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Dru

East Face of Urquhart - Sketch City

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So after planning it for 8 months Shaun N and I went in to try the East Face of Mt. Urquhart. This face has one route - a 22 pitch 5.10 A3 put up by Max De Jong in 1987. It follows a basalt dyke almost the whole way. Rumors abounded that the route would go free at a moderate grade. Max himself, when Shaun phoned him, said that it would probably be 11b or easier and that the cruxes would be short.Also there were supposed to be stainless 1/4" bolts at belays and other points (although still mostly a gear climb)the whole way.

 

Well originally we planned for 1 bivy. Then looking at our gear we decided to cut it down a bit and go for a 1 day ascent of the route. Shaun was going to try to free the whole thing whereas I planned to jumar if necessary as jugging it would be faster than me trying to second free up an 11b pitch in all likelihood. To save weight and commit ourselves we only took 1 60m 10mm rope.

 

Well we got to the base of the face at 7AM, spotted the dyke and started climbing.

 

First 4 pitches or so were runout to 5.8, with lots of gravel on ledges but mostly solid rock. On the 4th pitch the rock started getting steeper and also looser. We found some bolts but most were 1/4" buttonheads with rusted Leeper hangers. Some had been damaged (flattened or bent) by rockfall.

 

I was leading most of the pitches as I was supposed to have the easy stuff as my blocks and Shaun would lead the hard stuff. The 5th pitch involved loose blocks above the belay then moves into this mossy water streaked area. I seriously thought I was going to die at one point stuck between slippery wet holds with no gear for quite a ways below me and the rope running over a sharp edge. Finally I excavated some gear and then threw in a belay of two knifeblades a bit higher up unable mentally to proceed any further.

 

Shaun managed to get another pitch up to an overhang in the dyke. This was also vegetated and the overhang was basically stacked loose blocks. He traversed out of the dyke into a granite ledge and belayed me up.

 

We both discussed it and decided that the climbing was possibly better a few more pitches above us but neither of us was enjoying the climbing. "The climbing is not quality, the pro is scary and we aren't having fun" was how we summed things up.

 

So we bailed. Rapped down in 30m segments using old bolt belays where possible and pitons where not. On the last rap one of two Kbs pulled out of the anchor while I was hanging onm it and Shaun was rapping. I should note that the same thing happened to me and Fern last week but this time I around I was not the one who had placed the pins.

 

Anyways we made it down about 50 bucks poorer (pins and webbing) and came home. I went to the beach the next day or so and took a much needed non climbing chill out.

 

The face is definitely steep (overhanging near the top) but the dyke is juggy. Some bolder party than us can go free it or put up a hard big wall route on the granite face to the right of the dyke. I was able to get some good from the experience (nice meadow at the pass; saw some bears and ptarmigans; great bluebird day to be outside) but I cannot think of a scarier route I have been on in the alpine.

 

It would be a great place for a BASE jump though. Hey D-dog this means you! bigdrink.gif

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Actually the dyke kinda veers around the overhanging part of the face. there are a couple of small roofs but it is mostly vertical, no big roofs like black dyke.

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pix to come

 

but this is what it looks like from the col (top third of face)

 

and the face is actually steeper than it looks in this photo?

 

4133_urq.jpg

 

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sounds pretty rad. i can't wait for the pix.

 

top third? you must be kidding.

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i wouldn't say RAD. exactly. except it is rAD we survived!

 

i mostly didnt take any pictures of the climbing due to sucky belays and no ability to get into my pack for the camera. but i have better pictures of the face from the base and so on.

 

i measured from the online topo and it really is 600m vertical to the summit (this note inserted for Serl who likes to call people on inaccurately stated base to summit verticals, see also Alpinist #3 letters to the editor yellaf.gif )

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I imagine just about everyone's had the experience of waiting to get on their "dream" route only to find that it's choss once they're there. Oh well!

 

Sounds like a full on burl-fest, bad gear, loose rock, remote and alpine. Any comment on the first ascent? Didn't Dejong solo it? He must have been a hard man!

 

What SW BC Grade VI's have seen a repeat?

 

East Face of Slesse. No

Uruquart. No

NE Ridge of Steinbok. No

Robie Reid. ??

 

What else is there Dru?

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The NE ridge of Steinbok is only a V even though its an ED2.

Bald Egos on the Chief gets a VI.

Funk Soul Brothers and MainWall in Powell River get VIs.

The PLI Wall in Princess Louisa will get a VI if it is ever finished yellaf.gif

 

I think that's it?

 

de Jong, Zozikyan and Scott Flavelle worked on it at first. Flavelle bailed out. Zozikyan got injured somewhere (in Squamish i think) after they had spent a total of 10 days working it (I believe they were seiging it and fixing from the ground & that 10 day span was not continuous)

 

Max finished it off solo in another 8 days spread out over 3 separate trips. Hence most of the aid I believe. But Max is a strange guy who made a point of nailing up Unfinished Symphony after it had been done clean & free. He mostly quit climbing around 1990 for paragliding. Supposedly according to Shaun who talked to him on the phone he's psyching up to do some climbing again.

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Zodiac Wall on the Chief got a VI on the first ascent, Burton & Sutton agreed it was a VI on 2nd ascent, it's never been repeated since I think...however harder routes either side of it have now been done and are V, so???

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357urqesmaller.jpg

 

See the roof on the dyke near the bottom of the photo, left of the huge orange patch. That is high point. 7 pitches up. Damn I am so suck. But still alive thumbs_up.gif

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Yeah, uh, cracks everywhere dude rolleyes.gif New acronym for shit like that: B.L.A. fruit.gif Thing's a ringer for the E face of Slesse in size and scope, no?

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michael_layton said:

gay

 

jealous.

 

WE didn't get a rescue called out on us, hero evils3d.gif

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Dru said:

michael_layton said:

gay

 

jealous.

 

WE didn't get a rescue called out on us, hero evils3d.gif

 

yelrotflmao.gifyelrotflmao.gifyelrotflmao.gifyelrotflmao.gif

 

South Side of Big Four makes for some KILLER winter canyoneering.

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The NE ridge of Steinbok is only a V even though its an ED2.

Bald Egos on the Chief gets a VI.

Funk Soul Brothers and MainWall in Powell River get VIs.

The PLI Wall in Princess Louisa will get a VI if it is ever finished yellaf.gif

 

I think that's it?

 

de Jong, Zozikyan and Scott Flavelle worked on it at first. Flavelle bailed out. Zozikyan got injured somewhere (in Squamish i think) after they had spent a total of 10 days working it (I believe they were seiging it and fixing from the ground & that 10 day span was not continuous)

 

Max finished it off solo in another 8 days spread out over 3 separate trips. Hence most of the aid I believe. But Max is a strange guy who made a point of nailing up Unfinished Symphony after it had been done clean & free. He mostly quit climbing around 1990 for paragliding. Supposedly according to Shaun who talked to him on the phone he's psyching up to do some climbing again.

 

So I have now talked to Max de Jong and I should make some corrections to the above description.

 

1) the pitch lengths are all 50m station to station. by this criterion Shaun and I got part way up p6 of the 22 pitch climb

 

2) Scott Flavelle had tried this first and fell off p6 on a pin and bent it. The line then passed to Carlo and Max. Scott, Carlo and Max were never all up there as a party of 3.

 

3) I had not realized before just how impressive this ascent was. I had believed or misunderstood that it was a mostly sieged aid line. In fact there are: only 7 moves of aid on the whole line; and, only 17 lead bolts (aside from belays) on the climb.

 

During Max's solo attempts on and completion of the route there were no fixed ropes. He was up there free climbing on clove hitch belays and equalizing knifeblades so as to avoid drilling. The 2 attenmpts that failed before the successful push were due to weather (full tale of epic rappel descent without shell in snowstorm, frostbite etc will not be garbled by second hand telling here).

 

The climb does apparently improve a bit above where Shaun and I bailed but is definitely a basalt dyke with loose blocks the whole way up. There is a lot of delicate stemming and so on higher up and knowing what holds to not trust is a required skill.

 

The whole thing sounds pretty impressive and gnarly. As for the Unfinished Symphony reference its a bit of a red herring with regards to this route anyways.

 

Thanks for the beta Max bigdrink.gifthumbs_up.gif

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according to the topo i got in the mail, there were 10, not 7, moves of aid on the climb. confused.gif

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