Whitney-Gilman Route (Cannon Mtn.)

By: Jean-Michel Voyer | Climbers: Jean-Michel Voyer, Pierre-Olivier Lemay |Trip Dates: June 27, 2004

Photo: Maury McKinney

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06/26/04: We are finally in the tent and ready for a short but needed night. We left Montreal at 5:30PM right after work and we had to try 3 camping sites before we could find the right spot. By the time the tent is set up, it's midnight.

06/27/04: We wake up at 5AM because we expect it to be very crowded on a route that even the guidebook suggests avoiding on the weekend, but weekend warriors we are! A quick breakfast and we are on the way to the parking lot. When we got there, there are already two parties packing. We quickly pack and rack our gear; mistake #1 since we should have done it last night, but we manage to be the second party to check in and start the approach.

The approach is long and steep. It reminds me that I should start training harder. We finally discover why the approach is so long - we hiked up the descent trail (mistake #2). We end up at the top of the climb with a nice view of the Black Dike. At least now we now know the descent route. It's now time to run to be at the base of the route before everyone else. Pierre-Olivier ('P-O',) is a bit sick so I leave him behind and try to get a good starting spot.

When I get to the base, there is a party on the second pitch, one starting the first and another one waiting. Oh well, it could have been worst! So we take a well-deserved rest after two hours of running. Thinking about it, mistake #2 is not that bad since the reason why we are here is that we want to fine-tune our multi-pitch routine because we are going for a week in the Bugaboos. There we will have to do that kind of approach every day.

Wake up, the party above us is out of sight! Since I won the coin toss I can finally lead that first pitch, a 5.4 corner on superb rock. While I lead, we see and hear why Canon Cliff is known for loose rock - somewhere between here and Moby Grape a HUGE rock (judging from the sound, the dust and the scream from the climber who triggered it) fell. Fortunatley nobody get hurt. After the corner I'm facing my first route finding dilemma: a blocky chimney on the right or a attractive (but not 5.4) corner with a tricky exit. The corner looks so nice that I go for it. And this mistake #3 is worth it - a couple of nice moves finally wake me up. As I top out I see that we won't be alone at the first belay ledge. Two parties are waiting there, but there are cracks for everyone's belay. When P-O arrives, everyone is still waiting, a real traffic jam, but there are worse places than a roomy ledge for a traffic jam! This turned out to be a long pitch; we probably combined the first two, but it worked out even with the increased rope drag.

After about 30 minutes of chatting and two more parties on the ledge behind us, P-O can finally go for his first lead of the day. He climbs it without problems and belays me. This second pitch is OK, it traverses to the left to reach a corner/crack, then a ramp brings you back right. The belay is done from old pitons and a fat crack.

The wait paid off because when I get to P-O, he is alone on the ledge, and we can test our efficiency with switching gear for my lead. The pipe pitch is the first 5.7 pitch of the route. From the belay ledge it goes up a step in the ramp then follows the ramp to the edge of the arête. The crux is right after you step to the other side of the arête. The move is not hard although the airy situation makes you think twice before going for it, but a old "bomber" piton right before the move is welcome. Besides the crux move, there is no difficulty on that pitch, but the situation on the ridge crest is very nice. Now there are two more pitches to do; one very short one to avoid some rope drag problems and the last pitch, the second 5.7 of the route.

We climb the short pitch very quickly, and now P-O is going on the last pitch! It doesn't look super easy from the belay; the last pitch is on a face and the crux is a little "roof", but P-O leads it without any problem. As I second it, I'm happy that I didn't lead it but it's often like that, you climb better when you lead. When I get to the top, we celebrate the climb and we are happy with the multi-pitch routine even if we've been slowed down by the traffic on this classic climb. We are also happy to be off the route since dark clouds are showing up.

We are now focusing on our next classic climb, the East Ridge of Pigeon Spire. I can't wait!

If you live back East and you never been to Cannon Cliff (which was my case) you have to go there! I couldn't believe that this cliff was only 5 hours drive from Montreal. You feel like you are the mountains and finding that here is hard!