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North America, Canada, British Columbia, Squamish Chief

Squamish Chief. A number of new routes were made during the past year on the Squamish Chief. Tantulus Wall: In years of climbing on the Chief, we had always dismissed the sheer 1000-foot Tantulus Wall as an unlikely area for a route. The upper third was cut across by a gigantic horizontal overhang, and above that, the cracks seemed minute and intermittent. Study with binoculars made us confident that a route could be forged through the spectacular wall. A number of us began exploring the lower pitches in mid-winter. The first serious pitch provided a clue to the climbing; there were 16 tied-off pitons, most of them just tipped into a thin vertical crack, followed by a wild pendulum to the left. After three attempts, a piton was jammed into a new crack that curved up about 200 feet to the tip of "Yosemite Pinnacle.” Giant wood blocks and bongs paved the way up this long gothic curve. The final climb was pushed through on April 2 and 3, with a bivouac on a small brush ledge some 600 feet up the steep wall. Leif Patterson, Mark Fielding and I enjoyed a unique treat in this area: sunny skies and cool daytime temperatures. With rock dry for this time of year, we could tackle free climbing that would ordinarily be slick. The last portion of the long pitch to the base of the overhang had difficult pitoning, which led to a leader fall. From one of four hanging belays on the climb, the ceiling pitch went out seven horizontal feet with lucky pitons. The final pitch caused the most trouble, with bottoming cracks yielding only grudgingly to iron. An aid bush pulled out to cause a little slip, and some bolting was needed on the blank areas. We unwittingly created such a sensation that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police twice had to clear the highway traffic jam with sirens. Hours after dark they shone searchlights onto the wall, as I was finishing the groping for holds on the last few feet. NCCS V, F8, A3. 103 pitons and 11 bolts. Western Dihedral: The dihedral starts as a white, curving crack from the trees lining the western walls of the Chief and then rises straight as an arrow to the summit rim, over 1000 feet higher. The climb is NCCS V, with mostly hanging belays. Two previous attempts proved to us the difficulty of placing pitons and gave us a leader fall, but we did de-moss the second, third and fourth pitches. The removal of a vertical ribbon of moss and heather was immense effort for the leader; I tore loose one such 150-pound floating carpet, completely terrorizing Dan Tate, who was belaying me. Those who follow on this now lovely route will never really know that horribly dirty dirt-removal work which was necessary to get iron into the solitary dihedral crack. Under a canopy of sometimes drizzling clouds, Tate and I did the ascent on June 3 and 4, spending the night on the only bivouac ledge. The first and third pitches took 14 pitons each, with a pendulum from a bush that may no longer exist; the second lead took 27 pitons. The very hard fourth pitch took 30 pitons, a fifi-hook and a belay bolt; the equally hard fifth took 29 pitons and three aid bolts on an overhang. Beyond the bivouac, the lead took 11 pitons, one bolt and a rope-throwing tactic. Then came a superb free pitch with five pitons, an awkward flaring crack ( 14 pitons and two belay bolts ), and a finale ending with classic aid on cracks with a geometric pattern (8 pitons). An unexpected joy of this rewarding climb was our total oblivion to the public: not a solitary tourist discovered us! Crescent Ramp Route: After studying the western walls of the Chief, Eric Bjornstad and I felt that there were at least two possible routes up the area south of the Grand Wall, an area that appears from the road as a high-angle slab almost 1000 feet high. The name "Tantalus Wall” has now been accepted for this imposing stretch of steep, smooth granite. While a route to the tip of "Yosemite Pinnacle,” an exfoliation ending at about the 300-foot level, had been done, the logical conclusion had not been completed. Several climbing sessions in winter by numerous participants, including Leif Patterson, brought us to the tip of the pinnacle by a new crack line, mostly by difficult direct-aid. Icy conditions, bitter cold, and the inability to muster more than a continuous day of climbing prevented us from completing the route in one push. Bjornstad and I then climbed a sketchy suggestion of a route that curves leftward and up, blank in spots, to a ramp and finally to the top of "Crescent Flake” at about the 900-foot level. A major snowstorm forced a retreat, and so we had to complete the ascent on March 3 on a magnificent winter day. A final section of smooth granite, involving a difficult maneuver, ended the climb. This was the first rock climb of NCCS Grade IV done in the winter in the Pacific Northwest. About 73 pitons, two bolts, and one key fifi hook were used on the route, along with many safety runners tied to shrub evergreens. Three routes on Bullethead: Because of its similarity in shape, the 600-foot offset wall on the southern portion of the western faces of the Squamish Chief has been called Bullethead. Its flawless northern turret almost resembles Lost Arrow in Yosemite. No direct route of consequence had been completed before 1966. The three following routes, all direct lines to the top, roughly divide the face in thirds. The rock is excellent granite; the cracks are adequate for pitons, with occasional small trees and evergreen shrubs to augment safety. We used no bolts. Bullethead West: Probably the most classic route, this climb follows the obvious twin cracks on the smooth upper face as far left as possible. Eric Bjornstad and I climbed it, using bushes, roots and trees to advantage on the lower section; we then found both exciting and difficult free and aid climbing on the steep upper section. Though the route is shorter, the climbing and exposure compares with that of the long west-face routes. We used 44 pitons. Bullethead Central: This route is virtually a great high-angle slab from base to top, interrupted by a conspicuous tree ledge beneath the final lead. It is one of the most consistently interesting ones in the area, with a fine variety of moves, from delicate free climbing to difficult and exposed direct aid. Craig Fritch and I began the route, but we were turned back by rain; later Dave Beckstead and I completed it. In all we used 52 pitons, about half on the striking, thin crack on the very smooth walls of the final lead. Bullethead East: This route is about 100 feet south of the central route. It follows crack systems that allow mostly free climbing with occasional aid. A most interesting final aid crack, following some hard free moves, required most of the 33 pitons used on the ascent. Jim Sinclair accompanied me on this route. Calculus Crack: Just off the main highway leading into Squamish is the slabby 700-foot Apron, which runs a third the distance of the Chief’s Squamish buttress. Vancouver climbers have made some interesting routes on it, notably the "Snake” route, the Dièdre and the "Vector” route. Bob Phelps and I climbed a route we named "Math Crack,” only to learn that it was not a new route but a direct variation of an established one. In late October Dave Beckstead and I found an entirely new line, called "Calculus Crack” to the top of the Apron. We used 15 pitons on this exposed but most enjoyable climb. For four pitches the route follows a solitary crack with blank slabs on either side. Friction on the slabs, with minimum finger work into the crack, enabled us to do the route virtually free.

Fred Beckey