The Tower of Babel

Canada | Banff | Banff Rock


The Tower of Babel is a prominent landmark near Moraine Lake and lies to its southeast, on the long north ridge of Mount Babel. In the photograph below, it is the split buttress in partial sunlight in the lower right and is dwarfed somewhat by the huge face on Mount Babel (not described here). The tower is barely detached from the ridge but has three steep sides, the most developed of which faces northwest towards the parking area (photograph opposite page), and reaches a height of about 350 m. A prominent feature of this face is a broken, lower-angled section at four fifths height known as the Ski Jump. The darker, more weathered area of rock on the left is the NW face and on the right is the west face with the descent gully angling down left below it. The west face is dangerously loose and there are no climbs on it. The rock on the tower is quartzite and is extensively fractured giving long, relatively straightforward climbs mainly in the 5.6 – 5.8 range. The cliff has much to recommend it for climbs of this type: a short approach, interesting summit, easy descent, and great views of one of the most scenic valleys in the Canadian Rockies. All the climbs are gear-protected although there are a few fixed pitons, mainly at the belays. A good selection of gear is required but sizes up to 3 inches are sufficient. Recently, some of the belays have been equipped with bolts for convenience and to facilitate retreat in the event of bad weather. The rock is very solid on most of the pitches but there is often loose material on the ledges and care is necessary not to dislodge rocks onto parties below. This is particularly important in the middle part of the face where there may be climbers below out of sight. A helmet is strongly recommended and double ropes are useful to reduce rope drag. The first ascent of the tower in 1957 was made by a route on the east face called the NE Corner (not visible on the photograph) which reached the east side of the Ski Jump and then exited up the headwall on the NW Face. The Greenwood/Boles Route was added soon after and climbed directly up the NW Face using essentially the same exit. The NW Corner, or Fuhrmann Route, traversed onto the face from partway up the descent gully, followed the original Greenwood/Boles Route for two pitches and then went straight up the west edge of the face to the Ski Jump. It is now used mainly as a quicker and more convenient start to the Greenwood/Boles Route. The NW Direct (or The MacKay Route) was the last major addition to the face. It joins the Greenwood/Boles Route above a steep lower section and gives the most continuous route up the face. Over the years numerous variations have been climbed and two in particular are worth including, the Right and Left-Hand Finishes above the Ski Jump. The modern search for good quartzite climbing in the Park has lead to exploration on the East Face (Terrababel), and some semi-sport routes at the far east end.

  • < 5.9
  • 10a - 10d
  • 11a - 11d
  • 12a - 12d
  • 13a >
  • NW Face
    8 0 0 0 0
  • Northeast and East Faces
    1 1 0 0 0
  • Chatterbox Wall
    0 4 0 0 0

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