Two new routes in a weekend!

Tags: Posted on August 23, 2016

A lot can be done in with some motivation and a good partner.  Colin Moorhead and I rolled out of golden at 6pm on friday August 19th, bound for the Bugaboos.  51 hours later, we were back having completed two new multi-pitch routes routes!   The stories and beta for “Minotaur Direct” and “Sick and Twisted” are below. 

Minotaur Direct was a multi year project whose first ascent story goes something like this:  In 2011 Moorhead and I started on Labyrinth and but ventured into new terrain aka Minotaur, on what’s now it’s 6th pitch.  We rejoined Labyrinth for it’s last three pitches but did 7 new ones, of which a couple included free variations of the aid route Les Bruixes Es Pentinen.  Although it was a great day out and a memorable adventure, the King line with a direct start and finish awaited to be done.  

In 2014, Michelle Kadatz and I started the direct route, cleaning many loose hanging blocks left precariously in place from the great flake that fell off the mountain in the late nineties.  We soon had a five pitch direct start established to the ledge system that Colin and I had traversed from Labyrinth on.   Over several sessions from the July 2015 to July 2016, we continued to work on Minotaur ground-up, cleaning the cracks, bolting the stations, and pushing the direct finish until only 60m below the summit ridge.  In 2015 when Michelle’s schedule was too busy, Alik Berg joined me up the first 5 pitches until we could branch out left and establish Welcome to the Machine over two days. When Michelle’s schedule was busy in 2016, she told me to find another partner to finish the route with.  On a whim, I reached out to Colin, fully expecting his busy guiding schedule to get in the way.  Luckily he was psyched and cleared his schedule and made the 9 hour drive from Squamish.  We stumbled into Applebee camp by moonlight on the night of the 19th.  By 7 am, the next morning, we were crossing the moat on the edge of Cresent Glacier and climbing into the sunshine.  It took us about 14 hours up and down, which included us bolting a the last two belays and brushing the final 60 meters on rappel.  

Our day went well as we settled into a nice rhythm, swapping leads up the 500-meter face.  It was fun watching Colin react to the route’s challenges and quality as he climbed it on-sight.  Top quality climbing every pitch with lots of variety is perhaps the best way to describe the route, with an emphasis on hand jams in upper pitches.  We expect this route will become a classic, as Welcome to the Machine seems to be already.  

The next day, despite feeling quite sore and completely full with satisfaction, we decided we might as well attempt climbing a shorter route before hiking out.  It so happened that Chris Brazeau and I had an un-sent project on Eastpost Spire, just ten minutes walk from camp.  Chris, who was at Applebee at the time,  even suggested we go for it without him, as it made sense to get it done before the short Bugaboo season ended.  Chris and I had done two-and-a-half laps on it in September 2015 and June 2016, putting the route up ground-up, on gear which was definitey sparse or minimal at times, and then adding a few bolts to it after.  Despite having both followed the second / crux pitch clean, we had both fallen off it on lead.   

So after multiple coffees and meals and camp, we headed up to give it a go, with no expectations given the fatigued state we were in.  This timehowever, as I felt my fingers wanting to slip off the crux holds, I found it in me to double the power and move through it, finally redpointing the pitch properly, as well as the rest of the route.  After Colin arrived at the belay at the end of the fourth pitch he said to me “This is sick and twisted”.  I agreed, and so the route name was born…  I think this route was a good find and it was somewhat surprising to discover something like this right beside the main climbers campground.  For me, it sure provided a fun few days of  climbing.  

Minotaur is in red; Welcome to the Machine is in yellow; green dots are bolted belays, purple dots are gear belays.  

Minotaur Direct, 5.11+ 16 pitches, East face of Snowpatch Spire

beta: bring two 60 ropes; a double rack of cams to #3 camelot, one #4; and triples of .3, .4, and .75.  One set of stoppers from #3 to #11.  12-14 draws half of which should be extendable.   All belays are bolted.

p1 - 30 meters 5.10-: step across the moat which gets harder as the season goes on.  Climb double cracks / opposing  flakes for about 10 meters until you’re able trend right, and easily up the big scoop.  Make a gear anchor before it steepens where you can find some good foot ledges.

p2 - 30 meters 5.10+: continue up the scoop via a thin corner crack, to a belay station at a good stance.  (Earlier in the season it’s possible to link pitches 1 and 2 with a 60m rope, but later in the season a 70m rope is needed for the link).

p3 - 30 meters 5.10+:  climb the corner above and pull through a small overhang to a stance. Step left and up a shallow left facing corner, until an easy ramp leads back right.  Follow this, hand traversing flakes until a belay station below a long left facing corner.   

p4 - 45 meters 5.11+:  This pitch has 3 cruxes separated by good rests.  A thin tips corner gains a section of cool stemming.  When you get to a bolt clip it and face climb left to a stance on the arete.  Do not move up to the bolted station up and right, or you’ll have to down-climb 3 meters to continue sending! From the stance on the arete, move up and right back into the left facing corner, and follow it up past one more crux to the bolted station on a good ledge.  (Rappel note: the station skipped on this pitch is good to use while rappelling, but requires a directional piece to swing into it.  From here, rappel directly to the top of the big scoop in 55m)

p5 - 50 meters 5.10: After a couple body lengths of fist crack, pull a small overhang to a stance.  Rather than continue up the obvious corner, look up and you’ll see a bolt that can be reached via face holds.  Climb up to it, and move left into the next corner system left, which is much better due to the hand crack.  It leads to a fourth class ledge, which needs to be traversed up and left.  A belay station with ring hangers below a groove is for Minotaur, or, continue past it for five more meters to a belay station bellow a nice looking flake which is Welcome to the Machine.  If you miss the first protection bolt, the mountaineers version of this pitch exists and will get you to the same place but less directly, with sandy sections, loose rocks, rope drag, etc.

p6- 30 meters 5.10+:  Follow the groove up and right past two knifeblades to belay on a good ledge.

P7- 35 meters 5.11+:  Follow the obvious finger crack in left leaning corner, through the roof to a belay station.  This pitch could probably be called 5.10+ with one point of aid for those that find free-climbing the roof too difficult.  

p8- 30 meters 5.11a:  Clip a bolt and traverse right on the slab to a shallow left facing, right leaning corner with a thin crack that takes excellent micro cams.  At it’s top, step left past two knifeblades into the main corner which is followed until a belay station is reached.  

P9- 5.10 55m: This pitch is mostly 5.7ish with one little 5.10 bit.  Follow the corner up and slightly left.  After a short 5.10 sequence it will soon be possible to start trending back right to a belay a big ledge, a belay station, and an excellent bivi spot should one be needed.  

p10- 25m 5.9:  Climb the best looking crack above the belay station towards a steeper wall above split by several cracks.  There is a belay station on the left.  (The original Minotaur route goes hard right from here)

p11 - 30m 5.11a:  Hand jams up the right hand crack give way to a thin finish in alcove, and a belay station.  (P10 and P11 can be linked)   

p12 35m 5.10+: climb the left crack out of the belay.  After about 5 meters, transfer back into the right one, which parallels the arete, and follow it to a belay at a nice perch.

p13 25m 5.9:  An easy chimney leads up and right to another nice belay perch on top of a pinnacle.  

p14 30m 5.11c:  A left leaning crack.  Bouldery moves past three bolts soon give way to easier crack climbing that leads to a big ledge and a station.

p15 28m 5.11c: a short corner with a fist crack leads to a ledge.  A beautiful thin hand splitter continues up the headwall above to a belay station on a ledge.  This pitch is why you need the third .75 camelot on the rack.    

p16 35m 5.10+:  Keep going up the same crack which has now kicked back slightly in angle and become more positive.  A 60m rappel gets you back down to the last two pitches.  

The North summit is about 150 meters of 4th class scrambling away.  Stay on east side of the ridge if you go for it.  
Rappel the route

All grades for both routes are suggested.  Any feedback on grades is welcome!   

Sick and Twisted, 5.12a, 5 pitches, Eastpost Spire

A good option for a short day, bad weather, or just something to play around on.  

Rack: double rack of camelots from #.3 to #2, one #3, one of each size below .3;  6-8 stoppers.  If rappelling, a 70m rope is needed although two ropes is nicer, especially if you want to haul a pack.  All belays are bolted.

P1 25m 5.11d: Climb up and trend right to a corner.  follow it out below a roof until it’s possible to pull the roof, then up the groove to a belay.  This pitch has four protection bolts.  The in the first half of this pitch is unfortunately a bit crumbly but the rest of the route is a lot better.  

P2 30m 5.12a:  Climb up a few meters, then traverse below the big roof to the left for about 15m until it’s possible to climb up a left facing corner to a belay on a good ledge.  The 12a grade is a combination of the sustained 11+ climbing and the intimidation of the traversing style.      (35m to the ground from here)

p3 30m 5.11a:  Start up a left facing corner to a ledge, move left to the next left facing corner and climb it past some funky features.  Move right to another big ledge but make steep moves upwards at it’s left edge, and belay at a good stance at the right end of the big hanging slab.  There may be a bit of suspect rock on this pitch, but much better than the first one.   

P4 25m 5.10d:  Cross then hanging slab past four bolts, then up and across to belay below some short steep crack lines.  

P5 20m 10d:  start up the corner then head up the middle of three cracks.  (the left one is The Flaming Hack Arete)

You can either walk off (down the trail on the other side of the ridge), or rappel.  From the top, a 55m rappel makes it to a bolt station on the slab below, rightness the edge and about 10 meters away from Sheldons Corner.  Another 50m rappel hits the ground.


A few action shots of the two route: 

Michelle Kadatz on P11 of Minotaur direct, 5.11a

Colin on pitch 15, of Minotaur Direct  5.11c thin hands!  


Chris Brazeau on the first pitch of Sick and Twisted.  There are now a couple more bolts in this section.  


Me on P4 of Sick and Twisted, the hanging slab pitch.  Photo:  Chris Brazeau


Chris on the last pitch of Sick and Twisted.  A fun finish!  



The Cupcake Conspiracy

Tags: Posted on June 20, 2016

The Cupcake Conspiracy

After failing to find any alpine routes in decent shape late last October, due to extremely mild conditions, plan B landed us in the Ghost River area with our sights set on establishing a rock route up some untouched blue streaks on a virtually untouched wall in Bonanza Bay.  Michelle roped gunned Bonanza and I followed with a pack full of ropes, bolts and a drill.  We came in from above figuring out most of the intended line on the way down, and got it mostly bolted in the next day and half before the season’s first snow storm brought progress to a chilly halt.  It was a different yet enjoyable adventured discovering a way up a wall of high quality limestone with virtually no options for any natural gear.  Six months later, we finally made it back, drilling the crux pitch on lead, and sending it along with the rest of the route in a fun day.  

Lots more potential around here for more routes like this one, and having two or three like on the wall would allow for bigger days.

The Beta:
5 pitches, 150m, 5.11+   First ascent Michelle Kadatz and Jon Walsh, June 12, 2016.   A fun bolted route in the on mostly excellent rock in the middle of the South facing Bonanza Bay wall, about halfway between Bonanza and the Bonanza decent gully.  All belay stations are equipped with Fixe rap rings.  16 draws needed and 2 or 3 of them should be extendable.  Two ropes is best for getting back down.  A 70-meter rope works for almost all rappels although at this point, it’s unknown if it will get you down pitch 2 but likely very close.      
Lots more potential around here for more routes like this one, and having two or three like on the wall would allow for bigger days.

The grades aren’t confirmed although some friends repeated it the day after we finished it.  Perhaps some more feedback will help confirm the grades.

Pitch 1,  5.10a 10 bolts, 35-meters.  It starts behind two good sized spruce trees about 50 meters right of Bonanza, and should be easy to find.   Follow the bolt line to good ledge.     
Pitch 2, 5.11c/d  15 bolts, 40-meters.   Face climb up and right from the belay towards a blue-streaked corner.  Head left at a roof (extendable draws useful here), and continue trending up and left around the corner to small ledge and a station.  
Pitch 3, 5.11d/12a 7 bolts,  15-meters.  Head up and right towards a roof, before making a crux move back left through it, which leads to a station at a decent stance.    
Pitch 4, 5.10b 10 bolts, 35-meters.  Prickly featured holds lead up perfect grey rock to an anchor at a big ledge on the right.  
Pitch 5, 5.10d 11 bolts, 35-meters.  Straightforward face climbing to the rim.   

Scotland Trip Report 2016

Tags: Posted on February 08, 2016

Since participating in the BMC winter meet two years ago, I’ve been dreaming of returning to the Scotland.  Although it has some of the most persistently appalling weather imaginable, it’s stunningly beautiful, and is home to one of the most interesting styles of winter climbing I know of.  A strict code of ethics prevents any bolting in the mountains.  The rock is typically granitic and well featured, and the wild north atlantic weather plasters the cliffs in ice, rime, snow and verglas, thus creating conditions where you’ll often be dealing with 4 or 5 different mediums at time.  Mix that with some frozen turf and neve, it’s about as mixed as it gets.   Although all the climbing I did seemed quite sustained and technically in the M6 to M8 range, placing the protection was often the crux as most of it needed to be pounded in.  Camming devices were almost completely useless!  

During the last week of January and first week of February 2016, a small group of Canadians including myself, Michelle Kadatz, Paul McSorley, Marc Andre Leclerc, Ian Welsted, and Paul Bride, settled into a little rental cottage in the village of Glen Coe, a little village situated in Scottish highlands. Over 12 days, the milder than average weather we experienced only permitted about 6 days of climbing, which I suppose isn’t too bad for a trip of this nature.  A couple of days were spent taking the gear for a walk, also known as hill walking, only to find the cliffs “black” and out of condition due to rainy weather with higher than mountain top feeling levels.  It needs to be frozen / look white in order to preserve the turf, but fortunately, as soon as the temps drop, many routes are instantly good to go.  

Down time involved a good mixture of cruising around the country side sampling the local flavours, checking out castles, lochs, pubs, towns, and couple of trips to the worlds biggest indoor climbing gym in Ratho to keep the form.   All said and done it was a great trip, the locals were really helpful and I look forward to honing my mixed climbing skills in highlands many more times.  

Much of climbing we did was on Ben Nevis, and I also visited Stob Coire Nan Lochan at Glen Coe, and Coire An Lochan in the Cairngorms.  My favourite route of trip, and also the hardest one I climbed was definitely Knuckelduster on Ben Nevis.  It was so plastered in rime and verglas that route finding was really difficult as there are many small precarious holds and very in obvious gear through the crux, although I've never climbed anything with such a truly mixed feel to it.  It was definitely a battle to put it together and was of very high intensity at much of the time.  A really cool line that I’m stoked to have on-sighted, especially considering difficult conditions. 

Scottish grades don't make a lot of sense to me, but I've never really felt that grades mean very much in this style of climbing.   

The following photos are some highlights and maore interesting photos of what we got up to:


Michelle climbing the Gargoyle cracks during a link-up of Hobgoblin (VII,7) into Babylon (VII,8) - Number 3 gully buttress of Ben Nevis - a fun warm up day

Michelle and Marc enjoying some blustery conditions on the rim after Michelle and I finished Hobgoblein / Baylon, and Marc had just finished his 8th route of the day! 

The coveted Stob Coire Nan Lochan.  A nice venue to have in our backyard, stacked with classic routes up to 200 meters high


Me starting up the first pitch of what I called Impulsive Inclination (VIII,8).  It starts at the base of the Unicorn (summer start to this route?), and heads up and left.  After 20 meters, it joins Inclination for its second pitch which I linked all the way to a big terrace after 40 meters of climbing.   It may or may not be a couple of new variations to the routes around it, but either way it was top quality climbing and a lot of fun!  photo: Michelle Kadatz


Looking right from the end of the of the first pitch, Ian Welsted seen here, and Paul McSorley were trying to find the way on Scanzor (IX,9) - Stob Coire Nan Lochan


Looking up p2 of Impulsive Inclination.  It climbs an unprotectable series of edges up and left for about 7 meters towards the obvious hand crack, up that for a bit, and then moved right into a groove.  After about 20 meters, it joined Tilt which was followed to the top. 

Here is Paul Bride's view of me, leading the second pitch.

Upon reaching the summit, we met up with Marc Andre who had just soloed 5 routes!  Here's a link to a raw video clip of what he had to say about his day:


The next route we did and the highlight of the trip for me was Knuckleduster, a burly VIII,9 on Ben Nevis.  Here's Michelle following the first, and a link to Greg Boswell's take on the route with a cool photo of him entering the crux, although for me is was completely plastered white with rime and looked a bit different.  

Rocio Siemens snapped this shot of me (center of photo) making the final traverse left to the belay stance at the end of the crux second pitch.  It was the third traversing bit of this wild pitch that involved a nice mix of corner, face and arete climbing, and is a cool overview of one of Scotland's finest crags.  


Michelle making precarious moves around the arete to the belay back in main corner of the summer route, at the end of pitch 2 on Knuckleduster.  It's about the same spot I'm in in the previous photo.  This was definitely the hardest pitch of the trip as it plastered white with  rime, and coated in verglas, which made for very tricky route finding and gear placements.  It also felt a little on the bold side as I was never quite sure whether or not I could trust my gear, although judging by how hard it was to clean for Michelle, it must've of been adequate!  


Michelle happy to be off the traverse and at the anchor.  A week later and she still seems traumatized by this pitch! 


Me climbing pitch 3 of Knuckleduster with burning forearms.  I think this is the direct finish or the summer route.  A nice crack in the right wall of the corner provides sustained climbing up a slightly overhanging for about 15 meters, followed by a short ledge traverse and another 15+ meters of slightly easier terrain to the top.  As usual, the crux was hammering nuts into the iced up crack.  Photo: Michelle Kadatz 

Marc Andre Leclerc trying to find the Coire an Lochan in the Cairgorms, in sustained 60 mph winds (at least that what was forecasted and i don't doubt they were at least that!) and zero visibility. 

Marc Andre Leclerc on sighting the first pitch of Happy Tyroleans (X, 10) in howling winds and constant snow.  Fortunately the overhanging nature of the pitch kept too much snow piling up on the ledges. 

Marc Andre Leclerc following the second pitch of Happy Tyrolean.  Vertical climbing soon kicked back a bit, and storm snow was piling up fast!   Also a great pitch, and about two grades easier than the first one.


Scotland is famous for its pubs and this was our local watering hole.  From L to R: Marc Andre Leclerc,  Ian Welsted, Will Woodhead, Paul McSorley, Paul Bride, Jon Walsh.  Photo: Michelle Kadatz