Shep Steiner; Climber, builder, Bow Valley Alberta, PhD. Art History. Prof at University of Manitoba.
1993 … A wet season spring in the Bow Valley, but we did get Bataan rocking during the chinooks of January and February … Then came late springtime, Shep Steiner and LeBlanc hitting up what we know now as Acephale. LeBlanc’s mentor/partner, Joe Buszowski was very busy guiding and being a husband – he and Steiner climbed a lot together back then – they built the Carrot Patch and a couple of classics on the Ravens nest buttress in Carrot Creek … so we end up as the Steiner/LeBlanc team. The duo lugged up bolts, ropes, tools and the Buszowski/LeBlanc Hilti, with the turbo kit, as it needed 36 volts and when built the three 12V motorcycle batteries provide 80 plus bolts, all with a 30ft cord … it helped out immensely (note: so did Bill Rennie as he funded the hardware about $5k) we of course needed lots of coffee and brought up a stove for coffee … a bit of history on this tenuous partnership, as I was a Calgary climber with a place in the Bow Valley, but not really a part of either. However, as I learned from Buszowski, I had the passion for adventure and building, Todd Guyn, likely the preferred partner for Steiner, but Guyn was just too damn lazy to build, he’d go away climb, shred and come FA our builds … but that’s a story on Guyn.
Now this team had a very intriguing background on an off for years, LeBlanc the younger one had met Steiner in Harvie Heights, early 1980 as they had cabins in the hamlet. Back in 1984 Steiner could drive and convinced LeBlanc to go on a climb called the Gonda Traverse, 5.7, (1982) … LeBlanc was 14 and Steiner 16 with a car … so they went onto the climb and LeBlanc had the first incursion of his love for “slabs” scared and freaked, Steiner then figured why not do the roof to top out and get this kid off the cliff. So on came, the Gonda roof and as usual Steiner hiked it and then to their surprise LeBlanc followed much better than the slab … wow like that doesn’t tell about his career … Then came 1984 and Steiner dragged LeBlanc into Grotto Canyon where he taught LeBlanc how to climb sport routes (with Buszowski and where LeBlanc and Buszowski became friends) and LeBlanc sent Farewell to Arms, 10d/11a … it had 3 self-drive bolts and a pin. As the summer of 1984 ended, LeBlanc went off to school in London, Ontario and Steiner went off on his own and built some awesome climbs.
1988 rolled around and Steiner became a central figure in the “Water Wall” debacle. This was really a division of what was acceptable and not … the Calgary scene thought that the manufactured holds on water wall was way too much and “borrowed” all the builders gear that was left on the three routes (Known now as Shep’s Diner, 13a; The Resurrection, 13+; and Crimes of Passion, 13a). A few heated phone calls, a few lycra tights got rumpled … as the dust settled these routes are excellent training and fun routes, no less real than any other route. Steiner and Andy Genereux had the most back and forth “tuss”. Steiner’s route, Shep’s Diner 13a; Steiner had a “Head fuck” with this route 1 fall a zillion times … back to University he went … PhD. In Art History UBC, Shep’s Diner was FA’d by the notorious Scott Milton 1990 … LeBlanc and Jason Holt had lapped it, but left the chain clipping, as this was with respect to our friend Steiner … Milton did not share that, nor should he have, as there was little respect between the two of them … that’s a Milton story and it’ll come.
Shep’s Diner name came from the fact that we ate dinner at his pad in Harvie Heights almost nightly … so the route name just fit and stayed that way.
Late March 1993 … Upper Wall Acephale (named by Steiner, as the Journal of Acephale was part of his academic background) Le Stade du Mirroir became … FA Steiner, 12b and an impressive FA … blew off the last two bolts … true Steiner fashion full belief, consequences stay way back in the mind. However a bit of terror for the belayer, as his head bob getting into the undercling to clip the anchor had not just a 60ft whip, but one that would stop short at 30ft by a massive dead tree angled perfectly to “catch” a whipper. LeBlanc sent (FA) the left route called, Le Blu du Ciel 12b. Steiner built a few more, Le Jeu Lugubre, 12c; Full Fathom Five, 12c; Port Hole to Hell 13c/d FA Todd Guyn; Sweet Thing 13c FA Guyn. Then off to the lower wall where he built and sent, La Part Maudite, 12c. Steiner was the machine for this back then and his education found the name for the crag. He truly built routes for the next generation – screw the current rules and limitations, but keep the style and ethics, just push the envelope and then keep going.
Acephale in 1993 was truly a crag. Sure it had routes from 1992 from Richard Jagger, Daren Tremaine and LeBlanc, but the 1993 season with Steiner pushed it onwards.
The lower wall also got the Steiner influence. Steiner built “The Accursed Share” 12c; and did a few other obscure routes, like SR16 12-, (Shep’s Rig 16). LeBlanc built and sent Naissance de la Femme, 13b, Guyn FA’d the route. To some of us it didn’t matter to FA, but to build new lines, create and send. Steiner got a bit injured and left the building scene, finished his PhD. And is now a professor of Art History University of Manitoba, with a wife and daughter … wow how grown up.
Some stellar Steiner routes, Carrot Patch; The Carnivore, 13a, FA LeBlanc; Mouthful of Freddie, 13c, FA Guyn; Oedipus Complex, 12b; The Gizzard 12c, Ravens nest buttress. I think he built this one just to piss Genereux off, as it goes straight through The Wizard, 11d/12a a very good Genereux route of the 1980’s. Steiner placed a bolt that is crucial for where the Gizzard goes through the Wizard – but this may well have been placed by Buszowski … however he always managed to stay unscathed from these kinds of altercations, yet a central figure … wonder where I learned from.
Shep also had the best dog, as he was the first of “us” to have one, named Tuzo, a Malamute with a bit of some rather large, wild and pack like in him like maybe a ¼ … he was about 120lb and became the first crag dog for Acephale … he had a lot of history and some great stories … he was the first, coolest and Steiner’s best friend ever … maybe his daughter may be overtaking that, but it’s a dog/master relationship that is crazy special. Harvie Heights 1984? Tuzo had crazy energy as a puppy, so Steiner and Momma Steiner figured the best place for Tuzo at night would be the garage … morning comes and upon entering the door, the inside held bottles, glass ones, as it was the 80’s … the place was littered with shards of glass everywhere and Tuzo was like WTF? See what happens when you leave me alone. Tuzo was the Alpha dog in the Bow Valley, and at about 12/13 years old, Steiner and LeBlanc were in Carrot Creek, doing some obscure route at the entrance area, SE side … some dude on a “trail” run with a large young dog behind him … LeBlanc on lead and then it all slowed down … the young dog noticed Tuzo sleeping next to the creek, way off from any issue … the young dog decides to be alpha and holy crap … I was a t a bolt so clipped in and in that moment Steiner’s off belay sprinting the 50ft’ish to Tuzo … Tuzo let’s the young dog know he’s old and not interested … Steiner’s at about 30ft away … a few more barks from the young dog and then TUZO is happening … the young dog is in an quick moment in the water … like under it with Tuzo on top and not gonna let go … Steiner now tackles Tuzo, the young dog sprints frantically away and the dude about 3 minutes upstream saunters back … meanwhile Tuzo is soaked and fully pissed at Steiner, Steiner is soaked and the dude then decides to yell at Steiner … let’s just say that even if his run was over, we never saw him the rest of the day … Tuzo you rocked and we still miss you … 20+ years. Tuzo did become a house dog (likely right after the garage escapade) as well, he and the Steiner household cat created a cool bond that lasted until Tuzo passed.