Arch Enemy (5.11d) on the Stanley Headwall – A new modern classic

Some days exist for getting after it, and some walls are simply made for climbing. Ticking Arch Enemy on the Stanley Headwall in Yoho National Park was one of those perfect days on a perfect wall. Jakob and I couldn’t have asked for better weather, which is kinda necessary as the route is up in the alpine, shady most of the day, and gets a lot of spray in the afternoon from the epic Nemesis waterfall next door.

Check out the latest Stanley Headwall Sport Climbing Topo HERE

Top of Pitch 6, Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall
Top of Pitch 6, Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall

Arch Enemy is what I would consider the ultimate modern classic. A simple approach, straightforward climbing, and well-protected, short cruxes in one of the most epic locations imaginable. This is like Takkakaw Falls on steroids but with far better rock, far better climbing, and even better views. Fully bolted, with sub-30-meter pitches, and nearly perfect rock, it rivals most similar routes and is only exceeded in quality by the ultra classic Stanley Fever and Livin in Paradise which are both further to the left past Nemesis. I’m sure as the word gets out, this will become one of the most popular multi-pitches to climb in the Bow Valley in the Summer. Best get after it before you have to start getting in line.

Starting up Pitch 6, Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall
Starting up Pitch 6, Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall

The route was put up in 2014 by Jovan Simic and Erik Schnack, and freed at 5.11d by Matt Lucas later that same season. It’s actually shocking to me this route hasn’t seen much more traffic. It rivals anything else out there in the same “genre” of climbing (hard/moderate big sport multi-pitches) in terms of climbing quality and position/views. Even if 5.11d is a bit above your pay grade, both cruxes can be easily A0’d for what is still one of the best 5.11a’s in the Bow valley.

You will need at least 14 draws, and you can certainly link pitches 2+3, and 4+5 with a few extras in your pack. Pitches 2 & 5 are short. Walking off is possible, but it is also straightforward to rap the route with a 70m.

Jakob swapping shoes for the descent on Arch Enemy, Stanley Headwall
Jakob swapping shoes for the descent on Arch Enemy, Stanley Headwall

Approach

Park at the Stanley Glacier parking lot (get there early). Follow the hiking trail until it becomes obvious to head right/north towards an enormous boulder in the middle of the valley and hike the short slope to the base of the Nemesis waterfall. The route starts a couple of dozen meters to the right of the waterfall, left of the Stanley Headwall sport climbs. Look for bolts.

Route Description (below) & Topo. Anchors & line are approximate

Arch Enemy Topo (5.11d, Stanley Headwall)
Arch Enemy Topo (5.11d, Stanley Headwall)

P1 (5.7) 25m

The first pitch is a straightforward romp up some easy, sometimes chossy limestone ramps and corners leading to a comfortable belay at a ledge below a short wall.

P2 (5.10d) 15m

A couple of balancey moves up a short wall leads to a bit of an awkward bulge/mantle up onto another ledge before a pretty awesome corner.

P3 (5.11d) 20m

The first crux pitch. Climb an unbelievably aesthetic (but moderate) corner feature into a mediocre rest before launching into a powerful crux sequence that traverses out right through a couple bolts on the bulge until you find some easier holds and end on another ledge.

P4 (5.11d) 31m

Traverse left from the belay on increasingly slabby terrain (bolts) until you can reach left to a blind/hidden micro crimp. Find some feet and reach up to a good hold, clip a bolt, and enjoy some of the best 5.10 climbing you will find anywhere. Can also be A0’d for an amazing 5.10c pitch.

P5 (5.10+) 15m

Climb a short crack feature up to a massive lunch ledge directly beside/below the mind-blowing nemesis waterfall. The climbing isn’t memorable, but the lunch ledge is unbelievable.

P6 (5.11-) 25m

One of the best pitches of 5.11- around. Climb a huge corner feature directly to the right of the Nemesis waterfall, and navigate flakes, corners, aretes, and some incredible rock through some thoughtful sequences. End at a small ledge and an anchor to the right of the corner.

P7 (5.10b) 25m

Prepare to have your mind blown. Perfect edges on a vertical wall with jaw-dropping exposure and the ambiance of Nemesis blasting out only a few feet to your left. One of the most memorable pitches I have ever climbed. Bring a 3rd for an absolutely epic photo op.

Jakob on the final pitch of Arch Enemy, 5.11d, Stanley Headwall
Jakob on the final pitch of Arch Enemy, 5.11d, Stanley Headwall

Descent

Straightforward rap off with a 70m, or continue up to the plateau above Nemesis and walk off to the left. Sporty and unclear on the difficulty of walk off.

Jakob on the perfect pitch 6 of Arch Enemy, 5.11d, Stanley Headwall
Jakob on the top of pitch 6 of Arch Enemy 5.11d on the Stanley Headwall
Top of Pitch 4, Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall
Top of Pitch 4, Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall
The top of Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall
The top of Arch Enemy (5.11d), Stanley Headwall
Heading out on the last pitch of Arch Enemy, 5.11d, Stanley Headwall
Heading out on the last pitch of Arch Enemy, 5.11d, Stanley Headwall

One thought on “Arch Enemy (5.11d) on the Stanley Headwall – A new modern classic

  1. Pingback: Stanley Headwall Climbing – Sport & Multipitch Topo - Alpine Journals

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