Southwest British Columbia (southern Coast Mountains and Canadian Cascades) summary. The most notable event of 2005 was not a single ascent but rather an unusual winter. Bitter cold in early January was followed by a short rainy season and then two months of unseasonably warm, sunny weather in February and March. While dealing a crushing blow to local skiers, the thin January snowpack, once it consolidated, provided near-perfect conditions for winter alpine ascents, enabling an unprecedented tally of routes in the local mountains, including the following first ascents and/or first winter ascents.
In the Coquihalla alpine zone in March, Wayne Wallace and Lane Brown of Oregon made the first winter ascent of the popular Yak Check link-up on Yak Peak, a summer line that checks in at 12 pitches and 5.9. The first portion of the route follows the diagonal groove of Yak Crack (D III 5.9), while the upper half moves left to climb the finish of Reality Check (D III 5.10c) above that route s crux. Several years ago Yak Crack saw a winter ascent, featuring thin ice, powder snow, and runout dry-tooling on somewhat crumbly granite slabs. What was unusual about Wallace and Brown's ascent of Yak Check was the summery conditions encountered. They had only intermittent verglas, snow patches, and wet rock to deal with, far different from the true winter conditions of the earlier ascent, despite both climbs having been done during calendar winter.
In the Mt. Rexford area Andrew Rennie made the first winter ascent, solo, of the North Ridge route (summer AD+ III 5.8) of North Nesakwatch Spire. Most of the route consisted of rock climbing, with snowy ledges, but the crux chimney pitch was iced and required dry-tooling.
As knowledge of the excellent alpine conditions spread over the Internet, more disgruntled ice climbers and skiers ventured out into the hills. Attention turned to the Cheam Range, a popular winter climbing area with a couple of well-known unclimbed objectives. Don Serl and Andrew Rennie made the first ascent of the north face (III/IV D+) of Welch Peak, via a system of interconnected snow ramps and mixed steps with WI3 ice, with serious runouts and sparse belays. On the same day, Jesse Mason and Toby Froschauer climbed the northeast ridge (III D 5.8 WI3) of Foley Peak, featuring a mix of snow, ice, and mixed ground as well.
In early March, I found firm névé and a 40m water ice pitch while making the first ascent of the east face of Mt. Outram, via a 400m gully line (III AD+ WI3 60°) that tops out between Outram’s two summits. There are numerous other potential gully lines on this broad face; the approach via Ghost Pass trail from Highway 3 takes about five hours.
Once the unusual winter conditions normalized with the return of spring rains, a lull ensued that lasted until May and the next period of good weather. On Needle Peak, above the Coquihalla Highway, Merran Fahlman and I set out to repeat the 1972 Douglas-Starr route on the southeast buttress, a route with an obscure history (Fred Douglas, credited in the guidebook as a member of the first ascent party, does not believe he ever climbed the route) and sandbag grade (the guidebook mentions a bit of 5.6-5.7, but recent ascents found sustained 5.9). However, we never actually climbed the Douglas-Starr route, instead following a parallel line of corners and cracks about 70m right of the buttress crest on the northeast face. Wet cracks, extensive vegetation, loose rock, and even a small hanging snowpatch avalanche combined to make our route somewhat less than classic (III 5.9 A0). Don Serl and Andrew Rennie found better conditions on the north ridge of Mt. Roach, near the Stein River, where they found much scrambling, to about 5.7, on the lower ridge, leading to three 30m-40m pitches to 5.9 at the top (D- III 5.9). They were accompanied to the base of the route through the forest by a dog from the local Native reserve, who was rewarded with half the sausage supply for chasing off bears three times.
In the Slesse area, Shaun Neufeld and I climbed a new route on the east face of Labour Day Summit in midsummer. The climb begins at the base of the northeast face and climbs slab and snowpatches to the notch behind the obvious gendarme. From there it crosses the existing (2003) route and climbs steep cracks on the upper pillar to the summit (D III 5.10d).
Big news from the Powell River area over the summer was the completion of Call of the Granite, in the Eldred Valley, by Aaron Black and Sean Easton [see report below]. A DVD called “No Permanent Address” is now available which documents the climb and Aaron’s seven- month road trip in preparation for it.
On Mt. Ossa in the Tantalus Range, Don Serl and Andrew Rennie climbed a direct route up the north face that they dubbed Reaction Time (D+ IV 5.10-). The route begins off the north glacier with a difficult ‘schrund crossing and climbs up the shadowed face above on generally good rock. They completed the route in 15 hours round-trip from camp, with a day to approach and a third day to walk out.
Few new routes were reported in the fall, owing to an infestation of wasps in the forest. Some climbers were stung up to 36 times while bushwhacking to the base of a route near
Chilliwack Lake. One much talked about face that did finally get climbed was the north face of Grant Peak, which gave Tyler Linn and Nick Elson a long 5.7 (AD+/D- III) on good rock. Climbers had been eyeing the face for years, but it took a local—Linn from the nearby town of Hope—to work out the best approach to the relatively remote face, which is guarded by massive thickets of slide alder in the valley below.
Drew Brayshaw, Canada, AAC