Slabs + Crags 

We wake to the rude realization that we will have an early fall this year. The squirrels about camp seem to have collectively decided that the best tasting pine cones in the area are the ones directly above our tent. The steady downward storm of falling cones onto the rain fly makes it impossible to sleep anymore. 

We shower, eat, and pack up for the day, all the while dodging the shower from above as the little creatures over our heads chatter back and forth excitedly. 

Today we have our first dedicated climbing day and have our sights set on Sunshine Rock. West has been dying to get back up here for climbing ever since our first trip same time last year. The rock here is beautiful, huge slabs of quartzite and limestone. 

We head to Sunshine Rock and check out the routes. There’s enough here to keep us busy for a very long time. Midweek mid-morning and almost no one is here. The grades range from 5.5 – 5.11c sport climbing with slab to overhang and just about something for everyone. 

I’m not super into heights so lucky West has a dedicated belayer anytime we go climbing. He’s been doing a ton of lead climbing this year and we have our garage set up as a mini climbing training gym complete with finger board, pull up bar, and even a little yoga zone. He’s been prepping all year to come back here and get on some Canadian real rock. 

His first climb is Dumont Crossing, a four bolt 5.8 crack climb for a warmup. He does well enough, but crack climbs have never been his strong suite having only completed a handful of cracks in his career,  so we go around the corner to find a more familiar rock type. 

The Sunshine Slabs section of Sunshine Rock is right up our alley with tons of routes in the 5.9-5.10a range. Tons of crimpy holds on a smooth face; West is in heaven. 

We are in good company; the other climbers here, no matter what their nationality, all share the same obsession, the same community. Climbers are amongst the most laid back of the outdoor enthusiasts. The sport itself lends itself to a relaxed, individualistic atmosphere. If there’s is a personification of the sport, it can be found in Alex Honnold. Good natured, easy going, chill, approachable. Sure you have the occasional diva that pops up, but for the most part, you’ll never have a bad interaction with a fellow climber. 

West totally crushes Old Style, Joyride, Hubcaps, and Mule Days. He’s exhausted but happy by the end. Traditionally, you would trade off and on with climbing and belaying, but since I don’t climb, West does one after another. It’s a good problem to have; he’ll never fight over who gets to go first, but he also will burn out way sooner since there isn’t a way to pace other than just call for a break. 

We leave the slabs happy and excited to return the next day. Our plan for the rest of the day is to head over to the city of Banff to return to a few of the outdoor shops and a brewery. We are hopeful that the same midweek luck will apply to the crowds in Banff, but to no avail. It take us roughly 25 minutes of circling like vultures to finally get a parking space, and even then we have to walk several blocks to get close to downtown! I know many people in inner cities have a much harder time getting around on a daily basis, but coming from a town like Bozeman where five minutes away from your destination seems like a stretch, the parking situation in Banff feels like a zoo! 

We finally get to downtown, and the race is on! Coming from a peaceful, unstressful wooded climbing area, to an overcrowded, claustrophobic, tourist ridden town no matter how close to the mountains feels awful and makes my skin crawl. If I had been traveling to NYC, I would have found it much easier to adjust, but the sensation of going from the middle of nowhere to an overstuffed tourist trap of a city is jarring. Nevertheless, we weave our way steadily through the throng until we reach first the North Face store and then the Patagonia Store. Stepping into the shops is a shocking contrast to the climate outside on the street. Other stores are buzzing and just as crowded as the sidewalks are, but here, in these familiar outdoor brand stores, there is a little oasis awaiting us. 

We relish in the wealth of options before us. North Face and Patagonia are two of my top brands as far as body type fit goes so I am having a hard time not just shoveling things hand over fist into the basket from the racks. Despite this, we manage to leave both stores with minimal damage to our bank account and head up the street to Banff Avenue Brewing. We share an order of fish and chips and a few brews before making our way back to our ride.

We make the 40 minute drive back to camp jamming out to Sublime, another day well spent in the Bow Valley. A couple of rounds of Phase 10, a good book in bed, and a goodnight kiss, and the Sandman takes us away, our bodies sore but our hearts glad. 

– to follow our travels each day visually, head over to @thebozemanite on Instagram

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