Southwest British Columbia (Southern Coast Mounatins and Canadian Cascades) Summary

Canada, Coast Mountains
Author: Drew Brayshaw. Climb Year: 2003. Publication Year: 2004.

For a variety of reasons, 2003 was not as busy as 2002. Some of the activists were elsewhere, otherwise occupied, or injured. Fires burning throughout the backcountry from July through September also curtailed activity. Nonetheless, it was a fairly productive year.

First, however, a few routes completed in 2002 but not mentioned in last year's summary should be noted for the sake of completeness, especially as they are fairly significant. In Cathedral Park, just north of the American border on the eastern side of the Cascades, Mike Crapo and Jordan Struthers established Goats Go To Heaven, Sheep Go To Hell (10 pitches, TD- IV 5.11a V2) on the rock pillar between the south face of Mt. Grimface and the 1994 Beckey-Condon- Must route on Macabre Tower. The route is reportedly sustained at 5.10; the V2 refers to an unprotected boulder problem forming one of the cruxes. Meanwhile, at the other end of southwestern B.C., on the impressively deep fjord of Princess Louisa Inlet northwest of Powell River, Peter Rowat and John Brodie established PLI Trail (17 pitches, ED1/2 V 5.10+) on the lower part of the immense Princess Louisa Wall. They had begun attempts on this 1,400m wall back in 1986. The route, as presently defined, reaches a prominent pinnacle about halfway up the wall. It is felt by the first-ascent party to offer a completed route in its own right. The remaining 700m appears to require aid and is an ongoing project. The PLI Wall was noted as a potential “biggest wall in Canada” as early as 1971 by the climbers of the day, but PLI Trail appears to be the first actual route on the wall. A nearby peak sports an even more impressive, Trango Tower-like feature: a 1,000m slab leading to the base of a 1,200m overhanging headwall. Sadly, the rock quality on this feature is said to be poor.

In the Squamish area, 2003 saw numerous significant ascents, new routes, and crowds. Perhaps the hardest new long route was Yukon Gold (III 5.12+A0) on the Zodiac Wall, by Matt Maddaloni and Mateo Antonelli. However, the route that is likely to see the most traffic emerged once again from under the jumars, gardening implements, and wire brush of local guide Kris Wild. The Millenium Falcon (IV 5.11a/b) is a completely new 14-pitch line in the Western Dihedrals area, running from base to summit, and offers a great alternative to the classic Grand Wall for parties competent at the grade.

In the Powell River area, 2003 was fairly quiet on the new routes front. Thanks to the new guidebook, there was a marked increase in the number of visitors, but the main activists were relatively inactive, and no major new lines went up.

Spring saw little new route activity in the alpine terrain, partly due to unsettled conditions. The deaths of Guy Edwards and John Millar on Devil’s Thumb probably influenced many climbers to take it easy as well. At the memorial, Sean Easton and Jeremy Frimer met, decided to climb, and within a few days flew into Tantalus. Frimer writes, “For me it was about making light of a tough situation—like John and Guy would have—by making a new friend and then celebrating lives lived by living my life.” The obvious northwest couloir was a line many had been eying; it gave a long 50° snow climb with four steeper mixed pitches at the top (D+ IV M- unrated). The pair descended via the north ridge, biwied in a gentle pass between Tantalus and Pelion, then continued to Sigurd Creek and out to the Squamish Valley on foot.

When the dry spell began in mid-June, alpine activity began in earnest. In the mountains near Squamish, Craig McGee and Jim Martinello climbed a direct line on the south face of Mt. Ashlu. Smooth Hooky (D II/III 5.11) features several 60-70m rope-stretching pitches on immaculate rock and is named for the tactics Martinello employed to skip work for the ascent.

On Mt. Habrich, a popular granite horn close to Squamish, McGee with Brad White climbed a new line on the south face. This six pitch, D+ III 5.11+ A0 line takes rock between Gambit Grooves and Drug Stabbin’ Time, climbing straight up from the lower pitches of the Diachronous Variation to Drug Stabbin’, and is the hardest route on the peak.

Farther north, several new routes were climbed in the mountains north of Pemberton. Jeremy Frimer, John Crowley, and Geoff Hill climbed a six-pitch line on the southeast pillar of Mt. Aragorn. Flareathon (D III 5.10b) follows mostly wide, rounded cracks. Jordan Peters and Steven Harng explored a nearby valley and found several small granite towers, which they dubbed the Incisors. Incisor Edge climbs the north ridge of the western tower at about D- III 5.8. South of Mt. Sloan, Peters became obsessed with a granite spire mentioned in the local guidebook as possibly unclimbed. After several trips foiled by bad weather and partner epics, he summited to discover a cairn. The first ascent was made in the 1940s. However, the South Ridge route he established on Peak 8,380', now dubbed Mt. Land after pioneering local climber Gerben Land, was apparently a new route (PD+ 5.6).

East of Vancouver, the Fraser Valley also saw lots of activity. A couple of large, established, but unrepeated routes saw exploratory pushes but remained unrepeated. On the new route front, the South Nesakwatch Spire saw several parties, intrigued by last year’s burst of development. Nebulous descriptions of existing lines resulted in many variations in the 5.10- to 5.11- range. Detailed topos will appear in the next editions of the appropriate guidebooks. Across the valley on the subpeaks of Slesse, Ken Laing and Michael Spagnut climbed a six-pitch route on the east face of Labour Day Summit (III, D, 5.10-). On the southeast (third) summit of Slesse, the Flight 810 Buttress marked as “incomplete” on the photo topo in AAJ 2003, p. 258, was completed by Drew Brayshaw and Fern Webb. A 12-pitch route goes at 5.8 via a start from the gully to the south, or a 17-pitch route (5.9) via a direct start from the buttress toe; either variation is worth an alpine D+ and a Grade IV.

In the Chehalis area, Steven Harng and Reinhard Fabische pushed into the relatively unexplored southwest corner of the group and found large granite slabs on Skwellepil Creek. They climbed one route on a face below Stonerabbit Peak. Featuring blank stemming corners, Stoned Rabbits is six pitches long and rated 10d/l laR. An alpine grade was not given, due to the more craglike nature of this subalpine face.

The Anderson River group of granite domes and spires was off-limits for much of the summer due to forest fires and locked forestry gates. However, before access control tightened down, Shaun Neufeld, Drew Brayshaw, and Dwayne Barg managed to sneak in and establish The Proof Is in the Pudding (D III 5.10c) on the south face of Ibex Peak. This route is amazingly clean and solid for an alpine climb and is highly recommended.

The late fall and winter of 2003-2004 saw several protracted spells of cold weather and produced the best ice for several years. Details will be published in the long-awaited second edition of West Coast Ice, which should be out in time for the 2004-2005 winter season.

Drew Brayshaw, Canada, AAC