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[TR] Welch Peak- NE Face FA/FWA 3/13/2005


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Climb: Welch Peak-NE Face FA/FWA


Date of Climb: 3/13/2005


Trip Report:

The relatively poor rock in the Cheam Range is best enjoyed when nicely frozen together, and it's no surprise that the few hardish routes that exist in the group are mostly winter climbs. And given the fact that the 15km of approach road via Jones Lake is usually impassable because of snow from December thru March or April, it's no news that such ascents are very rare. It does surprise me some, however, that the biggest face on the highest summit in the range has apparently passed thru the 80 years since the first ascent of the mountain without (so far as I am aware) a single attempt, especially since the discerning eye can pick out a pretty reasonable-looking line weaving around and between impregnable cliffs. With a high snow-line, several weeks of warmish daytime weather to consolidate the snow-pack, and a solid weekend forecast, it was obviously time to go.


Andrew Rennie and I relaxed out of town mid-morning and started the walk up the Lucky Four trail at 1 p.m. Actually, the first hour-and-half of the walk is on old back-filled logging road [from about 750m to about 1220m], but after that the trail is remarkable pleasant. At 5 p.m. we pulled into camp, on a super-scenic knoll at about 1650m. We could see Fern and Jesse camped about 200m higher, but we were headed off on a traverse next morning, so there was no point in climbing further.


We set the alarm for 2 and got away at 3:15. We surprised ourselves by reaching the glacial basin beneath the face in only 1 hour - fast cramponning on hard-frozen crust, but a considerable strain on our ankle ligaments. We had a bite and put on the harnesses on the flats [about 1700m], then started up the still-dark initial slope at 4:45. There were two or three crevasses to cross/bypass, and a sorta sketchy bridge at the schrund, but the snow was good and the frost inspired lots of confidence. We gained about 250m, then left the major snow-cleft leading to the col between Welch and the eastern gendarme and angled up right maybe 50m or so to confront our first significant challenge, a 10m Grade 3 waterfall step. 5:45, the ropes and gear came out, a belay went in, and the fun began.


I got the first lead, placing both our screws in the ice to back up the rather mediocre belay, then climbing a right-angling snow-gully beyond to a good rock belay on the left at full 60m length.


Andrew climbed the remaining 20m of the gully, then fought thru a short squeeze chimney, then continued up snow with intermittent ice beyond. I abandonned the belay and moved up about 10m to allow him to reach a secure stance - it pays to be sure of your partners in this kind of climbing, cuz you can't really communicate effectively, and you need to understand what is going on at the other end of the rope, and to have confidence that the other guy is not going to fall off for no good reason. My practise is simply to give a big yell when there is 10m of rope left, to give another big yell when the rope runs out, and if tension stays on the rope for a couple minutes, to tear down the belay and start climbing.


I popped around the corner from Andrew into a left-angling gully, the key to the upper face, not visible from the campsite, but plainly visible from back down the valley. This had a tricky, thinly-iced exit, then we had to move together nearly 30m for me to reach a belay on the left side of a snow trough.


Andrew continued right up the trough, passing above a little promontory and climbing a couple ice-steps. I moved with him about 20m to allow him to reach the rock-wall at the top of a major snow "Y".


Here we needed to choose. We could continue right up and across a snow shelf maybe 2 pitches, then break back left thru the final significant rockwall to reach the summit snow-slopes, or we could go left and kinda end-run the rockwall. I went left, and in 60m just reached a flow which took 3/4 of a screw, backed up with a poor nut, for a belay.


Andrew climbed the flow and disappeared around the corner. The rope fed out slowly while I got colder in the intermittent north wind, so I knew there was "interest" to the pitch. He finally ran the rope out and eventually a call came to follow - and what a fine pitch it was, with considerable ice, and two short vertical steps. Unfortunately, there wasn't much gear, most of what there was was poor, and since we only had two screws and one of those was most of my belay, his belay consisted of his two tools buried into a snow-fluting. Most uninspiring, but you can't be going falling off on these things anyway.


The cornice beckoned a ropelength above, and I got a pretty good screw into ice after maybe 10m and another at 30m, then 3 rock pieces into a wall 5m below the crest. The snow under the cornice was horrendously powdery, and collapsed away underfoot to reveal slabby rock, but I managed to squirm my way up to where I could reach the crest by kinda semi-chimneying between the snowy slabs and the underside of the cornice overhang. There was a crack that I had convinced myself would be easy to enlarge to enable exit, but I fought and hacked and pulled and struggled and swore and came close to pitching off a couple times over the next half-hour before finally managing to belly-flop out onto the sunny east ridge. It was 2:45, and we were up.


We were tired, and it was late, so we declined the pleasures of trudging up thru the sun-softened snow the extra couple hundred metres to the summit. We rapped once on the east ridge, into the first south-facing gully, then the descent and trudge back to camp were uneventful. By 8:30 we were well-fed, well-hydrated, and soon deeply asleep. Fern and Jesse must have cruched by sometime in the dark (ah, the perils of Monday to Friday work...), but we didn't hear them, and after a fine breakfast and a relaxing morning, we wandered out to rejoin the world Monday afternoon. Seldom can I recall a climb of such seriousness coming together so smoothly and - despite wishing it otherwise - I'm sure it'll be quite some time until the next such event. Isn't it just so great to be alive when these special climbs and special times happen though?


Gear Notes:

2 screws (4 woulda been nicer)

6 nuts (smallish to medium)

5 cams (finger to wide hand)

7 pitons (2 long thin LAs - don't ever leave home without them! 1 medium blade and 1 long blade. 1 baby angle. 2 Leepers, which we did not use.


Approach Notes:

the Lucky Four Mine trail is a delight! go there!

Edited by Don_Serl
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More the red line, or the green line?



tks for the photo-post dru!


red line start is correct.

angle right redline OK.

angle left redline OK to first snowy break, then:

go right to top of snow halfway between red and green. this is the "Y" i spoke about, at which we chose between continuing right (to join green line, and actually to drift further left yet, finishing left of the summit block), or to go left. we went left: up gently left on snowfield to its top, then directly thru what appears in this view to be a black chevron rockwall - this was Andrew's ice pitch. then to/thru cornice at about greenline exit, or maybe left end of little guarding rockwall - there is less snow/ice in your view, so can't be sure.


believe it or not, i actually have software to deal with this, but my computer is crashed and i'm on my wife's...


i'll see how the photos turn out and maybe get a couple scanned.


p.s. good luck with all that steep black stuff on your green line! not in my lifetime, i don't think...



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Very nice! Shame on you for not working Monday too.


since breakfast was going to consist of half a pound of bacon, bagels fried in the grease, and BIIIGGGG views, nothing could have convinced me to come down before noon!


good job yourself, btw, on Davis. hard core! what an effing winter, eh? and still a week left...



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We could see Fern and Jesse camped about 200m higher


turns out they did the NE ridge on Foley - got this in an e-mail from Jesse:


"NE ridge went down nicely, stellar route with only a pitch and a half of loose rock, scary, top section which finished on the summit cairn was beautiful water ice, through a chimney type thing, just stellar!!!! we stayed on the ridge proper right till the top."


good work! FWA, plus no prior recorded ascent, altho it's in-your-face obvious, rising directly from the Lucky Four minesite, so it might have been done earlier...



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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's another photo of our route... this was taken the morning of the 14th from our camp and kinda shows better what the conditions were like when we climbed it. This is probably the most sun the face ever sees. The lower snow ramps and stuff are hidden behind the buttress there.


We roped up at the blue square and belayed at each of the red dots... my shitty snow belay was at the final red dot. As you can see many variations are possible, hope this helps... Enjoy!


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I am trying to put a trip together with a partner and would like some suggestions for a 3 day trip 4 hours from Vancouver B.C.. WE are both novice types with a one week mountaineering course .

Planning to leave April 10th. The avalanche conditions right now are a major concern. Our initial plan was Mt.Baker but with the snow conditions...?

Something in Garabaldi Park, Tantalus or Joffre ranges might have to do.


Any comments welcome


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