(New) International Trade Routes

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. 
7? Maybe. 
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  (AKA the Sentinel, as in Yosemite's Sentinel Rock)
& the FA of "The Heretic"

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 )

Fun with night photos and the crew of folks from Bellingham

Cathedral Peak - FA of "Last Rights"
Orange is our route, (Last Rights) yellow is the Doorish SE Buttress

Scott following down low (photo emailed by friendly nearby climbers)

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.

The crux went up to the crack left of the roof
underclinged right, then pulled into the tips cracks and straight up.

Me following up high after failing 3x to redpoint the crux

We named our climb "Last Rights" in keeping with the area's catholic theme and considering our wandering, rightward-trending finale in search for the best-looking climbing.

"Last Rights" 1000' 5.11+

Amphitheater Mountain
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
Puffy Jacket
OR Synapse shell
Stocking Cap
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...


  1. Is it just me or this shit not that groundbreaking?

  2. It's just you dude. It's completely and utterly groundbreaking. The Berlin Wall falling, the Golden Spike being driven, Sputnik in Orbit, and the shots fired on the Concord Green all pale in historical significance. No two ways about it.

    In fact, if you stayed tuned, you may become privy to even more groundbreaking developments including, but not limited to: the final score in trivia night at Boundary Bay Brewery (we won), the chossiest of the Cascades' impressive alpine faces (we bailed), and the trick beta for flashing Thin Red Line and while delicious pudding and alpine peach Cobbler await, merging into perfection for you back at the campsite.

    Is it just me, or does someone lack a basic understanding of the meaninglessness in deconstructing strawman arguments?

  3. Personally I think that ground up FAs of beautiful and steep Cascadian faces is a pretty worthy thing to read about.

    Anonymous folks talking shit is not.

    Thanks for the good words Mr Herrington.