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dberdinka

best of cc.com [TR] 6 Days and 6 Routes in The Pasayten Wilderness - Part 1 7/28/2004

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Climb: 6 Days and 6 Routes in The Pasayten Wilderness -Part 1

 

Date of Climb: 7/28/2004

 

Trip Report:

My best friend, and in 6 weeks - best man, is named Owen. He is as solid a person and climber as I have ever known. We use to climb most weekends together, now that he lives in Colorado, we still plan at least one big trip together each year. Together we’ve carried heavy loads into the Winds, the Sawtooths and the Cascades, climbed spires and descended canyons in the desert southwest, frozen our arses off on a bivi ledge or two. This year the plan was the Bugaboos. We were gonna go for it dude! Do a Grade VI on Howser man… or at least a mess of Grade V’s. But plans can change.

 

Six days of cragging, that was the sum total of my climbing this year by mid-July. Of course breaking my ankle at the end of March had a lot to do with it. It didn’t change the fact that I was out of shape and the few day trips I had done on moderate routes left me hobbled and limping by the time I was headed back to the car. The Bugaboos were not happening, it would be too painful to get all the way in there and have to bail because my body was a POS. We needed a trip with less climbing and more importantly less expectations.

 

As I had managed a fair bit of backpacking with my fiancé in the prior month we settled on a trip to Wall Creek, a remote valley just north of the border that lies below the granitic peaks of Grimface, Matriarch and Macrabe. As it turned out the ankle was healed, the weather was perfect, the wilderness exquisite and the climbing incredible.

 

What follows are photos and notes on what might be the finest trip I’ve ever done.

 

Getting There

 

We left town on the evening of Thurday, July 22nd timing it perfectly with the heatwave that washed through the area. Projected highs in nearby towns were 102 degrees. From Bellingham it’s 234 miles and about 4.5 hours to the Centennial Trailhead. From Highway 3 the last 30.4 miles are on the Ashnola River Road, almost all of it an excellent 2wd gravel road. We pulled into the very obvious trailhead near midnight.

 

Day 1 Friday, July 23rd

 

In the morning we packed up…..

 

140IMG_0010.jpg

 

Getting into the head of Wall Creek took less than five hours on an excellent trail. Follow the Centennial trail for about 4 miles to the obvious signed fork and take the right hand branch. All blow-down has been removed making for a moderate and enjoyable hike. The meadows are beautiful and pristine. Plans for climbing in the afternoon turned into a chilly swim in a nearby lake, a bit of bouldering and much swatting of mosquitoes.

 

Day 2 Saturday, July 24th

 

Matriarch - South Pillar

 

“Good from far, but far from good!”

 

140IMG_0034.jpg

 

Actually it’s not that bad, just not the classic one hopes it will be. The 3-pitch direct start is composed of the worst kitty-litter granite choss I’ve climbed. Immediately afterwards the rock becomes much better, in fact excellent, only to deteriorate once again on the final crux moves. With the recommended indirect start the route goes at 5.10b. Be prepared to pull the final roof on mediocre rock with fall potential onto a slab. A recommended line, though not one to center your trip around.

 

We topped out by noon and decide to climb another route rather than eat bugs down in the meadows. We descended a loose gully next to the pillar, grabbed our shoes and hiked over to Grimface.

 

Grimface – Southeast Chimneys

 

140IMG0002.jpg

 

Established by Bob Cuthbert and company in 1973 this is an intriguing route that ascends a long series of moderate chimneys on the southeast side of Grimface. In fact of the routes six pitches only one of them is not a chimney and it’s a wide crack!

 

A trickle of water at the base of the route kept us from dieing of dehydration and a large shady cave sprinkled with goat droppings allowed for a long, cool midday siesta before we started the climb. The rock quality is excellent and the chimneying is sustained back-and-foot work. Though generally low-angle, gear is intermittent at best and a fall would have serious consequences. Not the best route for a 5.7 leader. I would however call the route a CLASSIC. There just aren’t many climbs where one can practice such a well-known and interesting technique. The neighboring “Mother of Invention” route looked excellent as well. Either route would make a great finish to the G-M-M traverse for a strong party.

 

To descend we walked down the scenic NW ridge then enjoyed some amazing scree-surfing back into Wall Creek. We must have dropped 1500’ in ten minutes and made it back into camp after a thirteen hour day.

 

Day 3 Sunday, July 25th

 

The Deacon – The Nose

 

140IMG_0081.jpg

 

Owen starting up Pitch 2

 

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I’ve always been intrigued by the description of The Deacon in the Red Beckey Guide. A friend of mine, Steve Barnett, did the first ascent of the north face in 1973. Unfortunately he can’t remember doing it. Oh well! This is a beautiful formation in a very remote valley. The rock is generally excellent, though a bit vegetated and occasionally loose. The Nose, established by Peter Doorish in 1991, is a very good, albeit serious route that follows a cunning path up one of the only lines of weakness on the face. Maybe even a backcountry classic for the grade.

 

From our camp in Wall Creek we hiked up to col with Ewart creek then traversed meadows and boulder fields to the base of The Nose. The route description in the Beckey Guide is concise but adequate, you won’t have a lot of other options. After starting on the nose for two pitches, the route moves onto the left side of the north face and remains there until almost the summit. It in fact joins the 1973 Barnett-Anderson route on top of the obvious pillar on the north face contrary to what is written in the Beckey Guide. Bring a medium rack to 4”. You will need micro nuts and tiny TCUs to build a good anchor between the 5.10 pitches. The wall is steep, the ledge is small, and the crux is right at the start. Thanks to Owen for leading both crux pitches in style.

 

A brief, very exposed, downclimb into the first notch, followed by one 80’ rappel into the first SE gully, then a quick traverse into the next gully and a lot of scrambling led back to the base of the route in less than an hour. By the time we got back to camp we had been on the go for over twelve hours, our pace had been anything but fast.

 

Day 4 Monday, July 26th

 

Uninspired to slog back up the scree below Grimface, Matriarch and Macrabe we decided to head to the Cathedral Lakes area for the remainder of our trip. It was a very good decision. We found easy travel through meadows and boulder fields on the northwest side of the Deacon , climbing about 1400’ before reaching the top of the expansive ridgeline separating Wall Creek from Cathedral Creek.

 

Owen with Cathedral and Amphitheatre Peaks in the background

 

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From here a steep descent led to more beautiful meadows and open forest in the head of Cathedral Creek. Within two hours of leaving camp we entered a strange clearing in the forest.

 

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More to follow later.....Part 2 - The Homeland

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

see report

 

Approach Notes:

see report

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Really Nice job ,Darin! Man what a cool sounding trip.Cant wait to see day 5+6

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140GMM_stich_cropped_1.jpg

 

I finally put some of the photos through the splicer. This is the view of Grimface, Matriarch and Macrabe from base camp in Wall Creek. The traverse is dome from right to left. The SE Chimneys of Grimface begin in the dark cleft just right of the white face. South Pillar of Matriarch is the biggest buttress just right of center.

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in your splicer pic the first pillar right of grimface is "sheep go to heaven goats go to hell" 10 pitches 5.11 V2

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in your splicer pic the first pillar right of grimface is "sheep go to heaven goats go to hell" 10 pitches 5.11 V2

 

That actually looked like a good route, following nice systems of WIDE! looking cracks. There aren't a whole lot of good looking lines on the south sides of those peaks considering the amount of rock. The buttresses of Matriarch are quite slabby and any route would need to wander. Hi scree to rock ratio as well, I'd put my money on Amphitheatre!

 

And yes thats the border...make sure to receive permission first from the nearest offical crossing before wandering across the swath...

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actually i think it avoids the wide cracks in favor of run out bolted slabs.

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yes there is an unprotected boulder problem crux on one of the pitches so you need to be able to onsight V2 or some trickery like that.

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Hey Darin what size big gear did you find useful on the SE chimneys? Can you get away with up to #4 Camalot or did you want more?

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