American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia, The Selkirks, Mt. Dag, Ankles as far as the Eye Can See, Ankles Me Boy, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Mt. Dag, Ankles as Far as the Eye Can See, Ankles Me Boy, New Routes. On August 1, Jason Magness, Sam Price, Mike Brown, George Ortiz, Craig Clarence, and I all met in Slocan, British Columbia. Our goal was to put up a new route on the north face of Mt. Dag, a 2700- meter peak in Mulvey Basin of Valhalla Provincial Park, in honor of the late Alex McClure, a great climber, spirit, and friend who was killed in an avalanche two summers ago. We knew almost nothing about the area and were basing the entire project on a small picture of the face from an old AAC guidebook.

August 2 was spent packing essential gear and hiking into the steep valley below the wall. The approach took 12 hours and involved steep snow, vertical jungle, miles of bushwhacking, and a very physical 150-foot free-hanging rappel.

After scoping out the wall the following day, we decided on a change of tactics. Instead of one team of six, two teams of three would ascend the wall following separate lines. Around noon, Jason, Mike, Craig, and I hiked out to retrieve additional gear and food, while George and Sam remained to hump loads to the base of the wall.

August 5 saw our return to camp after a much-needed rest day. We used an alternate approach that involved a treacherous traverse across slabs, but avoided the rappel. August 6 was spent preparing for the ascent.

The next day saw the climbing begin in earnest. The “alpine team” of Mike, Jason, and Sam planned on traveling light and fast and taking a line up the northeast face. They took only 15 liters of water, a tarp, one sleeping bag, three Powerbars per person per day, and a summer sausage. My group, the “aid team,” decided to haul, and took a bit more gear. We hoped to follow a gully to the right of the face to a big ledge at one-third height, where we’d traverse left and climb directly up the north face. The only previous route, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes Buttress (VI 5.9 A3), by Roskelly and crew in 1974, also ascended this gully and continued up the face off the right edge of the ledge.

The alpine team completed their climb, Ankles as Far as the Eye Can See (VI 5.11 Al) in three days. The 23 long pitches included three of 5.11 and nine of 5.10. The climbing was varied, with an emphasis on slab at the bottom and stemming and lie-backing at the top. Several hard squeeze chimneys and offwidths were also encountered. Two bolts were placed atop the ninth pitch; one was placed on the 13th. A small pin rack was occasionally used at belays, though no pitons were left on the wall.

The aid team spent four days and three nights on the wall. It took the first day and a half to climb and haul up the gully over fourth-to moderate fifth-class terrain. The rest of the climb was an even mix between free climbing and aid, with nearly each pitch having some of each. The crux involved aiding behind thin, hollow flakes and easy but unprotected free climbing. Two bolts were placed on this pitch. The route Ankles Me Boy (VI 5.9+ A2) involved 11 long pitches above the ledge and innumerable shorter pitches up the gully.

Andy Magness*

*Recipient of an AAC Mountaineering Fellowship Fund award

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