photo by Bradford MacArthur

Saturday, 30 August 2014

August in the Waddington Range

Quite frequently we find ourselves adventuring in some super remote alpine areas, or cranking up a daring finger crack high up on a multipitch...

With Alpine climbing style is everything-  Light, fast, and efficient is the way to go.  I have just recently gotten back from a two week trip into the Waddington Range, a remote range at the highest peaks of BC where we put up many new lines as first ascents.  My partner, Marc-AndrĂ©, and I were so psyched on day one and scrambled up a 1,500 meters of 5th class on a mountain called Serra 2. Inspired by an unclimbed direct headwall we established a new line (5.11 A1) we have named Straight no chaser. We continued up to the summit ridge and downclimbed a 50 degree exposed ice face into the technical glacial fields.  We made it back to base camp before dark, without the use of a headlamp.  

We woke up the next day and trekked our gear up to the Plummer hut, which would give us better access to a route we planned on trying to free on Stilletto when goes at 5.10 A2 ED2.  At the arrival of the Plummer hut we quickly team scrambled a 5.6 route up Claw peak and went to bed.  An early morning allowed us to cross the Tellot glacier on firm snow and ascend a giant burgschrund, cross through the notch between Serra 1 and Stiletto,  and downclimb bullet hard ice in a rock fall prone gully. The wind was so harsh this day, and the hazards were too extreme so we called our original plan off and decided to climb the Stiletto Needle from the point where we had arrived.  The change in plans was a blessing in disguise because the line we chose allowed us to do the second ascent of a Guy Edwards variation of the needle (the direct line 5.11 TD) instead of veering around the last pitch while also climbing an unclimbed splitter hand crack dihedral.  We then descended as the clouds billowed and darkened, and made it back to the Plummer hut before the wind storm hit.  
The day that followed we moved our gear back down to base camp, and took a rest day.  
My next excursion involved two different partners as we climbed the Integral South Ridge of Dentiform TD+ as a first ascent. This was majorly encompassed by a long ridge scramble, while summiting an unclimbed mountain we named Jawbreaker.  Jawbreaker is a giant pile of lose rock, which calls for many clever rappels and simul climbing.  

The last notable climb and probably my most exciting, was a climb my partner and I established on the Grand Cappuccino, a beautiful 10 pitch rock pillar, hidden deep behind Phantom Pillar in a notch 1000 meters above basecamp.  From the gendarme between Serra 2 and Phantom Pillar we scoped out a line that appeared plausible, we then downscrambled some lose rock and entered an ice gully (Cappuccino couloir). 
We arrived at an Indian Creek splitter dihedral crack 5.12- as our first pitch.  The route is comparable to an Astroman from Yosemite, except in the high alpine of the Waddington (5.10-5.12).  Including beautiful offwidths, splitter cracks up an incredible line, we climbed the technical face up to 8 pitches. (Pitch 7 was a perfect splitter stemming system 5.11+).  I began the 8th pitch with a bit of hesitation because the rock appeared to be deteriorating within an offwith.  We were lacking the appropriate wide gear for protection and I did not trust my number two Camelot being wedged between exfoliating flakes within, not to mention my partner was being covered in lose rock debris. With a bit of disappointment we decided to call it and bail about 40 meters from the summit.  Our predetermined turn around time was 3:00 which was 5 minutes till, the sun had left the south- east face and the wind chill was becoming icy, and above all, we lacked protection.  So all things considered, our decision was a wise one which now gives us high motivation to return to the Waddington and finish our incomplete project (Tuxedo Mocha 5.12 ED2, 10 pitches).

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