Josh Wharton and I must've used up our luck and good weather on his last two highly productive visits, because we just got pretty much shut down on all things alpine we were interested in. During the exact same dates as a year ago, we enjoyed a successful and rare repeat of the North Twin's Tower, while freezing levels remanied close to 4000m, and valley temps crested the 30 degree mark. This year, four out of the 7.5 days we just spent together were full winter days with relatively large amounts of snowfall, all the way to the valley, that firmly slammed the door on everything we hoped to do. We still drove many hundreds of kilometers trying to stay optimistic and psyched, but in the end, we had to settle for a warm-up day at Acephale (our favorite Bow Valley crag) before the apocolyptic weather began, and two days on Yamnuska working a 5.13 multi-pitch sport climb called Blue Jeans. It's not that there wasn't alpine objectives that would've been doable and perhaps enjoyable, we're just picky and like to stay focused on harder technical routes whenever possible.
Blue Jeans has only had one proper repeat (by Vikki Weldon) since it's first ascent four years ago (by Derek Galloway), and Josh was psyched to make the third. The highly technical climbing made quick redpointing a difficult propositon though, and it turned out that a mere two days wouldn't be enough to figure out the beta, and then link all the moves of the two crux pitches. Anyways, it was fun trying and a bit more effort next year will be needed for success.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the Blue Jeans adventure was the amount of snow we had to plough through just to get to it - thigh deep at times!!! Normally it would take an hour of hiking, although with all the fresh snow, it took over two hours on our first try, and it was -9 degrees Celcius at the car park when we left! Then in full sun, it was so hot on the rock that it felt hard to stick to the steep limestone. A couple days later, our apprach time was cut in half thanks to the trail being in, and some cloud cover greatly improved the friction. The first three pitches cruised by, but the fourth was the end of the redpoint attempt. Josh came close, but in the end we retreated. Here's a few pics:
On the approach trail. Had someone not hiked three quarters of the way the day before, we wouldn't have made it
Josh following the first pitch
Josh onsighting the second pitch
Josh starting the third pitch
Josh on the fourth pitch
Michelle Kadatz, Paul Bride and I flew in a heli into East Creek (the West side of the Bugaboos) for a few days last week. Paul was psyched to shoot landscape photos while Michelle and I checked out some of the incredible rock in the Pigeon feathers. Although there are quite a few routes here described in the guidebook, the Pigeon Feathers remain a slightly more obscure corner of the Bugs, despite their amazing quality, and proximity to a great camp. Upon landing, we hiked around until we found something that was really inspiring - some unclimbed splitters on Wide Awake Tower, slightly right of the original Wide Awake route.
Wide Awake Tower. Our route starts part way up the snow gully. photo: Paul Bride
On our first climbing day under stormy skies, we made it nearly three quarters of the way up before the skies started unleashing thunder and lightning. Going down was the only option. While pulling the ropes after the first rappel, a toaster sized block popped off and landed right in the pile of rope that was stacking itself in front of us as it fell. The result was both lead and tag lines were chopped in the middle! The storm intensified and we had no choice but to hunker down in a chimney, while rain, hail, and a lot of very close thunder and lightning came down all around us. Backs against the wall and all the metal off the harnesses, we slowly got colder and wetter. Multiple rounds of this continued until finally it passed and we made it down to the glacier safely. By the time we were walking back to camp, it was nice and sunny so we lapped the first three pitches of the classic Solitary Confinement. It was great to get back on this one again as it had been 8 or 9 years since I had climbed it, and it was one Michelle wanted to do too. Our thirty-five meter rope was exactly what it took to get to the first anchor of this amazing 5.11 continuous crack that gradually expanded from tips to off-width over three pitches. With only two #4 camelots, the even wider 4th pitch wasn’t really an option, which was fine by me. Three 4's, and three 5's would be considerated adequate for it...
Michelle on Pitch 3 of Solitary Confinement.
The following day we hiked to Applebee where it was possible to get two more ropes, which took the better part of the day via the Bugaboo Glacier. On day 3 we got back to work on what we were now calling Electric Funeral, obviously a reference to a Black Sabbath song, and our experience on it the first day. Paul and I are both huge Black Sabbath fans and when we get together, Sabbath becomes our theme. Michelle didn’t know the song, but liked the name! The climbing went well, although seventh pitch took getting dead-ended on two other option before I finally figured out what to do. Not comfortable with the run-out traverse to a grassy crack, I pendulummed across the face to the seam, then went into aid / cleaning mode with a nut tool and wire brush. By the time I got to the next ledge, I was so psyched to come back to send the pitch, as well as the amazing looking splitter above that bee-lined for the summit. It was cold, windy and getting late so we decided to save it for the next day.
Playing with fire at camp. Wide awake is the rightmost tower in the background photo: Paul Bride
On Day 4 the weather was looking pretty bad, and confidence of being able to complete the project was low. However, we were back, and for the first time we brought the power drill and enough bolts to set up some stations. We were psyched to have gone through the process a couple of times without bolts, and felt like the route was worthy of setting up to attract more climber to enjoy its quality. Fortunately the weather held and even got pretty nice, although quite windy in the afternoon. On pitch 7, I led out to a small foot ledge and placed the only protection bolt as high above my head as I could, then lowered the drill back to the belay and continured sending the pitch, which was delightfully sustained and interesting to climb. It was more like face climbing with a thin crack for protection, than the typical crack climbing that’s far more common in the area. The crux came right off the belay on the pitch 8 while laybacking off amazing chicken heads to pull a small roof! Trending right, beautiful cracks and transfer moves continued, and the rope was nearly used up before finally reaching a good stance.
Michelle following the 7th pitch photo Paul Bride
JW on pich 8, gunning for the top photo Paul Bride
Sweet views from the summit and a smooth rappel had us celebrating back in camp before long. Our time was up and we had the heavy, half-day slog / half-day drive home to look forward to the next day. It had been a fun process exploring this obscure conner of the Bugs and I know I’ll be back again. The crack system immediately left - aka Wide Awake, looked amazing!
Almost at the belay at the top of pitch 5. It's the triangular ledge a body length to my right. Photo Paul Bride
Michelle bringing me accross the traverse of Pitch 4. Photo Paul Bride
Michelle on pitch 6.
Michelle leading pitch 3
Michelle following pitch 7
JW starting up pitch 8, photo Michelle Kadatz
JW passing some perched flakes and the chimney on the way to the summit. Photo Michelle Kadatz
Electric Funeral, 300m, 5.11+, FA: Michelle Kadatz and Jon Walsh, August 7th 2014
A fun route on great rock, highly recommended, and it’s easily scoped from nearby snow slopes. Pitches 7 and 8 are nothing short of spectacular! The route is straightforward to rappel, or to walk off.
Rack: 1 full set of stoppers. 10 - 12 draws. Double set of cams from purple C3 or red X4 to #3 camelot. One #4 camelot and one #5 camelot are nice for the short wide sections of pitches 2 and 3. If the plan is to rappel, the #4 and 5 came lots can be left at the top of pitch 3.
Approach: Start up a the snowgully to the right of the tower's "nose" and ascend snow for about 80 meters. Look for a distint left facing corner that leads to a righ faceing corner that make up pitches 2 nd 3. We climbed a body length of 5.7 and then a 5 meter traverse left of easy 5th class to get a good belay ledge where you can dump your packs and get organised. This is directly below the changing corners of pitches 2 and 3. We left a cairn here...
P1: 5.10-, 30 meters; climb through bulge from belay and trend left to a left facing corner. A couple of balance moves to gets you to a crack that leads back right to a left facing corner with two wide cracks in it, and a two bolt belay station.
P2: 5.10, 20 meters; Climb the obvious wide cracks above up the left facing corner to a good ledge, and a gear belay (takes camelots .5, .75, 1)
P3: 5.10, 20 meters; A few off-width moves give way to nice hand-jamming. Belay at a good ledge with a huge, easily slung horn for the belay.
P4: 5.9, 50 meters; climb a short bulge above the belay and make a rising traverse to the right, until a short down climb becomes necessary. Climb down a few meters, then back up to a good belay ledge.
P5: 5.10+, 50 meters; Great hand and finger cracks head up and slightly left. Belay at a small but comfortable ledge below an overlap. A very nice pitch.
P6: 5.10+, 15 meters. Pull through the overlap and up a short groove. Rather than continue up the dirt right facing corner, make face moves out left onto the exposed / featured / golden face and up to a two bolt belay at a small ledge.
P7: 5.11-, 30 meters; Face climb up and left past a bolt, to gain a thin crack that leads straight up towards a roof. Two bolt belay below roof at small ledge.
P8: 5.11+ 50 meters; A crux roof sequence leads to spectacular crack climbing that trends rightwards towards the summit, sometimes transferring from crack-to-crack, one of such transfers providing a second, slightly easier crux! A two bolt belay at a good stance comes after 50 meters
P9: 5.9, 20 meters; A short straightforward pitch passes a chimney, and gets you to the summit.
Rappel notes: easy down-climbing about 5-meters off the summit to a slung block is required to get back to the last belay. A 25-meter rappel straight down from there (the last bolted station) gets you to another bolted station on a ledge that wasn’t part of the route. It would be possible to climb over to this on pitch 8, although this wasn’t done on the first ascent. A 50-meter rappel from here gets you to the bolted belay between pitch 6 and 7. Then 50-meters to a slung horn you passed near the start of P5. Two single rope rappels on slung horns throughout the owed angle traverse section, get you to the top of pitch 3. Then a double rope rappel easily makes the top of P1…