Highway 99 South – Lions Bay
Tim Emmett and I (Matt Maddaloni) attempted a winter ascent of Harvey’s Pup on Monday January 6th. (My 3rd attempt)
The lack of snow this year made hiking all the way to the base talus slope possible. We didn’t encounter snow until 100 feet below the base. We hoped the conditions this year would have created a lot of ice, due to freeze thaw cycles. As such, there was a lot of ice on the route… but a substantial lack of snow completely changed the nature of the route.
In past years. we have quickly kicked steps up the 600 foot ramp to the couloir between Harvey and it’s Pup tower and then kicked steps up the 250 foot couloir itself. This year, instead of snow it was technical WI3 ice that we had to solo,. We also needed to rappel down the same ice later, on the ramp and overhanging chockstones in the couloir.
The couloir was mostly devoid of snow (which is 50 feet deep on most years!). As a result, we climbed two full pitches of overhanging chockstones before reaching the real first pitch. Then instead of a relatively easy 30 foot high and 10 foot roof chockstone pitch, it was a 100 foot high, 50 foot roof that became one of my hardest mixed pitches I have ever led. It required dry tooling an overhanging wall on micro cracks with marginal bird beaks to start. This eventually gave way to bomber cam placements and a fun free hanging swing onto a chockstone halfway up the pitch. From here, I had to stem out the roof with crampons on verglass while camming tools under the chockstone filled roof. Wild lead!
Once above the chockstones and into the couloir proper ,we were able to move more quickly. We traversed the first snow slope to the base of the first overhanging pitch and the crux of the route. The snow on the slope was about 6 inches deep over slabs, but it was bonded incredibly well and made the front pointing easy.
Last year with Luke Nuefield, I managed to climb the next three pitches on the headwall before deciding to rap off (to take advantage of the awesome skiing conditions below in the last light of the day). This year there was only verglass on the overhanging rock with no thick bulges of ice to take screws and definitely no curtains off the small ledges. Looks as though the pitches need way more snow above to generate more ice on these steep pitches.
We reversed the traverse and rappelled down. Super fun day and I will be back!