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Calgary Herald | Canva

The Visionary Who Turned the Rockies into a Climber’s Paradise

Andy Genereux’s vision was to turn the Bow Valley into a haven for climbers; he did just that, one bolt at a time.

Our province is home to many pioneers.

Andy Genereux is one of them. 

Andy Climbing in 1989 | The Calgary Herald

But he’s not a farmer or rancher; he is a rock climber. And Andy’s been climbing and route finding for nearly fifty years.

When Genereux started in the sport as a young adult, very few people were into climbing.

“The sport has grown. There were no climbing gyms back then. There really wasn’t much training, so you just went climbing, but there weren’t many climbs out there. By my first two years, I had climbed pretty much everything that was available to me,” Genereux told the Calgary Herald.

Genereux had a vision: to make the Bow Valley a haven for climbers of all levels.

“I see stuff. It’s a little bit like an artist. I see lines in the rock and say, ‘I think that would make a nice climb,’ and make it happen.”

By “make it happen,” he means painstaking mapping, testing and “bolting” (fixing a permanent anchor into a hole drilled in the rock as a form of climbing protection) each new climbing route.

“For the most part, what I visualize before I even start attempting the route. It’s some little innate ability to see stuff like that. Not everybody seems to have that,” he said.

When Genereux first started mapping and bolting climbs, he encountered a lot of naysayers who weren’t on board with disturbing the “purity” of Alberta’s climbs.

This is code for they didn’t want to make climbs available to the broader public.

“[The older guard] had a really anti-bolt attitude,” Genereux told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

“The standards of the rest of the world were going up, and here in the Rockies and the Bow Valley, the standards really hadn’t moved for many years.”

Genereux nearly single-handedly changed that.

Climbing intense rockfaces with (when he started) a 20-pound drill and the foreboding risk of falling to your death is no easy feat. 

Modern gear needed to bolt a climbing route | tawkroc.org

But for the safety of others, Genereux risked his own life, time and time again.

If you’re an outdoor climber in the Bow Valley, you’re almost guaranteed to have climbed one of Andy’s routes.

Since 1982, he has created a whopping 2,000 pitches and 600 sport climbs in the Bow Valley and Canadian Rockies. 

Andy’s climbing routes are fan favourites for their dynamism, and the thought and safety Genereux puts into his work.

He’s known for consistently going back to improve the routes he makes. Building access trails, removing loose rocks and regularly replacing anchors.

“A lot of my routes, I think, over time have proven to be really popular because they are good climbs,” he says. 

Now that he is 65 years old, he’s receiving recognition for all his work.

Genereux was awarded the annual Summit of Excellence Award during the 2023 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival

“It’s a huge honour to get the award and recognition for what I’ve done over just about 50 years since I first got introduced to climbing,” said Genereux. “Hopefully, I’ve helped people. I’ve been part of the movement in the Bow Valley to make climbing safer.”

We can “safely” say that he has done just that.

Genereux is a true Bow Valley icon, and we’re glad to see him getting the recognition he so deserves.

If you’re interested in learning more about Genereux’s legacy and the climbing routes he’s made available to all, he’s written multiple books on the subject.

His books include Yamnuska Rock: The Crown Jewel of the Canadian Rockies and Ghost Rock: Front Range Rock Climbs Near Calgary.

You can also get to know him better from the video below, where he details some inside tips for new climbers.

With his help, maybe you can “pioneer” some trails of your own!

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