The Bow Valley’s Original Drytooling Crag
Where is The Playground?
The Playground is located in the south side of the second grotto on Grotto Mountain. Park at the Rat’s Nest Cave parking 5km south of Canmore’s Elk Run Boulevard on Hwy 1A (51°3’8.55″N 115°15’22.46″W, UTM 11U 0622217mE 5657095mN). This parking lot serves numerous backcountry activities including The Playground (drytooling), Alcatraz (drytooling), Eldorado (drytooling), Rat’s Nest Cave (caving), and the south summit of Grotto Mountain (scrambling). Several trails leave the parking lot. It is important to find the right one. The main trail heads through the bush to the drainage immediately north. It crosses the drainage and heads uphill through the woods. There is a cairned shortcut (51° 3’16.31″N, 115°15’30.28″W) that heads left before the Rat’s Nest Cave trail reaches the power line. Follow the power line downhill to the flats (51° 3’20.88″N, 115°15’41.18″W) and follow a trail to the right up through the woods to gain the access road above the quarry. Hike north along the road. There is another shortcut at the switchback in the road (cairned). Beyond the switchback, take the trail into the woods (51°4’1.67″N, 115°16’26.40″W). Cross the drainage and follow a trail up towards the second grotto. When below The Playground (51°4’15.11″N, 115°16’21.38″W, UTM 11U 621022mE 5659124mN), head back south across the drainage and up to the crag. 2.75km 350m elevation gain.
Who created The Playground?
The Playground was original discovered by Canmore alpine guide Patrick Delaney. He was looking for a crag that he could develop into a training crag for mixed climbing. It was important that the crag NOT have decent rock for rock climbing so as not to create a debate with the rock climbers. Pat envisioned a Canadian equivalent to some of the Euro grid bolted dry tooling areas. He partnered with Eric Dumerac to finish the routes. Eric was very excited about The Playground’s potential and publicized the venue. The Playground was initially quite contentious as the routes were fabricated specifically for training. As World Cup style drytooling has become more popular, The Playground has found its place in the community. It is not uncommon for there to be 20-30 climbers here on a weekend in the fall and for climbers to come here to train year round. New routes ranging from D4-D9 have been built during the past 5 years to accommodate all levels of drytooling.
The routes at The Playground are described from left to right. It can be divided into 5 areas: Upper Cave, Playground Left, Swiss Cheese Cave, Rat’s Nest Wall, Mutt Wall, and Recess Wall.
Upper Cave – This cave is located left and above The Playground proper. There is only one route here at this time.
Just The Tip D7 This route climbs vertical terrain to the right of a large cave. FA: Michelle Kadatz, Steve Kovalenko
Playground Left – The wall left of the Swiss Cheese cave has 3 longer vertical routes.
Mountaineers Route D5 This is the furthest left route at The Playground. Climb broken terrain to gain a right facing corner up to an anchor. FA: Patrick Delaney.
U Crazy Roundeye! D7- Climb slabs right of Mountaineers Route. Long reaches, mantels and slabby climbing lead to the anchor. FA: Patrick Delaney.
Get to Know You D6+ Figure out how to reach the roof at the second bolt. Seams, corners, and a mailbox slot lead to the anchor. FA: Lida Frydrychova, Veronica Wadja
Trumpsters D7+ Connect corners and stein pulls up the vertical terrain left of the Single Malt seam. FA: Amanda Bischke
Swiss Cheese Cave – This large cave is the home to the steepest climbing at The Playground.
Single Malt D8- Steep blocky climbing leads to the arching crack. Step left and continue up to the anchor. FA: Eric Dumerac.
Amrut D8+ Thin and steep moves lead up the left facing corner immediately right of Single Malt. FA: James Madden
Shropshire Blue D9 Long and thin moves lead up the face inside the cave right of Amrut. FA: Erik Schnack
Swiss Cheese D9- A rib leads up out of the cave. Follow the fixed draws through the huge overhang. FA: Simon Anthamatten
Malt Cheese D8 Connect Single Malt to Swiss Cheese. FA: James Madden
Rat’s Nest Wall – The lower angled wall below Swiss Cheese is home to the original crag warm-ups.
Rat’s Nest Route D4 This route climbs the short wall immediately right of Swiss Cheese. Not recommended if there is a party on Swiss Cheese. FA: Patrick Delaney
Baptism D5+ Climb the right facing corner to the right of Rat’s Nest Route. At a roof, step left and continue up to an anchor under the roof. The original route traversed right to finish on Prowler. FA: Patrick Delaney
Prowler D6 Steep moves lead to the arête. FA: Patrick Delaney
Mutt Wall – From the Prowler arête to the Pride cave, the routes are short but steep, or finish with vertical slabs.
Mutt D6+ Short and steep, just right of the arête. FA: Patrick Delaney
Jeff D8- Start in the corner below Glenfiddich. Traverse left to cracks that lead to a perfect steinpull and the anchor. FA: Patrick Delaney
Glenfiddich D7+ Climb the overhanging right facing corner to a vertical slab with a single crack. FA: Patrick Delaney
Wild Turkey D8- Climb the overhanging right facing corner right of Glenfiddich to a vertical slab finish. FA: Patrick Delaney
Triple Sec D8+ Climb the left facing corner left of the Pride cave to a slab finish. FA: Patrick Delaney
Nothing but Pride D7 Stem in 3d out of the small cave to an overhanging reachy finish. FA: Patrick Delaney
Recess Wall – To the right of the Pride cave is a slabby wall that descends to the approach trail. There are a couple of short challenging overhangs along it.
No Prejudice D4 Climb the slab up a shallow right facing corner to gain an anchor right of Nothing but Pride. FA: Brent Peters
Dodgeball D4 Climb the slab up a shallow groove right of No Prejudice. FA: Brent Peters
Red Rover D4 Climb the shallow groove right of Dodgeball. FA: James Madden
The Monitor D5 Climb the mossy right facing corner left of the Bully roof. FA: Brent Peters
The Bully D6- Climb the slab to the roof. Traverse right across the roof and up the slab above. FA: Brent Peters
Patchouli Oil D6+ About 25m down from The Bully. Climb the left side of the overhang. FA: James Madden
Dreadlocks D6 Climb the right side of the overhang, avoiding the broken lose rock on the right. FA: James Madden
What is Drytooling and Mixed Climbing?
Drytooling is climbing rock with ice tools and crampons. It is a growing sport, supported by both the UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Competition circuit and mixed climbing. Mixed climbing involves climbing rock to gain waterfall ice.