Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mount Gimli

When we first started making our way through Alberta and British Columbia, we made a list of all the big routes we wanted to climb before the end of the summer. Coming out of the Bugaboos, we only had one more left to go - the impressive looking south ridge of Mount Gimli, located in Valhalla Provincial Park in BC.

On paper it looked like it would be a cruise, with a nice 2 hour approach to comfortable camping at the base of the climb, about 1000 feet of mostly easy climbing on route, and an easy scramble down from the summit. Unfortunately our car had other ideas, when our otherwise trustworthy Rav4 decided it wouldn't make it up a steep section on the drive in! It was a bit demoralizing to spend an extra hour and half hiking up a steep gravel road just to get to the parking lot that we should have been able to drive to. But despite the extended approach it turned out to be an awesome climb in a beautiful setting, well worth the extra effort.

Complete with opportunistic mountain goats.

Here's Kristal making her way up the 5th pitch,

Following up the sixth,

And bringing me up to the top.

Great views from the summit.

Here I am, all smiles before the long, long descent back to the car.

I definitely needed a break in the parking lot for some much needed nourishment!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Bugaboos - Part 2

We had originally planned to leave with Mark and Trevor, but come that morning I suggested there was no real reason we had to go. The forecast looked good and there was space in the hut, so it didn't take much to convince Kristal to stay an extra couple of nights. We did have to hike back out to the car to get more food, but it was well worth the extra effort. The Bugaboos is such an amazing place.

On our last day we decided to climb another classic route, the west ridge of Pigeon Spire. Instead of the normal approach we decided to take the long way around and hike up the Bugaboo glacier. We were a little nervous, as we are completely new to glacier travel. In theory it's quite simple - don't fall into any holes...

In practice it can be a bit more complicated, but a report from a party a couple of days before said the approach was in excellent shape, so we were only slightly nervous. We set out at dawn and were treated to an amazing 3 hour hike up the glacier to the base of the route.

Low lying mist in the valley.

The west side of Snowpatch Spire.

Ominous looking clouds, which thankfully burned off by the time we got to the base of the route.

Scenic glacier travel.

The route itself is actually mostly 4th class (not technical rock climbing), but the exposure, position and sheer fun of it makes it a classic by any measure.  Here I am about halfway up, with the Howser towers in the background.

The view of Bugaboo Spire was breathtaking.

Kristal on the summit.

We decided to hike back to the hut using the usual approach on the Vowell glacier, thus completing the loop around Snowpatch and Pigeon.

Don't fall into these.

It was another amazing day in the Bugaboos. Unfortunately we did eventually have to leave, which made Kristal very sad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Bugaboos - Part 1

Bugaboo Provincial Park has long been on our list of places to visit.  Located in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia, the Bugaboos is a climbers playground, with a long list of amazing climbs up picturesque spires, surrounded by glaciers and incredible views.

We were especially excited to meet up with Kristal's brother Mark and his friend Trevor, to enjoy the experience with us. We were originally planning to pack in tents and stay in the campground, but a last minute cancellation allowed us to live in luxury in the Conrad Kain Hut, run by the Alpine Club of Canada.

It felt a bit like cheating, going alpine climbing from the comfort of the inside.

Highest on our list was the North East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, another one of the '50 Classic Climbs of North America'. As such, it sees a LOT of traffic. The climb itself is pretty chill, but with a long approach, an even longer descent, the potential of encountering slow climbing parties and the uncertainty of the weather, more people have gotten stuck overnight on this route than any other climb in the Bugaboos.  We opted for a typical early start, and woke up at 4am.  Here are Kristal and Mark on the approach, with the sun about to rise.

Our objective.

Despite the early start, there was already one party on route as we arrived at the base of the climb. Thankfully they climbed reasonably fast and Kristal and I made good time.

We got pretty far ahead of Mark and Trevor during the climb, but figured they couldn't be too far behind as we reached the summit at noon. The weather was looking great, so we waited for a while, but eventually decided to start the descent. The descent is a long and slow process, with some awesome exposed traverses and many rappels. The views were incredible.

Unknown party of three returning from Pigeon Spire.

We weren't really sure how far behind Mark and Trevor were, but figured they might get hungry if they were running late, so we left a Clif bar taped to one of the rappel stations.

We arrived back at the hut in time to make supper, and figured Mark and Trevor would roll in a few hours later. We tried to stay up and wait for them, but with the early start and epic day by 9pm we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer. We were surprised and a little worried when we woke up the next morning to discover that they still hadn't made it back!  We packed some supplies and headed out after breakfast to see if we could meet them on the descent.  We were so relieved to see them coming down the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col in good spirits.

It turned out they had some route finding issues which slowed them down, and only made it halfway down the descent before they were benighted. Thankfully they found a great ledge to bivy on and were treated to clear night with great views of the Perseids meteor shower. It almost made us jealous! Needless to say we were all pretty exhausted from the previous day, so did some serious napping and enjoyed a well deserved rest day.

Friday, August 17, 2012

R & R

After a ridiculous eleven straight days of climbing we were really looking forward to some time off. We headed down to Seattle to visit Dan and Allison, old friends of Jason's and recent emigrants from Ottawa. They treated us to a lovely tour of the city and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay (though NBC's Olympic coverage leaves much to be desired).

Initially, we had big plans for climbing in the Cascades, but the temperatures were looking uncomfortably hot and we opted instead to take advantage of some of the lakeside climbing at Banks Lake in central Washington.

The only problem was that most of the climbs required a boat to access. We searched most of Wenatchee (Apple Capitol of the World!) before finding a kick-ass rubber dingy and then spent two days rowing around the lake, swimming, deep water soloing, and attempting to climb out of the dingy. Here's Jason tied in and ready to go.

And me, belaying.

In case you're in the market for a new boat, the digny is not really the ideal belay vessel. It never tipped, but sharp granite and an inflatable boat are probably not a good combination. Here is Jason swimming out to and climbing a cool overhanging crack.

Here I am taking a cool refreshing dip to escape the heat.

After taking in all the sun we could handle, we went to check out the Grand Coulee damn. The best part was the air conditioned visitors center.

While driving through central Washington we saw this large glacial erratic from the road, which of course we had to go check out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yak Peak

On our way out to Squamish we were hoping to stop in the Coquihallas and climb Yak Peak. Unfortunately  the weather didn't cooperate. Despite the forecast calling for clear skies, when we awoke in the morning we couldn't even see the mountain due to the heavy cloud cover. We kept in the back our minds while we were in Squamish though, and the forecast looked good as we were leaving, so we thought we would try again. This time, the skies remained clear all day.

We decided to climb the popular route Yak Check 5.9, which climbs the lower pitches of Yak Crack and the upper pitches of Reality Check. With around 2000 feet of mostly sustained climbing it was one of the biggest climbs we've done. Here is Kristal on the approach pitch, with a long way to go.

Me starting up the second pitch.

Kristal on the 8th traverse pitch.

And on the final friction slab pitch.

It was a pretty cool climb, although had quite a bit of crumbly rock and questionable gear placements. The summit was worth it though.

The biggest surprise was the enormous snow field we had to traverse on the back to get back down.  Here is Kristal gingerly making her way across, with nut tool in hand to dig into the snow in case she slipped.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Return to Squamish

The last time we were in Squamish, almost two years ago, it rained almost every day, and we eventually gave up on the weather and left.  This time we had considerably better luck.  In the 10 days we spent there we didn't see a single drop of rain, and went climbing every single day of our stay.  Squamish has such a variety of climbing to offer, and we took advantage of as much of it as possible, doing a mix of trad, sport and bouldering.  Of course we tried to do as much multi-pitch trad climbing as we could, culminating in climbing all the way from the base of the lower apron to the top of the Chief.

Unfortunately with the good weather also comes the people, with massive amounts of climbers all over the place, especially on the weekends.  Of course that isn't all bad either.  It was awesome to run into Hugo and Pigeon from back home and we met two great groups of climbers from southern Ontario who were camped next to us. In an effort to avoid the crowds, we spread out our climbing over many different areas and rarely had to wait to get on a route.

Here is Kristal on the stellar Klahanie Crack 5.7, located just beside Shannon Falls.

And trying to find some gear on the 4th pitch traverse of the amazing Skywalker 5.8.

One of the highlights of Skywalker is that from the top it is a short hike to some really cool swimming pools formed along the waterfall.

We also made it to the Cheakamus Gorge, where we climbed the highly rated 3 pitch sport climb Star Chek 5.9.

Which climbs a prominent arete coming straight out of the raging river.

Another highlight was climbing the slab at Seal Cove, which comes right out of the water of Howe Sound.

Which also had some great views.

Of course we also spent a couple of days climbing on the Chief.  Here's the view of the first summit from the second summit, after topping out The Ultimate Link-Up 5.10b, which we did by linking Rambles 5.8, Banana Peel 5.7, Boomstick Crack 5.7 and The Ultimate Everything 5.10b.  In total it is described as 24 pitches of climbing, but between simulclimbing and linking pitches we managed to do it in 17.

Here is Kristal on the second pitch of Rambles 5.8.

We also spent some time climbing at the Smoke Bluffs, the Malamute and the Papoose.  After being rained out on our first visit, we were really excited to finally experience the amazing climbing Squamish has to offer. It is pretty ridiculous how much easily accessible quality climbing there is to be had.  Sadly the easy access has its price.  Aside from having to deal with the crowds, the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape are all to often marred by hydro lines, the highway under your feet, and the constant sound of traffic and machinery from the docks.