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North America, Canada, Coast Mountains, Southwest British Columbia (Southern Coast Mountains and Canadian Cascades Summary)

Southwest British Columbia (southern Coast Mountains and Canadian Cascades) summary. The year 2002 was great for alpine climbing in the coastal mountains of British Columbia. Activity was particularly intense in the southwest corner of the province, probably spurred by the publication in 2001 of Kevin McLane’s selected climbs guidebook. This area, commonly referred to as “Southwest British Columbia” or “SWBC,” includes the southern Coast Mountains and those portions of the Cascades located in, or most easily accessed from, Canada. SWBC is the most developed alpine climbing area in British Columbia, due to its proximity to Vancouver, and the limits of the region are essentially defined by what is within “weekend range” from the city—although some pockets within that range are pure wilderness and difficult to access, and unclimbed and rarely visited peaks exist within 75 km of the city (as the crow flies).

In the Squamish area 2002 was notable for several new or newly free long routes, in particular the first free ascent of the ten-pitch Black Dyke by Matt Maddaloni at a reported 5.13b. First climbed with aid (V 5.9 A4) in 1970 by Al Givler and Mead Hargis, the route saw a free ascent of its upper two-thirds by Dean Hart and partners. However, the second climber reportedly pulled off several “key holds” from the loose basalt dike and the climb went unrepeated free until Maddaloni attempted a direct line. The 30' first roof went at 5.12b; the second roof proved the crux. Elsewhere on Squamish, a few new multipitch routes as hard as 5.12b/c went up in the Western Dihedral area. At the other end of the scale, local guide Kris Wild cleaned a new line across the gully from the Squamish Buttress. The Ultimate Everything incorporates parts of the forgotten 1970s lines Echelon and Amazon Slabs, but follows clean slabs and dikes where those routes grovel via classic Squamish tree climbing. When combined with an approach route on the Apron, The U.E. gives up to 22 pitches of climbing in the 5.7 to 5.9 rangeand became instantly crowded. In the Squamish subalpine zone Brian Pegg and friends climbed a new 12-pitch 5.9 on the unnamed wall to the right of the Fluffy Kitten Wall and continued up 400m of alpine scrambling to summit Mt. Habrich.

In the rapidly developing granite area of the Eldred Valley, 100 km north of Vancouver near the mill town of Powell River, it was a quiet year. The big routes, such as Main Wall (VI 5.11 A4) and Funk Soul Brother (VI 5.9+ A4+) went unrepeated. Most activity occurred on the accessible Psyche Slab, where three new 12-pitch routes in the 5.10 range were developed, two of them by local activist Colin Dionne and the third by a Vancouver Island-based party.

Moving from the crags to the alpine world, not much was done in the winter of 2001-2002. Guy Edwards and John Millar kicked things off in the spring with a new mixed route (TD-) on the northeast face of Mt. Joffre. Smell the Roses reportedly had some hard mixed climbing and poorly bonded snow. Parts of this route had previously been climbed in both summer and winter by traversing in from adjacent lines, but the direct route was uncompleted. Also in spring, Drew Brayshaw climbed a new variation (AD) to the Fairley Route on the north face of Mt. Sloan, avoiding the mixed crux of that route in favor of moderate snow and rock farther right, near the northwest ridge.

Summer 2002 was marked by a rare level of activity, in part due to excellent weather. The big existing lines, like Pacemaker (37 pitches, ED1/2 VI 5.10 A1) on Mt. Robie Reid, the East Face of Slesse (20 pitches, ED2 VI 5.9 A3+), and Pillar of Pi (16 pitches, TD V 5.9 Al) went unrepeated though not unattempted. Instead, climbers sought out interesting new ground. Jamie Chong and Conny Amelunxen started the summer by teaming up on the long-anticipated direct west pillar (now called Cheech and Chong) of Mt. Dione in the Tantalus Range. This 16-pitch route went all free at TD V 5.10d, despite its appearance. Fearing blank rock, Amelunxen brought a wall rack, but only a few pins were placed. This was Chong’s first alpine climb, though he had previously sent 5.14a and V12. The line had been tried in the 1970s by Paul Starr and Fred Douglas, who retreated after a block Starr was laybacking detached and sent him for a huge whipper. Chong and Amelunxen, with Rob Arthurs, also added the North-Northeast Buttress of Mt. Slalok (AD+ III 5.10b), and Amelunxen put up the West Buttress route (AD+ III 5.7) on Mt. Trorey in the Whistler backcountry with John Young. Also in the Squamish-Whistler corridor, Craig McGee and Brent Phillips visited Mt. Ashlu and established the Southeast Face at a sustained D+ III 5.10b/c. A large quantity of RPs is reportedly helpful for this line’s thin cracks. In the volcanic Meager Group, Fred Touche, Ivan Bandic, and Tim Bennett made the first ascent of the eye-catching pinnacle Perkins’s Pillar (D- III 5.7 A2), a demented 100m-high, 20m-thick volcanic spire first attempted in the 1930s by pioneering coastal climbers Tom Fyles and Neal Carter.

East of Vancouver, alpine activity also proceeded apace. Karsten Duncan, from Oregon, and Dan Hughes, from Washington, attempted the classic Northeast Buttress of Slesse on a foggy day, got lost on the glacier approach, and made the first ascent of the 700m Bamboozled Buttress (TD IV 5.10+R) on the ridge running north from Slesse to Crossover Peak. Duncan described his lead of the crux, an overhanging grass-filled crack, as a real wake-up call. In the adjacent Rexford-Illusion group Shaun Neufeld was extremely active. He put up five new lines on the Nesakwatch Spires, from four to six pitches, in the D- to D+ range, with grades from 5.10a to 5.11b. His partners, variously, were Dwayne Barg, Jordan Struthers, and Drew Brayshaw. Neufeld also soloed the 1,500m West Buttress of South Illusion Peak while on a recce to that peak, finding mostly scrambling but with five pitches of technical climbing (D III 5.8).

Elsewhere, John Black and Reinhard Fabische visited the Chehalis Range and climbed a new line on the north face of Mt. Ratney, to the right of the Raisin Rib, with difficulty reported at 5.9 and alpine snow (16 pitches, TD-). Drew Brayshaw and Kurt Fickeisen put up the nine-pitch East Buttress of the south peak of the Old Settler on immaculate rock at AD+ III, 5.7, and Darin Berdinka and Josh DeLong put up Backslide Buttress on Gamuza Peak, with a similar grade and length. In a newly discovered area up Kookipi Creek, Mike Layton and Jordan Peters found an excellent new line in Back of Beyond Buttress (D+ III 5.10b) on Peak 6,800', with the crux Endless Slab featuring a 200m splitter crack system.

On the repeat front, routes which were once rarely climbed saw multiple ascents because of their inclusion in the new selected climbs guide. The north side of Bear Mountain, Widowmaker Arête on Crown Mountain, Pup Buttress on Harvey’s Pup, north face ice routes on Mt. Weart, and east side buttresses on Slesse all saw multiple ascents during the summer.

Atypically warm and clear weather continued into the fall and early winter of 2002, resulting in ideal alpine ice conditions. Don Serl, Steven Harng, and Drew Brayshaw climbed a trio of new, north-facing, 500m lines in the Cadwallader Range. The narrow Plutocrat Couloir and wide North Glacier on Plutus Peak both went at AD+ III, with snow and ice to 50°. The curving Paymaster Couloir on nearby Crazy Mountain was a bit stiffer at D-, with snow to 65° and lots of rock-hard alpine ice (plus minor mixed) to 50°. Odin’s Ice on the north face of Ossa Mountain (D III M4) saw its probable first repeat in early December by Michael Spagnut and a partner. In early January 2003 Drew Brayshaw and Fred Touche made the second ascent of the northwest face of Mt. Cheam (D+ IV, 1000m of snow and mixed to M3). Also in January Shaun Neufeld and Aaron Isbell climbed the Southeast Couloir on Mt. Slesse (TD-M4or 5ish). The couloir’s entrance involved snow on rock slabs and the couloir proper 75° “wet cement.” Neufeld had previously climbed more than half the route with Guy Edwards, before breaking a tool and retreating.

In-depth information about many of these ascents is available at www.bivouac.com. Look for Seri’s Waddington Range guide sometime in 2003.

Drew Brayshaw, Canada