Location: Icefields Parkway (Mount Andromache)
Elevation Gain: 830m from parking lot
Distance: 7.0km round trip
Total Time: 8 – 10 Hours for an average party, add time if others are on route
Difficulty: 5.8 (mostly 5.4 – 5.7)
Cell reception: At summit
Rating: 5/5. Read the topo and know what you’re climbing, it isn’t all solid 5.8 and if you go in expecting that, you’ll be disappointed.
Gear: 60m single rope, 10+ draws, boots/approach/rock shoes, headlamp
Notes: Route is rigged for 30m raps. Start early. This route can have lots of traffic so make sure you’re the first one up and down, as climbing around others on the mellow pitches can be sketchy with rockfall. You also rappel the same route, which again sucks with other people on it.
Approach to Achilles Spire
The approach for Achilles Spire mostly follows the trail for Mount Hector, which is very well defined. Parking is located in the large pull out just North of Hetor Creek, about 20 minutes past Lake Louise. Find the trail on the climber’s right side of the creek, and follow it through the forest up to a waterfall. Follow any of the trails either up ledges or across the waterfall until the creek/waterfall disappears into the ground and you enter a large valley. Move left towards the large cliffs of Mount Andromache on a solid trail. When it breaks off to the right keep going up through cliff bands to a large bow just below a steep cliff. Follow the trail across the bowl to the left, then the trail turns right up a small gully at the base of the cliff. The climb starts here with a bolt (blue flagging 2017).
Looking at the route topo, you can see that 10 of the 13 pitches are graded at 5.6 or less, this is important to know going in to this climb. There’s probably only a few pitches of solid, fun climbing. Some people won’t enjoy this at that’s okay, it’s a lot of effort if all you’re looking for is a solid 5.8 multi pitch. However, the position is excellent and the views from the summit are incredible. I’ve had friends who disliked this climb because of the loose rock, below average climbing, and were underwhelmed by the difficulty. Just looking at the topo however, this is to be expected and putting those complaints aside this is a beautiful alpine sport climb that makes for a fairly laid back adventure.
This climb can be done entirely in approach shoes (if you’re comfortable), we brought rock shoes so chose to use them but if I was to go back I think approach shoes are the way to go. You can also link and simul a lot of pitches to save time as switching leads every 30m can add up quickly, I’d recommend at least linking the first 6 pitches to get to the 3rd class section. Rope drag is a huge pain however.
30m raps same as the way up, watch out for other parties. Don’t bother with trying to bring a tagline or doubles for full 60m raps, the route wanders a lot and you might end up wasting more time than you save.