Issue 3

Tales of Vertical Trails

Solar Panel. A Ground Up Effort

These were desperate times and all we had was time. We gathered together the cash from the new bolt fund and visited every outlet we could find to hunt down hardware. I even remember a day when we considered using low integrity chrome plated bolts to develop ‘Solar Panel’. Thank goodness sense won over.

Issue 3

Solar Panel. A Ground Up Effort

These were desperate times and all we had was time. We gathered together the cash from the new bolt fund and visited every outlet we could find to hunt down hardware. I even remember a day when we considered using low integrity chrome plated bolts to develop ‘Solar Panel’. Thank goodness sense won over in that conversation. As we headed out west, the ‘Solar Panel’ area was our plan B. We had hoped to hit the bigger steeper walls of ‘Frejya’. It was early season however and spring sun had not yet cleared the snow from its ledges. Solar Panel was sunblessed and dry. With an old borrowed Makita drill and 70 bolts in a bucket we made our way to the base of the old J Mills Route called Liquid Corner. Our mission had begun.

Andrew Abel hiking into the Solar Panel

Day 1

I was up, and we were leading from the ground. This was my first foray into ground up bolting and it felt pretty real. The sun was on our backs and we were grateful to be in the mountains. After about 45 minutes of climbing and bolting, I reached the 35 metre halfway point on my rope at a small uncomfortable bay. I drilled two stud holes, flipped my drill to my back and simultaneously the battery in that old drill flew out. The battery bounced past Andrew into the snow below.

That was good timing, I thought, pretty handy that the holes are already drilled. I fixed the anchor bolts and Andrew seconded the route with the other two batteries in his pack. The name of the route was quickly solidified and ‘Batteries Not Included’ was born. Andrew took the sharp end of the rope for a long pitch into ‘Liquid Corner’ and I followed him with the heavy second pack. 

I drilled two stud holes, flipped my drill to my back and simultaneously the battery in that old drill flew out. The battery bounced past Andrew into the snow below.

Day 2

We retraced our steps with more hardware and Andrew continued up pitch 3, the 5.7 gear pitch following the corner, but we had eyes for the bigger wall out left. I took the sharp end and forrayed out onto the traversing pitch across a wonderful slab with some excellent but sparse gear protection. This mixed pitch was fun and had excellent rock. An easier Pitch 5 took us to the lunch ledge, and the base of some steeper climbing.

Pitch 6 was Andrew’s lead, and it was pretty bold. He drilled while climbing a very thin and technical 5.10- pitch, and I was impressed. We were almost out of daylight and bolts but I felt like heading up for Pitch 7. The bolting was a bit spacey but our last six bolts saw us reach and establish the next anchor and the base of the final crux pitch.

Pitch 6 was Andrew’s lead, and it was pretty bold. He drilled while climbing a very thin and technical 5.10- pitch, and I was impressed.

Andrew Abel hiking into the Solar Panel

Desperate for provisions and some electricity for the batteries we headed to sleep in our van in the parking lot of a Nordegg friend. 

Day 3

Desperate for provisions and some electricity for the batteries we headed to sleep in our van in the parking lot of a Nordegg friend. We charged our batteries and bummed 30 bolts from Brad Larson. Tired and excited we headed out west to tackle the crux pitch. Linking pitches, we enjoyed retracing our steps to the top of the wall. Andrew climbed pitch 7 and commented “…well that might need to have a few more bolts added” (we added 8 more bolts to pitch 7 that day). I took the sharp end and traversed out of the bay, this pitch looked hard and I had been intimidated by it all night. It was time to stare the dragon down. I remember placing two bolts and starting to climb into the first crux.

I wanted a third bolt but kept climbing as the terrain was too demanding to stop. To this day I always wish there was one more bolt after the traverse out of the cave. The rest of the pitch was wild and strenuous on good rock. We reached the top of the wall, shared a high five and began to descend.

Day 4

Friends were in the area and we wanted them to try the ‘Batteries Not Included’ out. They were arriving later than us. We headed up ‘Batteries Not Included’ and left them a map on a napkin along with a request for a gear cache halfway up the wall. Nate Johnson and Meghan Calderwood enjoyed the first ascent of ‘Batteries Not Included’  and delivered us enough gear to bolt the first half of ‘Energizer Bunny’.

Nate Johnson and Meghan Calderwood enjoyed the first ascent of ‘Batteries Not Included’  and delivered us enough gear to bolt the first half of ‘Energizer Bunny’.

Nathaniel Johnson on Batteries Not Included
Tim Taylor on the From Nordegg With Love Via Ferrata West of Nordegg, Alberta

Day 5

We continued to develop ‘Energizer Bunny’ and were surprised by how incredible the rock quality was. This would be a high quality steep route with a direct start to the BNI finish pitches. We completed ‘Energizer Bunny’ and our bolt cache was depleted. It was time to share the routes and restock our bolt supplies.

Soon we would be back to work on the next routes on the wall…

We completed ‘Energizer Bunny’ and our bolt cache was depleted. It was time to share the routes and restock our bolt supplies.

You can read the beta on the Solar Panel at the David Thompson Climbers Association’s website. 

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