Dreambed (5.11b) on Yamnuska

Rock Climbing on Yamnuska has a well-deserved reputation for being terrifying, with Yamnuska itself having a reputation for being a bit of a horrifying choss pile. Even some of the easier routes offer a pretty harrowing experience in some cases with complex route finding, tricky gear, and no shortage of loose rock.

Dreambed is a great route that offers a refreshing antithesis and perhaps is close to the best route on the whole wall. The route bucks the Yamnuska stereotype with relatively straightforward route-finding following a very direct line up the eastern side of the face, solid rock, good pro, and enough bolts that some pitches almost feel like sport pitches if you are comfortable at the grade.

Craig and I chose this one on a cool October day as it’s absolutely one of the very best Yam has to offer, offers relatively easy bail options and for us was a pretty low commitment. Nothing too scary, decent rock, and a chance to bang off one more 5.11 multi-pitch for the year. It ended up being perfect. We managed sunshine for almost the whole day (except pitch 1) and generally speaking was pretty much perfect.

Yamnuska is known for having a really long climbing season. As it faces South-east-ish, it enjoys morning and midday sun, typically seeing at least a bit of shade on some routes in the afternoon. The wall also is on the very eastern edge of the entire Canadian Rockies, which means it sees very little precipitation compared to other areas, particularly in the spring/fall means that it is one of the first places to dry out and be climbable in the spring, and can often be climbed even in late season (November in some years!)

It is worth noting, that Yam’s reputation is well deserved. Even though Dreambed is one of the more solid routes on the wall, that does not mean there is no risk – this is still limestone, and still the Canadian Rockies, and still Yamnuska, which means you must treat every foot and handhold as suspect to failure. Rockfall is likely and common on any route in the Rockies, more so on Yamnuska. It is worth avoiding Yamnuska (and other places in the Rockies) directly during or after a warming spell when it has been cold. As water seeps through the rock and freezes in the winter, it expands and can break or loosen rock. Then, as it warms the ice melts – without the ice to hold together these newly loosened features, they start to fall down. Best to give these walls a few days of space after a big warming spell to let things settle a bit.

Climbing Dreambed, 5.11b on Yamnuska
Climbing Dreambed 5.11b, Pitch 6 on Yamnuska
Climbing Dreambed, 5.11b on Yamnuska
Climbing Dreambed, Pitch 8, 5.11b on Yamnuska

The grade itself on Dreambed is very reasonable and “friendly” at 5.11b. Despite the route certainly feeling fairly sustained, the climbing is positive on good holds, and the difficulties are generally pretty short-lived. The 5.11b crux pitch is well bolted where it needs to be, and felt very reasonable for the grade. It is largely a technical traverse on small holds and decent feet and you are very quickly onto nicer holds and can cruise to the anchors. Watch the rope drag! The pitch most certainly wanders.

Craig Logan on Pitch 8
Craig Logan following on Pitch 8, 5.10b

While the route is pretty friendly for a mixed/modern trad route on yam – that is not to say that the route doesn’t live up to some of the Yamnuska legend. The pro is sufficient for sure, but there are some pretty big runouts on the route that deserve attention, and could feel very spicy for some climbers who aren’t completely comfortable on 5.10 terrain. The bolts add some security, but by no means is this a sport route – competency with finding and placing gear is a must.

Fortunately, I think the route-finding is pretty straightforward, and we had no problems finding the start and following the topo available.

Required Gear

The route can be climbed easily with a 70m rope, and the presence of “double” bolts on the route’s longer pitches mean that it is possible to rappel the route on a single route in an emergency. However, to increase your margins for safety, it is recommended to tag an additional rope if possible as the route can be fairly easily rapped with doubles as none of the pitches traverse too extensively. Be aware that many of the anchors do not have rappel anchors and instead are equipped with cord. Be prepared that a retreat may not be straightforward.

For a rack, I found the following worked for us

  • 12-14 alpine draws (a few more if you plan to link pitches)
  • Set of cams from 0.3 to Camelot #3 (some topos recommend a #4, but I didn’t feel it was necessary). An extra BD 0.4 & 0.5 was nice to have but also not necessary.
  • A selection of small nuts (Pitch 6 has a pretty obvious small nut placement that tames a runout)

Pitch Breakdown

Pitch 1 – 5.10a / 25m

The route opens around 50m to the left of Red Shirt with a lovely corner crack with good gear topping out on a small pillar with a bolted anchor. A very fun pitch.

Pitch 2 – 5.11b / 50m

Step left from the anchor and follow mostly bolts up the obvious shallow corner feature before trending to the right towards the small black roof. At the roof, follow bolts right on small holds around the corner to better holds. Stay right, on easing ground and finally traverse back left above the roof to a comfortable ledge and anchor.

Pitch 3 – 5.10d / 20m

Step right from the anchor and follow excellent holds and bolts up the face to a small overlap with good gear and step left to an anchor. This pitch feels like a sport climb and features some good face climbing!

Pitch 4 – 5.11a / 45m

A sustained, long pitch with decent gear, a few bolts, and a fun roof with good gear to cap it off. Step right from the anchor and follow tricky, sustained moves (5.10b) past bolts to reach better ground. Follow a shallow corner feature past bolts and gear to reach a tricky section (5.10d) before reaching a roof. Place good gear from a comfortable stance and then pull the roof to reach a bolted anchor in a large corner on a good ledge.

Pitch 5 – 5.4 / 15m

Step directly right from the anchor and follow easy terrain along a short ledge system, staying low to reach an anchor on the wall to the right.

Pitch 6 – 5.10c / 35m

From the anchor follow an obvious, easy ramp with tricky small gear placements to reach the first bolt. Continue up on increasingly technical terrain past bolts up the face, eventually trending left along a break feature. A small nut placement tames some of the runout. Past the last bolt, stay low on small technical footholds until you are below black streaks in the slab. Place a small cam (BD 0.4) and pull the tricky moves to reach easier ground and the anchor.

Pitch 7 – 5.9 / 25m

Follow widely spaced bolts up a faint arete, traversing right, then back left to reach the top of a slight pillar and the anchor where Red Shirt rejoins the route.

Pitch 8 – 5.10b / 25m

An amazing pitch! From the anchor, follow the exposed ledge out right as per Red Shirt towards the pillar, clipping a Piton with a long sling. Before reaching the pillar, head straight up the face on amazing ledges and rails to a single bolt (5.10b) leading to easier ground and a splitter corner with excellent gear. An optional #4 protects a wider section. Head straight up the corner to the final anchor.

Finish the route by scrambling up a few feet of very easy (but exposed terrain) above the anchor to the top of the cliff and rejoin the scramble trail to descend.

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