The Path climbs up the center of a steep, tall, intimidating wall at the back of the lake crag at Lake Louise. It was established by Sonnie Trotter 2 years ago in traditional style and was given 5.14 R. It has seen one repeat by Ethan Pringle last year. The gear is sparse and small, but the falls are mostly clean. The wall is covered with beautiful streaks and the climbing follows perfect well-spaced edges. There are several hard sections throughout the route with some ok rests between. The crux moves come near the end when you're quite tired. The route tackles the wall above an existing 5.11a sport route.
As you can see in the next two photos, Lake Louise is an idyllic location. Unfortunately many people know this and so it's also very touristy. The back of the lake crag can be seen in the first photo... at, well, the back of the lake. The lake is truly this color too, no fancy photoshopping here.
The next photo gives a route overview of the route though the scale and angle of the wall is a bit distorted. The whole length of the climb (from the ledge at the top of the 5.11a pitch) is about 70ft, 60 of which you can see in this picture. The gear labeled on this photo is all the gear I used for the whole climb. There were one or two other potential placements, but they wouldn't have changed the runouts much. At the ledge below the bottom of the photo, I placed two equalized pieces as well.
Here's a photo of me on the opening moves just before the first piece of gear. This is probably the most dangerous move on the route because you are far from your last piece and could actually hit the ledge if you fell. All other falls should be clean. My right hand is on a small slopey crimper and I'm about to stab into a good horizontal crack.
In approaching this route, I decided to do a few things different than Sonnie and Ethan. Both of these guys essentially soloed the 5.11a sport route to get to the ledge at the base of the main face. In a way this makes sense because then you are climbing the center of the wall from bottom to top. I was more psyched however to climb the 5.6 corner about 8ft. to the left that also led to the same ledge. I soloed this corner and then placed two pieces equalized at the ledge. You can just barely see that gear at the bottom of the photo above. You can also see a rope threaded through the anchors at the top of the 11a. The main reason I decided to take this approach is that I was having a hard time getting myself psyched to go for the route knowing that I would have to solo the 11a each time. I don't think it really changes the difficulty of the route because you get a no-hands rest at the ledge before the upper headwall. The upper part of the route is what really inspired me so I chose to make that the sole focus by just climbing the 5.6 to get to the start.
The other thing I did differently is that I climbed a slightly new way at the very end of the route. The crux moves are a sequence of hard leftward traversing moves on slopey crimps. They lead you to a good lieback hold where you can get back some of your strength. From here, Sonnie and Ethan climbed straight up to a jug at the top of the face where you can clip a set of anchors. The rock quality in this section seemed a bit dubious to me. There were several blocks that seemed to be just sitting on the little ledges. The first time I set up on that anchor, I nearly knocked a huge block on my belayer that could have been fatal. I think that experience spooked me a bit and made me less psyched to climb through that section. Then I realized there was a way to climb back to the right and finish straight up the end of a black streak to an anchor slightly to the right. I got psyched on this finish because the rock seemed more solid and also because at the end you can actually mantle onto the slab for the full no-hands rest. So when I sent the route, I took this right finish variation. The moves on both variations are roughly the same difficulty so I don't think this changes the full difficulty of the route at all.
All in all, I was really psyched on the ascent. It was a difficulty challenge to get myself to the point of redpointing this route. At first I was very intimidated by the wall and hesitant to take on such a big project. As I got to know the moves better on TR, I realized that I was physically able to do the climb. Then it took a while to wrap my head around actually going for it. I spent 4 days trying it on TR. Then I had two days where I tried it on lead once per day. The first day, I just went piece to piece to familiarize myself with being on the sharp end. The second day I gave a full redpoint attempt and nearly sent, but popped off the last hard move and took a 35ft. whipper onto a gray Metolius master cam. Exciting! On the 7th day I sent on my first try. All in all, I probably took about 7 TR and 3 lead burns. Because the route is so long and involved, I couldn't try it much each day. As for a grade, I think probably 14a or 14b -- with an R for a danger rating.
It was a great experience and a great culmination to my month long trip in the Canadian Rockies. I'm resting today and will give one more attempt at Existence Mundane 14b tomorrow before I leave to head back to Boulder. I tried the route yesterday and linked through the lower crux twice. I definitely feel close so hopefully the stars will line up and I'll get to eat my cake too.
Thanks and props to you for reading this far down on quite a long-winded post.