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tlinn

first ascent [TR] Lesser Wedge- North Face - FA 4/24/2006

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Climb: Lesser Wedge-North Face - FA

 

Date of Climb: 4/24/2006

 

Trip Report:

I have a bad habit of being too optimistic about alpine conditions in the spring. No matter how good the ski season has been I always start to crave alpine climbing by mid March. This year has been no different, so after two days of cragging in Squamish with Nick Elson and a large group of VOCers I managed to convince Nick that the North Face of James Turner would be “the thing to do.” After all, the alpine lows were getting below zero around Whistler and the highs were getting into the mid teens so there would be plenty of melt thaw right? With the forecast looking good for the upcoming week and only one more exam left on Nick`s schedule we made tentative plans to climb the North Face of James Turner and leave late on Monday morning.

 

Alpine climbing plans are never set in stone.

 

While Nick was making great use of his “study time” late Sunday night he was busy on bivouac.com where he found a great photo of the North Face of Lesser Wedge contributed by Jordan Peters. This sparked his interest and we hatched a plan to scope out the peak on the way into James Turner. Into the pack went a large rack mainly of rock gear but with several ice screws “just in case.”

On Monday morning Nick was back at his Westside home by 11am and we finished packing. We decided to go as light as possible taking only mountaineering boots, skis, avy gear, tools, crampons, the rack, and sleeping bags. We made sure that the mountaineering boots worked with our bindings and after a few adjustments we were ready to roll by 12pm. Not exactly an alpine start but considering that Nick had been writing his last exam just an hour and a half before we felt it was a pretty good effort. We made two more stops along the way, one for groceries at Save-On in Squamish and one at Valhalla to buy a single knifeblade after Nick realized he had forgotten the pins at home. The girl at Valhalla was very friendly. She seemed to be stuck in her decision of whether to make tea or coffee for the afternoon and asked Nick to choose. Nick helped her through this extremely difficult decision by suggesting the Earl Grey. I hope she liked it!

Unfortunately there is still quite a bit of snow on the road to the Wedgemount Lake Trail and we were only able to get a few hundred meters up the road before being stopped. We poked around a bit more with our packs and I did a few more tweaks to my bindings to make sure they would work with my Scarpa Alphas. The sun was blazing and Nick decided to go John Clarke style because he had no shorts and only long underwear. Nick reminded me that John`s marks had suffered during his last year at UBC because the weather in the mountains had been so good during the Spring. He also reassured me that he had done well in his film studies exam and that his grades had not been affected by his love of the mountains!

 

6093Nick_at_bridge_jpg-med.JPG

 

Nick going “John Clarke” style over the broken bridge on Wedgemount Creek

 

On the way to the trail a kind fellow in a sturdy 4 wheel drive jeep helped us get almost all the way to the trailhead. Thanks for the lift and I hope you were able to get out OK.

 

After a 3.5 hour slog we were finally at the hut. There had been a lot of postholing but we were able to ski half of the trail in our mountaineering boots which had helped us in our effort to move fast and light. We had planned to continue all the way to the Wedge-Weart col but it was already 7:30pm and the sun was starting to go down so we decided to crash at the hut. After all, the hut was amazingly warm and Nick noticed that it smelt a bit like a sauna with the smell of cedar (?) lingering. It was warm enough for shorts in the hut and we slept well, especially Nick who had been going all day on only 2 hours of sleep.

 

6093sunset_jpg-med.JPG

 

Sunset over the Coast Mountains

 

The next morning dawned cold and clear, just the conditions we were hoping for! The snow was very hard and our edges scraped across the icy snow as we made our way down towards the Wedgemount Glacier at 4:30am. We skied as far along the east side of the glacier as we could just to be extra cautious and avoid crevasses. The conditions were very fast and we arrived at the Wedge-Weart col by 6am. The sun was starting to come up, exposing James Turner and Lesser Wedge in all their glory. The route looked steep and technical, following the central couloir directly to the summit. We hoped to climb the route while the snow stayed hard and the avalanche conditions remained low.

 

6093jturner_jpg-med.JPG

 

James Turner from the Wedge-Weart col

 

6093lesserwedge_jpg-med.JPG

 

Nick and Lesser Wedge from the Weart-Wedge col

 

6093route_jpg-med.JPG

 

the line of ascent

 

We skied to within a few hundred vertical feet of the route and we slogged up through powder to the base. As the angle steeped and we entered the couloir proper the snow conditions became much better and we were able to kick steps up the firm snow. We simul soloed what would have been two or three pitches and then built a belay at the start of the first steep runnel.

 

6093soloing_jpg-med.JPG

 

6093firstbelay_jpg-med.JPG

 

setting up the first belay

 

This was my pitch to lead and I was delighted as the climbing looked fantastic. The climbing was mixed with just enough ice for some delicate pick placements. I worked my way up to a belay at the beginning of the next rock section and took this photo of Nick seconding.

 

6093top_of_third_jpg-med.JPG

 

Nick seconding the third pitch

 

The 4th pitch started off quite difficult with lots of frozen blocks and tricky pro. Nick did a great job leading it and then went up out of sight. He didn`t move for very long time and judging by the huge amount of spindrift shooting down the gully he had to be doing some significant excavation at the top of the pitch. Turns out Nick had indeed been busy and had to remove the snow mushroom at the top of this pitch to continue climbing through a steep, overhanging chimney. He had also left his pack clipped to a piece of gear to pull the final moves through the chimney with some delicate dry tooling.

 

6093leading_fourth_jpg-med.JPG

 

6093chimney_jpg-med.JPG

 

Seconding the 4th pitch

 

The final pitch to the summit brought me out into the sun and I set up a rock belay on the summit ridge. Nick led the final 20 meters onto the true summit where we sat, took in the views, and enjoyed a nice warm lunch in the sun. Descending proved to be quite pleasant as we belayed the narrow ridge to the west and then dropped down some snow slopes on the Northwest side of the mountain. This section of the ridge kind of reminded me of the North Arete of Wedge except it was much shorter but steeper on both sides.

 

6093summit_jpg-med.JPG

 

Nick on the summit

 

Skiing down the Wedgemount Glacier was “interesting” in mountaineering boots. It definitely put my skiing abilities to the test and I made more than a few faceplants with my heavy pack. By late-afternoon we were back at the hut brewing tea and making soup for dinner. We also enjoyed some imported coca matae tea I had brought back from Peru and had been saving for a special occasion. At 6pm I went for a “nap” and never woke up. Perhaps I was “coming down” from my matae high but I ended up sleeping for 14 hours! One of the longest sleeps I can ever remember having. Nick apparently crashed out by 7pm so at least he didn`t wait around for me to cook the proper dinner!

 

Wednesday morning was very cloudy and snowy so we were reluctant to leave our warm hut. The visibility was also poor and the snow had turned to concrete without the warm afternoon sun. We skied down the upper trail with much trepidation. The combination of the steep trail, poor skiing conditions, and lack of ski boots made us take off our skis part way down the trail and post-hole down. We were happy to see the car that afternoon and we finally made it to the Brew Pub in Squamish by 3pm. The India Pale Ale tasted delicious and after being disappointed by their burger on the last few occasions I came away feeling satisfied with my meal for a change.

 

Route Summary: 5-6 pitches, 50 degree snow, AI3, M4

 

6093face_jpg-med.JPG

 

Gear Notes:

tcus, small nuts, #1 and #2 camalots

 

Approach Notes:

Wedgemount Lake Trail then skis to the Wedge-Weart col

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Awesome,

 

have a bad habit of being too optimistic about alpine conditions in the spring.

So its time huh, sounds good to me!

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Great looking route, but for god’s sake, when is someone going to give that peak a more worthy name?

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Great looking route, but for god’s sake, when is someone going to give that peak a more worthy name?

 

How about Lesser Wedgie? But then I guess Wedge would have to be the Greater Wedgie? laugh.gif

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Ah ha! well done Tyler, good to hear the season up there has begun with a bang! bigdrink.gif I'd looked at that line too, glad you guys got up there and enjoyed it man! and yep that brew pub IPA always seems to go down quite easily after a good climb.

 

Fantastic. keep up the good work cool.gif And enjoy your summer! Cheers

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