One of the most visible climbing areas in Banff Park is the long line of cliffs that runs across the base of Cascade Mountain facing the westbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway near the east Banff exit. The cliffs are separated by deep gullies into a series of discrete buttresses, the most notable of which is Cascade Buttress with its picturesque waterfall. There are five buttresses in all which are identified by name on the photograph opposite. The cliff band is composed of Palliser Formation limestone, the same rock that forms the huge line of cliffs running along the base of Mount Rundle from Canmore to Banff. Because of its orientation, however, the rock on Cascade Mountain is more weathered, and folding at the west end has caused the unique rock structure of Arches Buttress. Although excellent in places, the quality of the rock is generally not good and there are not many high quality climbs on these extensive buttresses. Modern exploration may unearth more but except for their location the cliffs currently have limited appeal.
Most of the climbs are multi-pitch gear routes and the development of sport climbs has been limited mainly due to the height and relatively low angle of the cliffs. Mothers Day Buttress (5.6) is a classic gear route with an attractive line and straightforward climbing. Valley View (10a) is a good, multi-pitch sport route, and Oedipus (10c) combines gear and sport to give a steep and interesting route. Recently, the semi-sport route Lipburner (11a/d) has been added on Bankhead Buttress and this may point the way for future development.
More detailed comments about the climbs are given in the individual sections. An army cadet camp was located for many years in the meadows on the opposite side of the Lake Minnewanka road (see History section) and the cliffs were used for training. Some of the climbs have received numerous ascents and have cleaned up quite well over the years. Guides who worked at the camp also pioneered many new routes in the area and helped push the standards of local climbing to higher levels.
The buttresses are described from left to right and are identified on the photograph on the previous page. They are all accessed from the Lake Minnewanka road which exits the Trans-Canada Highway at the east Banff interchange.