Highway 99 South – Duffey Lake Road to D’Arcy
Sebastien and I (Jean-Marc) checked out The Rambles Monday (Nov. 17). We climbed the 1st and 2nd pitches. 1st is still very thin. Thick enough for protection though. 2nd tier was awesome. Looked up and saw the pillar isn’t ready yet up high. We didn’t have time to walk up higher. Overall, a great early season ice climbing day.
Riley Millington and I (Jeremy Thom) climbed Belmore Gully on Saturday (Nov. 15). It is in fantastic shape. It was -13C in the car at 9:15 a.m. There is a continuous line of ice that runs easily 600m. I’ve never been on anything like it. It is mostly very easy WI2 (to use your tools or not to use your tools?). There is also a lot of walkable “1/1+”. But there are various steps of solid 2 and near the top there are a few short steps of WI3.
The ice is generally quite good. About half of it is really wet, but still solid. Your ropes will get soaked and freeze. There are a couple very short sections of thought-provokingly thin, wet and detached ice with running water behind it, but they don’t come on the steeper bits. I wouldn’t bother bringing anything longer than 13 cm screws, unless you fancy spending a bit of quality time with a small file. There are deeper placements here and there, but not many.
A note about the approach. We did the one described in the book from the bridge. It involves a lot of bushwhacking. I suspect we spent most of it too low or too high, then too high or too low. Unfortunately the river bank does not provide good travel. It took us about an hour and a half to get to Belmore. Just in case you start to wonder whether you went too far, like we did, be certain that you cannot possibly miss Belmore. If you haven’t seen it yet, keep going. The ice starts not very high above the river, so I’d say stay lower if you can. We missed about a pitch worth.
A note about the Heinous descent. It is Heinous. Just above the top of the ice, there is a little bushy chute to the right that might provide a better option to escape the gully, but it was dark and we chose to follow the main gully another 150m or so up left to a short brushy exit at the top. There, the Heinousness begins. Slide alder. Big, thick Heinous slide alder. And interlaced between all the slide alder: devil’s club. Lots of Heinous devil’s club. Frozen, slippery ground that calls for crampons, but so much underbrush that you’ll catch your crampons every few steps. And it’s steep. The lower you get, the more it opens up, but then you’re dealing with steep frozen dirt covered with loose branches and small loose logs, and various little escarpments to navigate. Eventually you end up on a very loose, frost covered talus slope where most everything you step on moves. Once you’re down to the valley bottom again, it’s easy to get turned around in the bush in the dark looking for the road. Remember: the river should always be on your right (to the North as you walk West towards the car). You can’t actually keep it in sight, but you can hear it well. It ducks under a bridge just before the parking area, so as long as you can hear it on your right, you’re more or less on the right track. If you traversed too far West while you were descending (in which case you probably missed the talus field) you won’t hear the river when you hit the valley bottom, so you need to head back East.
I strongly recommend bringing safety glasses for the bushwhacking. We got innumerable sticks and branches in our eyes and I count us lucky that neither of us suffered a significant injury. Plus, devil’s club in the eye can seriously sap your stoke.
We considered rapping the route, but: it would have taken probably 30 single rope raps (less whatever down-climbing seemed safe in the dark); there are only a few “fixed stations”, all of which looked pretty questionable; and it would have been pretty hard to find threads deeper than 13cm, often in wet ice. Even with double ropes, the Heinous descent would still be a lot faster.
I am still tweezering devil’s club barbs out of my beard, my legs, and another unmentionable place. WEST COAST ICE!!!
Isodorth Gully looked, from the road, probably a bit fatter than Belmore. It also looked like there was well over 150m of ice there. And I don’t think it goes high enough to get into the devil’s club zone…
There are numerous gullies on the North side of the Duffey Lake Road, starting at about Joffre Lakes, that have lots of ice in them that looks plenty thick to climb (likely WI2-ish). There is even a nice thick looking face of what looked to be around 30-40m of WI4 a couple hundred meters above the river. Access would be difficult though. You’d probably have to ford the river. They all seem to be benefiting from a nice melt-freeze cycle in the South facing snow slopes above the routes, so they should continue to form.
Nothing this side of D’Arcy looked remotely in, though there are lots of tantalizing thin smears from Squamish northwards.
Highway 99 South – Squamish to D’Arcy
Highway5 – Coquihalla
I (Drew) hiked in to the base of what I thought was an unclimbed falls about 600 m north of Box Canyon on the East side of the highway, in a prominent avalanche swathe. Met two guys from Williams Lake – Dave Dunaway and Hank Stansfield – at the base; they had independently decided to hike in and check it out. We climbed the steep bottom pitch, 30 m of WI3. Found a few screw holes and an Abalakov sling frozen into the ice at the top, so it looks like it was climbed a few days prior. Hopefully someone will reveal who was the first up and suggest a name for this one.
Above this steep bottom pitch there is quite a bit of WI2 rambling and short steeper steps. Sadly, it was +5C on the climb by noon and the water was starting to run. Doubt it will still be climbable by the weekend.
Not much is still safe at Box Canyon or lower due to the warm temperatures. However, across the valley of the Coquihalla from Falls Lake, there is quite a lot of unclimbed fat ice that could be reached by mountain biking down the old Kettle Valley Rail line (now the route of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and gated at Coq Lakes). 6 to 7 km of biking gets you to some big potential routes in the WI2 to WI4 range. This should stay frozen through Wednesday if anyone is keen….