The first two days of my Canada trip were pretty uneventful on the climbing front. On Tuesday we sorted out all the kit, did the obligatory food shop, and generally tried not to fall asleep every two minutes due to the jetlag. We made a rough plan for the upcoming week of what we were going to climb etc, and on Wednesday morning we got up fairly early (which was easy with my body clock still on UK time) and headed off in the direction of our intended warm up ice route.
When we arrived at the parking for the climb there was a team of two just walking in and another car with climbers kitting up. After some umming and ahhing, we decided to give it a miss for a bit and let the other two teams head off and get on the route. Neither Nick nor I like queuing for routes, so we headed a further 20km down the road to what was going to be our afternoons intended task.
We wanted to scope the walk in / put in a track trough the trees to a big route that we intended doing on Thursday. With the description for the approach being: Bush whack through the forest to reach the bowl (or words to that effect). We thought it might be best to have a track to follow the next day, as we were planning on getting up early and walking in in the dark. Thankfully this was the right thing to do, as after an hour of plodding through the forest, getting whipped in the face by branches and sliding on our arses due to hidden fallen trees, we finally made it to a clearing, only to find we were further left than intended and high on the ridge, not where we wanted to be (and that was in daylight).
Eventually we found our way to the snow bowl that leads to the base of the route, and on our decent back to the car, we put in a more direct route through the trees, ready for our early morning approach the following day.
After doing this, we decided to give our earlier route plan miss, and just get ready for our bigger plans the next day.
So yesterday morning it was a 3am start and we had left the Lodge by 4, again the early starts were fine as my jetlag was conveniently still hanging around. When we left the car and headed into the trees, I was so glad that we had put the ground work in the day before, as now it was dark, we couldn’t see anything apart from our pre laid tracks. We reached the bowl in good time and proceeded to break trail up to the base of the route.
Once we had kitted up and wolfed some food and water, we swam up the deep snow channel to the start of the climb. Nick had the first pitch, which would set me up for the 4th (crux) pitch nicely. As this was my first ever route in Canada, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The climbing looked ok and there was some ice kicking about on the line. But as Nick started up the route, it was apparent that looks can be deceiving. He was making good progress, but there didn’t seem to be much gear, and there was quite a lot of loose rock bouncing over my head.
Once he had reached the belay, I set off eager to see how the climbing would compare to routes in Scotland. I soon realised that pretty much everything was loose, and the climbing was no giveaway. All the gear was in suspect rock and it was definitely a no fall zone.
After I reached Nick on the belay, I looked up and got psyched for my pitch. It was a cool looking ice boss that led to a steep overhang. Again it looked ok, so I set off eager to get stuck in. After the ice section, I started to rethink my earlier thoughts of (“that looks easy”). The climbing was similar to a tech 8 Scottish pitch, except all your gear was in rotten/loose rock, and this is the same rock that you had to commit to to make upward progress. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but after having some words with myself, I started to enjoy the style of climbing, which was a balancing act between pulling and spreading your weight as to not detach the axe placements.
I reached the belay and brought Nick up, who said that the climbing was very fun as he was on a top rope and didn’t have to worry about ripping stuff off, or the lack of worth-wile protection.
Nick then shot up the easy 60m link pitch, which was a deep snow gully that took us to below the crux pitch.
This time I knew what I was getting myself into. The pitch looked hard, with a steep corner and very minimal foot placements on the right wall. The description stated good cams and fun climbing, but all I could see was cam placements in huge hanging detached blocks, which were the same blocks that I was going to have to pull on (yeah, real fun!). But I got stuck in anyway and after some thought as to where I was going to put my feet, I committed to the crux sequence and found myself loving every move, despite the calls to Nick to “WATCH ME”, which when I looked down he was filming the whole thing, I suppose he was technically watching me.
I reached the belay and reminded myself what Nick had said about Raphael Slawinski routes (one of the first ascentionists), “Anything above M6 is HARD, he very rarely grades above M7, and anything above M6+ could be Scottish tech 8-11”. That seemed about right! I then proceeded to bring Nick up as the light slowly made its way away, and he made quick work of the next big chimney pitch while it was still light. I followed, again quickly, as I wanted to finish the pitch before it got completely dark. This consisted of a lot of funky back and footing and a steep exit out of the chimney.
The next pitch was described as: “P6. Climb over a surprisingly steep bit of choss and head for the summit ridge. 30M”. This is what I did, much to my disappointment. Overhanging terrifyingly loos choss and steep pulls, a perfect way to finish a fun route (In the words of Borat, NOT!). Annoyingly, when I was pulling the steep bit, my foot dislodged a small rock which bounced off the wall and dislodged a torrent of falling stone. This, we found out later had chopped into one of our brand new ropes (in the middle) making it unusable for the rest of the trip. Not impressed!
But all in in it was an awesome route, long, hard climbing, and exactly what I came out to do, minus the trashed rope and the face whipping decent back through the forest to the car.
Again, we’ve got some cool plans for our next route, so keep an eye.
Nicks take on the day: http://nickbullock-climber.co.uk/2013/11/08/the-maul-on-wedge/
The route: (remember M7 in the mountains is absolutely nothing like M7 at your local tooling venue)
The Maul, 300M, WI thin, M7.
FA: Raphael Slawinski and Will Gadd, Nov. 20th, 2005.
P1. Follow the thin rivulet of ice up the groove. 70M. Cool belay in a slot. Good gear but takes time to find it.
P2. Up a steep bulge with technical gear, ice up the groove. 50M. Belay on left. Bit spicy.
P3. Snowslope to the base of the corner. 60M. Put the belay on the left to shelter it.
P4. Pull the fun corner with technical footwork but excellent cams, fixed Spectre, and on up. 60M. Belay on left.
P5. Wrestle the chimney into submission with good pins and blobs of ice. 50M.
P6. Climb over a surprisingly steep bit of choss and head for the summit ridge. 30M
Descent: Walk south along the ridge, down gully and back to packs. A full day!