you would then have to break this 100m route into a minimum of two sections (or pitches) in order to climb it to the top. How does this work you ask? Well, it starts with the guide (lead climber) tying into one end of the rope and the guest (seconder) tying into the other end. The guide would then lead climbs the first section while placing rock gear at various points along the way and clipping their rope into said protection point(s); this mitigates the risk of a potential fall. Now let’s say that the guide reaches the mid-way point where the first pitch ends. This is where the guide would build a rock anchor and attach (or secure) themselves to it. After some communication and system manipulation to put the guest on ‘belay’, the guest would be able to start climbing. As the guest climbs, they are be belayed from above from the upper anchor by the guide. While the guest climbs up, they would remove all of the pieces of rock protection that the guide placed while leading the pitch. Once at the anchor, the guide helps the guest secure themselves directly to the anchor so the guest can be taken off belay. Next all the gear that the guest collected can be carefully passed back to the guide so he or she can lead the next pitch and take the team to the top of the climb. This system can be repeated for many pitches and is the basic principle of multi-pitch rock climbing and how we can climb rock routes that are way longer than our rope(s). 

Single pitch climbing is different and usually involves the guide climbing a route that is less than half the length of the rope. Once at the top of said route, the guide builds an anchor to thread the rope through, and then is lowered back down to the group. In this set-up the guest now climbs up to the anchor and then is lowered back down to the ground by the guide who is belaying them from the ground. In single pitch climbing there is no climbing higher and higher, but rather just to the anchor and then back down.

There are some potential variations to both set-ups but this is the general idea and hopefully your understanding of a multi-pitch rock climb is clearer now.

Yosemite Decimal System:

This is a fairly simple system that is primarily used in Canada and the US. The Yosemite Decimal System (or YDS) contains three parts: class, grade, and protection. Let’s talk about the YDS classes as these are common numbers you’ll see, specifically the 5th class climbing (ie. 5.9, 5.10a, 5.10b, etc.), when exploring the routes on this page. In the YDS there are 6 classes that describe terrain from walking to climbing with a rope. Please note the descriptions below.

  • Class 1: Refers to walking terrain with a low chance of injury, hiking boots are a good idea.
  • Class 2: Refers to more involved hiking or simple scrambling terrain with the possibility of occasional use of the hands. Respectively low risk or potential danger is encountered if a slip was to occur.
  • Class 3: Refers to scrambling terrain with increased exposure. Handholds are necessary. When on one of our guided trips, a rope is frequently used to protect our guests with a technique called, short roping because falls could be fatal.
  • Class 4: Refers to simple climbing with exposure where the use of handholds are frequently used but not continuously relied on. Again, a rope will be used when in a guided setting because this is serious terrain with serious consequences.
  • Class 5: This is terrain where the rope comes out and is used to climb technical rock pitches by free climbing with the use of one’s hands and feet, rock protection, anchors, & more. The guide and guest do not move at the same time but rather climb one at a time while the other belays off of specific rock anchors that are built to hold higher fall forces. The guide leads the rope up, sets an anchor, communicates to the guest that they are on belay so the guest can follow in a top-rope fashion. Free climbing techniques are employed to work our way up the cliff, with rock protection used to mitigate the risk of falling and direct the rope when needed.

    The 5th class system starts at 5.0 and works its way up to the current hardest grade of 5.15d, with 5.16a looming to be next. There are some things to note here. The system used to be capped at 5.9 because it was thought that that was the hardest people could climb. Obviously, climber abilities and technology improved and the difficulty gap within the broad spectrum of 5.9 climbs was too noticeable. Around the early 1960’s harder 5.10 climbs started to become accepted, which lead to the removal of the 5.9 cap and the introduction of the new grade- 5.10. Starting at 5.10, (-) and (+) signs were used to differentiate between easier and harder climbs but around 1975 the lettered sub-categories (a, b, c, & d) were used, with ’a’ being the easiest sub-category and ‘d’ being the hardest. Due to this transition period, modern climbers may note discrepancies between ‘old school’ climbs and modern climbs, especially if the old school climb is a 5.9. For example, it is not uncommon for an old school 5.9 to feel more like a modern 5.10a or harder. Of course, there are many more nuances and techniques used to scale a rock cliff but our hope is that this gives you a good general idea of 5th class terrain and how it falls into YDS. Climbing grade conversion charts can easily be found online to convert your international climbing system to YDS.
  • Class 6: Aid climbing where the terrain is too technical for free climbing and the climber must resort to physically pulling on gear to aid their way through.
Our Canadian Rockies Rock Season

Our rock season essentially starts once the snow starts to melt and the cliff faces warm up enough. This process can start as early as April on lower elevation, solar facing cliffs. The opposite can be said for when the season ends, which can be as late as October and finishing on lower elevation and solar facing cliffs. The bulk of the summer rock climbing season unfolds in the remaining months of June, July, August, & September. June can be a bit transitional with some rainy weather. July and August are the busy-busy summer months with typically great weather. September is also a nice month to climb, enjoys cooler temps, less crowds, and of course the beautiful autumn colours that come with the changing of the seasons. 

Weather

First off, our Rockies weather can be quite variable and heavily influenced by the surrounding mountains. It is not uncommon to experience a taste of the 4-seasons in one day. That being said, we do have seasonal averages and rainy days as seen below:

Clothing

What you wear and bring can drastically change the enjoyment of your climbs as fickle mountain weather can change fast. Dress for the weather and activity but also consider the fact that it could rain (or randomly snow), winds could pick up, and temps could drop (especially if the sun goes behind the mountains). Having the bare minimum may work for easy low commitment climbs but will not work for longer or more committing climbs. Bringing the right amount of clothing but not too much is the art of dressing for the mountain weather and being prepared. Below is a list to consider for your next multi-pitch rock climbing trip with us.

Technical clothing that is climber or hiker specific is best due to the materials stretchy, ergonomic, and quick-drying characteristics. Clothing made of cotton or denim are not ideal.

  • Sunhat
  • Long or short sleeve shirt that will help protect you from the sun
  • Lightweight windbreaker jacket
  • Soft-shell sweater or lightweight insulating jacket
  • Waterproof rain jacket (& pants depending on conditions/route)
  • Hiking or climbing pants that are stretchy and quick drying
  • Thin leather gloves for rocky descents or rappelling
  • Approach shoes.
Climbing Equipment

The equipment being used needs to be modern and in good shape. Guests are welcome to use their own gear or request to use our gear. Rental fees may apply.

  • Helmet
  • Rock climbing harness
  • Tubular belay device (ie. Black Diamond- ATC Guide)
    • Assisted braking devices are recommended (ie. Mammut- Smart Alpine)
  • 2 locking carabiners
  • 2 non-locking carabiners
  • 120cm sewn anchor sling or PAS
  • Chalk bag (optional)
  • Nut tool for trad climbs
  • Rock climbing shoes
  • Climbing backpack (roughly 20-45 litres)
Personal Items

Your personal items are a mix of essential and non-essential things.

  • Sunglasses & a small personal amount of sunscreen
  • Headlamp
  • Lunch, snacks, water (roughly 1-2L)
  • Hiking pole(s) (optional, unless otherwise noted)
  • Camera 
  • Toilet paper & lighter in a Ziploc (small personal amount)
Driving

Most climbs that we frequent are within a 1hr. drive from Canmore, while some may be further away. Guests can expect to have the guide carpool with them or have a guide transportation charge added to their invoice. Most climbs only require street cars to access the trailhead but some areas like the Ghost Wilderness Area will require higher clearance vehicles with 4-wheel drive, which we can provide if needed.

Commitment Level

Regular business work days are 8hrs. Our regular guiding work day with our guests ranges between 6-9hrs, plus pre and post work. Longer days because of larger routes, travel, pre-positions, or trips that require extensive preparation may come with additional costs.

Climbing Hazards

Rockfall is an inherent risk of climbing or even travelling near mountain cliffs. This is true for both climbers and hikers alike. The rockfall hazard in the Canadian Rockies is likely higher here than many other areas due to the fractured nature of the rock from changing seasons and local erosion. Do know that we take this hazard seriously and will make reasonable steps to reduce our guests’ risk to rockfall.

Cost

Costs are based on many variables like: how many people are booking, how many guides are needed, what’s the transportation situation, how committing is the objective, how hard is the route, will accommodation be required, will rental gear be needed, etc. Multi-pitch rock climbing costs are based on a regular guiding work day (6-9hrs) and start at $500/day + the cost for additional persons/expenses/surcharges/and tax (5% GST). Please contact us if you’d like to get a quote and plan a trip.

If you have any question please to not hesitate to Contact UsPrior to booking, please review our Booking InfoAll guests must read, understand, & sign our ACMG Waiver. We will provide a copy for you to sign before each trip or course