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[TR] Mount Brice - FA North Face "Graveyard Shift"


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Trip: Mount Brice - FA North Face "Graveyard Shift" ~1000m, IV WI3


Date: 12/8/2007


Trip Report:

I have been eying up the unclimbed North Face of Mount Brice for a while. It rises c. 1200m out of the valley of Twentysix Mile Creek and can be seen in partial view from a few nearby summits and from one narrow section of the Hope-Princeton.


The face is bushy low down and split by many parallel gullies - not a great choice for summer but perfect for winter conditions climbing.


A few people I know have climbed Brice over the years via Silver-Skagit Valley and the Star Creek mine road to Mt Andrews then a traverse around and up the SE ridge of Brice. They reported the rock to be not bad.


How to get to the base of the face? Two options. One was to come in via the Silverdaisy Mne road to the high col east of Hatchethead and descend into the valley to the base of the face. I skiied that a couple years ago as far as the col and it was not the greatest as a climbing access route. Tha left an approach from Sumallo Grove and a shwack up the valley of Twentysix Mile Cr. from near Delacey Camp. Checked this out with a hike a few weeks ago and it seemed OK.


With apparently excellent alpine winter-style climbing conditions prevailing, Jesse Mason and Graham Rowbotham decided to come along with me and check out the face. We made plans for a 4am departure from Chilliwack, planning on making Delacey by sunrise and having daytime vis. for the bushwack. I thought it would be about 3 hours to the base of the face. From the views I had of the face I expected that the main gully on the face would give a climb like a longer North Ramp on Harvey and we could solo it all pretty quickly, maybe 4 hours up. Then a quick descent back down Brice's SW ridge and back to the cars in around a 15 hour day.



NE face from Hatchethead Col. It turns out that you can only see the top half of the face in this photo. Our route took the main gully line in the centre of the face.


View of the upper NF of Brice from Skagit River. You can see the finishing ramp of our route on the left.


So my alarm went off at 3:30 AM (oi! alpine start!) Jesse and Graham picked me up at 4:20 and we were at the parking lot at 5:30 AM. We started hiking down the trail by headlamp. Along the way we heard scary loud drumming noises from the forest. Apparently a tree in a log jam in the river was thumping or something? It was unusual, anyway.


Around 6:15 we got to Delacey Camp and found the spur trail off up 26 Mile Cr. that actually apparently leads up the ridge to the Moles and Hatchethead. Headlamps off on this trail, the sun came up and we could see the rhododendrons, bear tracks in the snow, etc.



Sunrise on Silvertip


Well, the valley was cliffy and canyony and bushy and travel was much slower than anticipated. Not hideous, but time-consuming. By the time we got to the base of the route it was 12:30, in fact.



Graham crossing a log over 26 Mile Creek.


We had a brief discussion about how much it would suck to turn back and about how we needed to move fast, then geared up and started climbing. The first section of the route was not a nice snow ramp like I had thought it was going to be. It was a series of ice pitches in a narrow gully, with snow slopes and spindrift pouring down. Real alpine climbing yeehaa! A couple went at solid WI3 with short sections of up to 80 degree ice and dinner-platy conditions. We all soloed the first couple pitches. Then Jesse and Graham did a bit of simul-climbing and I soloed one pitch and avoided another via a mixed snow and tree 60-70 degree ramp on the right. There were 8 or 9 ice pitches in all, but lots were WI2, maybe 3 or 4 were WI3, and the one I avoided via the ramp may have been WI3+, it was pretty steep and Graham placed a couple screws.



Graham soloing the first pitch


And the third pitch.


By the time we got into the upper gully it was getting pretty late in the day. The gully forks and we took a mixed traverse across snow and tree and rock ribs to get into the left fork that leads to the upper ramps on the face, putting on headlamps just after getting established in this fork, and climbing the rest of the gully via headlamp. The upper gully was mostly 35 to 60 degree neve and powder with a couple of short 50-60 degree ice and neve bulges. The very top of the gully had 20-30cms of windloaded spindrift and was a bit slabby but serious avalanche conditions did not occur. Graham found a way through a short section of overhanging cornice and we pulled onto the summit ridge around 6:30 PM.



Sky looking up the gully at headlamp time




We started walking off and by some fluke of luck, were able to link together features I had remembered from a brief scan of the topo map the day before, and find our way onto, and follow, Brice's SW ridge all the way down to the Skagit Trail. By this time we were mostly out of food and our remaining sips of water had frozen so we started to go slower and slower what with stopping to rest evry 15 minutes or so. We followed goat tracks for part of the way down the ridge and did not get cliffed out too many times, too badly. It took about 7 hours to descend the SW Ridge and then another 4 or so to hike the relatively flat and level trail back to the car, we were really dragging our asses by the end - 3 or 4 5-minute nap breaks between the gold mine and the trailhead in fact! That strange drumming thing was still drumming when we hiked by on the way out too.


By the time we reached the car it was 4:40 AM, 23h 10m car-to-car. We put on some cold, dry clothes, ran the heater 15 minutes, then drove to Hope. At 5:30 AM not even the Husky truck stop was open so we napped for an hour until it did then had trucker breakfasts washed down with coffee, tea, pop, anything liquid in fact. If the soup had been on I would have had soup too.


What with work and school and life and stuff it has been more than a year since my last big alpine route so it was nice to finally get up something serious in 2007! Thanks Jesse and Graham for the fun day out :)


Gear Notes:

Carried a light alpine rack but only the screws got used by J and G while simulclimbing. Did not see many possibilities for rock pro placements. A couple of trees could have been slung off to the side for belays but screw belays were better.


Approach Notes:

Hiking trail for 4km then the bushwack starts

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