Inevitably when people ask me why I play in the mountains one of my answers is “ the endless challenge”. Which is very true; no matter what level of mountaineer you are there is always a challenge that will test your mettle. This progression is what keeps it all so interesting. You can always improve, always get better and always have a challenge that will fulfill this new level. To remain stagnant is not what I am living for. To push myself, my boundaries, my skills to new levels, that is what makes living fun.
This is why I have loved ski mountaineering for so long, I have always been able to find new challenges. From my daily goals, to my year long challenge of 2 million feet, to harder and more difficult lines. It’s endless, I feel like I have met my goals in terms of endurance so I am now furthering them on the ski mountaineering side. Using more and more rope work to access remote lines. Increasing the complexity of the situation as my knowledge and skills are developed.
Now it is summer and a way I can progress my ski mountaineering is to improve the “Mountaineering” part. To go and climb large vertical walls, big mountains and get familiar with the exposure and intricate rope work needed to make it all safe. I have mountaineered a little in the past but never really a lot. Sir Donald, Uto, easy 5.1-5.4 days where you travel through the mountains, but the climbing was never really a huge part of the day. Well its time to change that. And this weekend was stage 1 of that change.
I have skied off Mt-Macdonald, down the south side, which was 2 different great days. But I have always wanted to climb up this imposing wall. The trans canada drives directly underneath it and my neck usually hurts from craning up to look at it. The line Dave and I wanted to climb was the North West Ridge Integral, it goes at 5.8 with stellar quartzite and 16 pitches of climbing if climbed to the summit. It looked amazing!!
The mountain is named after John A Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister and seemed like a perfect thing to attempt on Canada Day weekend.
At 4:10 am Dave and I left the truck all ready for our mission. With few details on the approach we wasted 30 minutes bashing through alders, devil’s club and stinging nettle to get to the herdman avi path. Boot packing up the snow we made it to the bottom of the climb in 2 hours.
I wanted to get right into it and started my first trad climb in 14 years. I immediately followed to nicest line and found myself getting gripped. Wanting to get the climb under way I pushed up a little higher and started placing a cam behind a flake. As I pulled on the cam to test it I watched the 500 pound block flex with the pressure.I stood there and debated whether this was acceptable risk, the type I was going to have to take all day to be successful. I decided it wasn’t and downclimbed back to Dave, feeling that I had wasted a good 30 minutes on a lead nowhere!?? I looked up and chose an easier start. Soon enough I was climbing up through stellar rock, hand jams everywhere, great gear and fun movement. Once past one of the first 5.8 pitches we simulclimbed through more moderate terrain. Incredible horizontal edges, combined with great cracks and solid rock had us climbing huge pitches where the leader would go until he ran out of gear while the follower would clean after him. If there was a cruxy bit and anchor would be placed and the flow would continue.
Dave and I worked well together and push hard, powered by clif shots and bloks we had energy to burn and never really stopped.
It felt like we were climbing non stop, and 8 hours later we were nearing the summit. We found a great chimney and worked our way through it and to the summit.& non stope pitches.
A quick relax, change out of the climbing shoes and time to down climb our way home. Pretty wicked descent down the snowy herdman (where I wished I had gloves on) and some serious glissading down the snow. Then the shorter river crossing back to the car. 11hours later.
Crushed and pumped by the day we enjoyed a beer while dreaming of where we could progress ourselves next time.
Like all my fun adventures I use a Suunto ambit 2 to follow them. this oen looks pretty wicked on Suunto maps or google earth.