American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Coast Mountains, Squamish, Black Dyke, Free Climb

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Squamish, Black Dyke, free climb. The Black Dyke on Squamish has been a serious test for aid climbers since it was first climbed by Al Givler and Mead Hargis in 1970, but climbers ascending the Grand Wall route have also peered over and dreamed of freeing the route. I aid-climbed the Dyke with Gordon Ross three years ago. It had had few ascents, and information was difficult to obtain, so we were not prepared for the extremely loose roof on the third pitch. Massive death blocks had to be delicately negotiated using RURPs and a crazy maneuver of reaching behind one’s head for a stalactite, then dangling from it like a frog on a crocodile’s tooth. The second roof, on pitch four, was easier, but on pitch six we discovered a 45m overhanging sport-climbing marathon. Dean Hart and John McCallum had bolted this pitch hoping to free the whole route, but 10 years ago, after pulling off a crucial hold, they packed it in. Gordon and I didn’t do too badly and finished the easier 5.10 climbing for a total of 11 pitches.

I came back to the sport pitch a year later with John Ferno and attempted to redpoint it after rappelling in. We came close, with the crux feeling about 5.12a. Intrigued by our effort, Andrew Querner asked if he could photograph our next try. Andrew hung in space from his 15-foot tripod, snapping photos, while I got the redpoint. We then realized that only pitches three and four of the Dyke were left to free.

Friends helped clean the lower six pitches over the summer. Although the pitch three roof intimidated us the most, the real difficulties were on pitch four. After several days of top-roping, I finally freed the campus-board-like pitch and then bolted it. I led it three times the next day, to make sure I really did it. Probably the hardest single free pitch I had ever climbed at the time, nearing 5.13b. I named it The Nubian Queen—beautiful black lady.

The scary 30' roof of pitch three turned out to be an epic to clean but easy to climb. Most of the death blocks had to be removed, and flattened sections of the forest below. Starfish chimneying allowed the pitch to go free at 5.12b, and everything on the Black Dyke had finally been climbed free.

We rate the 11 pitches 5.10, 5.10+, 5.12b, 5.13b, 5.9, 5.12a, 5.9, 5.10a, 5.9, 5.9, and 5.10a. The route has not yet had a continuous one-day ascent. I suggest bringing a helmet, but nothing major is loose enough to fall. Friends who are comfortable up to 5.11+ say they had a great time on the route, pulling past the more difficult moves using bolts. You get an 11-pitch sport route that requires 20 draws for a rack—quite unusual for us Squamish trad climbers.

Matt Maddaloni, Canada

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