Nesakwatch Spires - Ensakwatch Enchainment attemptDate:
The Ensakwatch Enchainment has been on my to do list for a long time. A short approach, low key climbing, and gorgeous views the entire way up make for a pretty type 1 kind of day in my books.
With only one free day this past weekend, we decided that this was the time to try it. Sunday's weather forecast was overcast, but according to various sources, we would be able to avoid the rain as long as we got off the mountain before Monday morning. Easy peasy right?
The drive up the FSR took so long, we may as well have walked. Not really, but it was definitely a slow and painful process. The road has not been graded in a while, and we had to continuously get out of the car to make sure we wouldn't bottom out or get stuck. We were actually able to get within 1km of the trailhead, right before a log blocks the road and a major washout a bit further down would prevent any more vehicle travel, even without the log.
We started off on the trail at about 7:30 on Sunday morning. The valley was entirely fogged in, but the sun was trying to shine through, resulting in a gorgeous glowing sky.
Morning sky, hiding views of Mt. Slesse
The hike up to the famous bivy rock took us about 3 hours at a relaxed pace; as the clouds cleared from the valley we started to get views of Slesse and Baker peeking through, and we stopped multiple times to gawk and plan our next trip (Slesse!) There is water available at a creek about halfway up the trail, but it was definitely on the trickling side, so I don't know how much longer it will be there.
Hey there, Slesse!
Alpine Select is unclear about the exact start of the Ensakwatch Enchainment. We knew we had to start on the North Ridge of the North Nesakwatch Spire, but we couldn't quite figure out where that was. In the end, we relied on a trip report that said to aim for a patch of bushes on the very left of the spire, as soon as you emerge from the trail. We poked around there for a while, couldn't really find a clean patch of rock to start up, so just picked our way up the face towards the ridge. We were able to keep the majority of the climbing at class 4 / low 5th, with a couple of ~5.6 moves thrown in. Once we reached the ridge, we followed the ridgeline, staying slightly to the north, to the summit block.
View from the base of the North Spire
The final push to the summit included us going up a chimney between two large blocks. At the top of the chimney, you have an option to go right up a slightly overhanging offwidth, or left, up and through a narrow squeeze that we dubbed the "birthing canal". Neither looked too appealing, but in the absence of gear, we decided to go through the birthing canal. After some struggling, cursing, and general good times, we both managed to free ourselves from the confines of the canal, through a second narrow slot above it, and emerged on the summit, about 1.5 hours from the bivy rock.
Going up the chimney
Going through the passageway
Part 2 of the birthing canal, exiting onto the summit
An artistic rendering of the "birthing canal"
From here, the descent is extremely easy - follow the very clear, well trodden path down from the summit, along the ridge, and up to the summit of the south spire. The rock is white and free of lichen and moss - you really can't miss it. Be really careful of loose rock here - I nearly bailed multiple times, and it was a good reminder that no matter how big the rock is, it can and will still move on you. We were also able to keep the majority of the climbing here at low 5th, with a couple of 5.6/7 moves.
Looking up at South Nesakwatch and Rexford from the North/South notch
When you get to the summit block, the easiest way up is a 5.7 offwidth. There are honestly only about two offwidth moves - then there are tons of features on the outside that you can grab onto or step on to make your way to the top, but unless you bring a big piece up, there's no way to protect it (except a small, sketchy looking chockstone at the bottom of the offwidth). From the top, there's no real feature to use to rappel off of. We've read that the options are to downclimb the offwidth, sling the horn on the offwidth, or counterbalance rappel. We considered slinging the horn, but with the likelihood that it would get stuck, we decided to each rappel off one side of the tower and then just pull the rope from one side. It was pretty quick and easy.
Unfortunately, when we reached the summit, we could see storm clouds approaching. Before we were finished getting off the summit block, the rain had come. We briefly considered waiting out the rain, but the clouds looked pretty ominous and didn't seem like it would let up at any time.
Still hopeful, we headed down the southwest ridge of the South Spire. When you look down from the tower to the right, with Rexford right in front of you, you'll see a clear big patch of sandy area on the ridge, with a cairn. Aim for that, and you'll find two rappel stations that will bring you down to the notch between Rexford and South Nesakwatch. This is a full 30M rap, and will leave you having to downclimb the last couple of meters still. From here you can either head up the north face of Rexford, or walk down the sandy scree col to the boulderfield below, which is what we ended up doing.
The fun scree down the Rexford South Nesakwatch col. After Cascadian Couloir, this was a piece of cake.
From here it's a quick walk across a boulderfield (there is still a ton of snow patches left in this boulder field, so if you're bivying here, water is definitely available). The descent took us about 1.5 hours in the pouring rain.
Snow patches in the bowl, with tons of bivy rocks
This was definitely an enjoyable day in the alpine, maybe one of the beset i've had (But I say that every time!) I've never been to this area before, but now I have an excuse to come back. Next time I come i'll definitely plan for a bivy to enjoy the gorgeous views and try out some of the other awesome routes (Dairyland, Fantasies and Fairytales!?)
The wall you hit halfway up the approach - you follow this the rest of the way up
South Spire and Rexford
Looking out to the north
The entire enchainmentGear Notes:
Light single rack (barely used)
60M half rope (needed for 30M rappel)
A lot of water - nothing is available after the approach unless you melt
Axe/Crampons not needed! Approach Notes:
Take the Chilliwack Lake Road until you reach Nesakwatch Creek FSR. Take a right. Drive as far as you can and then walk the rest of the way (about 8KM). Take a left where you reach the Rexford Trail. The rest of the approach is very straightforward and well marked with flagged cairns.