Southwest British Columbia (southern Coast Mountains and Canadian Cascades) summary. Although it was a great year for new routes in the Coast Mountains as a whole, 2004 was not particularly newsworthy in the southwest BC region, probably because the good weather took climbers further afield.
The Powell River and Vancouver Island regions were quiet, with some alpine activity ongoing but not much with respect to long routes or new alpine climbs. Squamish saw quite a lot of activity, which is being compiled by Kevin McLane for the latest edition of his guidebook, which should come out in spring 2005.
One of the biggest local alpine routes was the March new route and first winter ascent of a north face route on the remote and impressive Mt. Judge Howay. See details in the individual report, below.
Also in March, Drew Brayshaw and Fern Webb attempted a line on the east face of Arthur Seat Mountain, which had not seen climbers since the 1960s. After retreating in a snowstorm, Brayshaw returned solo in late May and climbed the entire route, which consisted of a system of ridges and gullies. The route length was approximately 1,400m, but only about six pitches featured technical climbing (mostly easy 5th class on loose rock, with a few moves up to 5.9); the remainder of the route was Class 2-4 scrambling on what was described as “good training for the Rockies,” in other words, choss and rubble.
In late June, Jeremy Frimer and Cedric Zulauf (Swiss) climbed a prominent six-pitch flake chimney on the right side of the west face of South Nesakwatch Spire, at 5.10 C2, calling it Sublimation. Unaware of the earlier ascent, Craig McGee and partner made an ascent of more or less the same route in July, via a variant right-hand start. Craig returned later in the summer with Jim Martinello to free the line, which went at 5.11+/12-in seven short pitches. The free version is named Fairytales and Fantasies; McGee compared it to the best routes in the Bugaboos in terms of rock quality and purity of line. This brings the number of new routes and variations climbed in the Nesakwatch Spires since 2001 to nearly a dozen; a detailed topo will appear in the next edition of Fred Beckey’s Cascade Alpine Guide.
Also in June, Don Seri, Jia Condon, and Janez Ales attempted the direct western arête of the Gnomon, a prominent tower on the Randy Stoltmann Buttress on Mt. Athelstan. After climbing a half dozen pitches to 5.8/9 on runout terrain, they traversed left to join the existing route Lillarete, which they followed to the top of the buttress. A few weeks later Jim Martinello and Damien Kelly made the ascent of the complete line to the summit of the Gnomon. They found several pitches of sparsely protected 5.10 climbing on good rock above the point where the earlier trio moved left. The full ascent of Gnomon Direct to the summit of Randy Stoltmann Buttress makes for a D+ IV 5.10R line that is close to 20 pitches long.
In the Cathedral Park area, Drew Brayshaw and Merran Fahlman climbed a short new route on the southwest face of Matriarch Mountain (PD II 5.8+) during an exploratory visit in June. They returned in late August to attempt a long aid line but were driven away by unseasonable snowstorms. As a consolation prize they visited the Anderson River Range and established a five-pitch PD III 5.8 line, Al-Pika Slabs, on the northeast face of Alpaca Peak, completing a line that Brayshaw had begun with John Simms 10 years previously.
Steven Harng and Reinhard Fabische continued to explore the southern Chehalis Range. On the southeast face of Stonerabbit Peak, they established a 600m line of 4th and easy 5th class slabs, notable for being one of the cleanest alpine climbs in the region. The potential for getting a lot of rock mileage unencumbered by a rope proved attractive, and the climb saw several repeat ascents within the season, a rarity for climbs in the local mountains.
In the Kookipi Creek drainage, Jordan Peters and Michael Layton revisited the large buttress on the unnamed peak on which they had established Back of Beyond in 2002. This time they climbed an eight-pitch line on the right side of the buttress, finding harder climbing and fewer continuous crack systems. Brambles Buttress Sky, named after a Philip Larkin poem, goes at D/D+ III 5.10 Al. A massive forest fire burnt through the Kookipi drainage several weeks later, cutting off access to the peaks and preventing any possibility of repeat ascents for the remainder of the season.
Finally, just before the Indian summer weather ended in early October, Drew Brayshaw, Steven Harng, and Don Serl snuck into a remote area north of the well-known Chehalis area to make the second ascent of Robertson Peak. This summit has had a reputation for inaccessibility since the first climb in 1978, and several parties had been defeated on the approach while attempting the second ascent. A new logging road in Tipella Creek diminishes the remoteness and makes a weekend ascent feasible; the area may see more interest in the near future, as parties attempt to climb before the now-inactive logging road becomes impassible.
Drew Brayshaw, Canada, AAC