We were going! Mt Bute was on the radar, and for Graham, Scott, and myself, each ebullient with some summits on big trips this year, an expedition to the B.C. Coast Range had us buzzing for months. In early summer, psyche levels were at a 10. Then Graham hurt his shoulder and was out of the picture... Strike one.
Next we heard that National Geographic was filming a BASE-jumping movie at the very same peak this year, palpably knocking our "wilderness" enthusiasm down to an 8. After a record-setting year of cold and snow (think dripping walls) and the revelation that some Hollywood hot shots were filming GI Joe at Mt Bute as well, our remaining 6-out-of-10 on an enthusiasm scale was simply inadequate to justify the trip expense.
An 8? Yes.
6? No way...
New plans were set.
We loaded packs, climbing gear, food (sure it wouldn't be enough...), took pictures of topos, bought ourselves a map, and went hiking. And then we hiked a little more. Eventually we found ourselves in Cathedral Provincial Park, British Columbia, roughly 23 miles from a one-lane dirt road where we'd left the car. It was time to go climbing. I've heard it said that "You don't fly halfway around the world to repeat routes", and I felt like an approach of this scale merited the same outlook. (flying globally or hiking in this far seeming fairly equivalent by the last mile or two...)
|Nearing the Deacon, just one more valley to cross|
During our trip from August 10-17th, we climbed a new route on the 1000' north face of a Canadian peak called 'The Deacon' as well 2 new lines on the south face of Cathedral Peak and the north buttress of Amphitheater Mountain, these last two falling just within the US. Although the area's Eastern (think rainshadow) location makes for more stable weather than peaks closer to the coast, we woke up to snow flurries on day 3, the only break in a week of excellent weather. The much-appreciated rest day was made better by the encounter with 3 friendly guys from Bellingham, along with their playing cards, tarp shelter, and Yukon Jack whiskey.
|Scott keeping warm post-send|
The Deacon was the best climb of the three new routes, with the peak and other looming walls lying in an obscure cirque which hid the face until we were literally just beneath it. We scoped lines and ID'ed the two existing routes the afternoon of our arrival, realizing that both existing lines avoided the peak's steep main face. Early the following morning (we knew the NE facing wall would only get a few hours sun) we headed up and started in the middle of the face, vaguely aiming for a splitter we could see to be maybe 700' up.
|Pulling into the steep splitter hand crack we were aiming for|
|Thin face climbing and miraculous crimpers on pitch 2|
|Hand cracks up high...|
With multiple 5.10 pitches and a thin 5.11 layback seam protected by RPs, the splitter cracks high on the wall felt like icing on a very rewarding cake. (is there any other kind?)
5.10-, 5.10+, 5.11, 5.9 Glory!, 5.10, 5.10, Low-5th soloing...
We called our line "The Heretic" ( 1000' 5.11 )
Cathedral Peak - FA of "Last Rights"
|Orange is our route, (Last Rights) yellow is the Doorish SE Buttress|
On Cathedral Peak, we began between the existing South Face (Beckey Route) and Sancta Civitas (Doorish route). The rock was featured and individual pitches compelling, but the peak overall is so ledgy, jointed, and broken up, that it became a choose-your-own adventure outing, where we were never forced onto a particular line or singular weakness. The crux pitch ascended the headwall avoided by the Beckey route, with the prior pitch crossing over the Beckey route's ramp moving left-to-right. The toughest pitch (5.11+ or 5.12-, reach dependent) began with easy climbing to a roof, tips crack, and powerful sequence to the thank-God face hold. We cleaned and redpointed this pitch (Scott sent, I failed a couple times on lead and followed cleanly), everything else was climbed onsight and gardened on lead.
FA of "The (Middle) Finger of Fatwa"
On a threatening weather day early on the trip, we ascended a line on the North Face of Amphitheatre Mountain that had some of the best alpine granite I've ever been on, but was the shortest of the three routes. The system of cracks and corners resembles a hand, and was long-ago dubbed the Middle Finger Buttress. We began with some easy flake laybacking and face holds to the immediate right of the "Left Side" route before Scott zeroed in on an overhanging flake and ringlocks splitter - solid 5.11 climbing.
I continued up a thin 5.10 corner and then traversed straight left, moving across the top of two corners and an overhanging bird-beak arete to a belay below the double roofs.
|Double 5.11 roofs...|
From this perch Scott 'monkey-barred' his way out the successive overhangs and chimneyed up to a ledge. A couple long 5.8 pitches/simuling on lower angle ridge-crest brought us to the top and a dive for cover under the overhanging summit walls just as it began to hail.
The (Middle) Finger of Fatwa 5.11 ~ 500'
Several routes and features on Amphitheater have Muslim-themed names, hence our Saudi-and-Sawtooth inspired double pun "Finger of Fatwa"... long hikes out yield cheesy wordplay I guess.
|The splitter on the wall facing the camera was|
part of our new route on Amphitheater. Here was
some rest-day cragging with Dana from American
Alpine Institute in Bellingham.
I'm sure that all three are destined for obscurity. But who knows. Maybe peaks and routes on this cross-border circuit will become the new international 'trade' routes.
The trip's "nuts and bolts" :
1 solitary can of beer, consumed too soon
1 petzl E-Lite
1 60L Cilogear Pack
1 70m 9.4mm rope
10x single runners, 2x draws 2x doubles
1 set wires
2 sets cams to red camalot, 1 x #2, #3, #4
Mountain Hardware 2-person tent
Jetboil and 2 small cannisters
OR Synapse shell
3 socks (total)
~5 days worth of food + some fish
2 nature valley bars, gifted from Andrew from B'ham
1 strange John Irving novel
One 4L Dromedary, 1 gatorade bottle
Unknown but insufficient quantities of snack units...