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first ascent [TR] Dewdney Creek/Coquihalla Hwy - FA Toll Free - 200m WI3 M5 2/8/2009

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Trip: Dewdney Creek/Coquihalla Hwy - FA Toll Free - 200m WI3 M5

 

Date: 2/8/2009

 

Trip Report:

I did a little bit of ice scouting on Saturday up the Coquihalla. There is very little snow up there except right around the pass. Looks like it was cold enough for ice to form last week from snowmelt, and it is melting out a bit. Jarvis Bluffs had a bunch of rotten ice. Shady stuff higher up was in - Drool In the Lotus, Thinking Outside the Box and the shadier stuff in Box Canyon looked fat and blue. The Box Canyon approach is not in great shape, though, due to the low snowpack although someone was parked there and maybe climbing on Saturday.

 

Driving back down the highway I saw some unclimbed ice up high on the north-facing side of the Dewdney Creek drainage and ended up enticing Doug out to climb it on Sunday. From the road it looked like a large flow of blue ice with a couple of separate possible finishes. I guessed maybe 2 pitches at WI3-4.

 

Sunday morning I met Doug in Agassiz at 7 and we were parked and hiking not long after 8. We wandered up the north side logging road in Dewdney Creek about 2km until right across from the climb then found logs to cross the creek on. The approach is up a shallow drainage betwen two heli-cutblocks, and was easy walking on old avvy debris.

 

tf11.jpg

tf21.jpg

 

Looking up from the logging road at the route.

 

At the top of the cutblocks the drainage splts into two gullies; we took the right-hand one. There was melting rotten ice in this drainage, low-angled but hollow; we had to avoid a couple of short sections in the forest to the right. We gained about 200m up this drainage and then got to fatter ice where the route started.

 

tf31.jpg

 

Doug in the approach gully.

 

The route turned out to be a lot longer than I had estimated. The first rope-stretcher pitch (61m WI2+) went up an easy flow to a short wall of steeper ice, and got us into a large bowl with three massive, blue flows of ice in it. The right-hand line was the lowest angle but longest while the central and left lines were shorter but steeper. It was starting to warm up noticeably as clouds rolled in and we saw a bit of ice- and rock-fall so decided to climb the lowest angle line. We climbed a 60m WI2 pitch, then a 40m WI3 pitch to a ledge below the final pillar. It was Doug's fourth ever day on ice and first multipitch ice route - I kept offering him the lead and he kept declining. Maybe the fact he was using my old Pulsars had something to do with it.

 

tf41.jpg

tf51.jpg

Doug seconding the long second pitch.

 

We moved the belay 20m left on the ledge to the left side of the final pillar, then I led off. The ice was steppy and rotten on the left but solid and blue just to my right so I was able to get in a few good screws. I got to what looked like the top of the route (25m WI3) only to find it had melted out - I was balanced on the rim of a hollow tube. Between me and the nearest solid belay tree there was a 5m gap consisting of moss-covered, unfrozen vertical and overhanging choss with a couple of perched detached ice blobs about 2m diameter.

 

I tiptoed across the lip of the ice tube and started grunging around with my tools looking for drytooling holds. Everything was pretty slopey and the moss was not frozen enough to turf-tool. I balanced up a couple of holds, ripping out massive clods of moss and mud, and at full reach managed to hook an incut flake under an overhang; it flexed a bit but held my weight. I mantled onto the head of my hooked tool and was able to reach up with my other hand and snag a thick devil's club stem over the overhang and then pull on it like a madman and beached-whale over into the forest above. I got up to a solid cedar tree and carefully felt the back of my pants to see if I had shat myself or not. Just then two of the ice blobs below that I had tiptoed around cut loose, funnelled down the route and laid a beating on Doug at the belay, giving his pack a good pounding while he cowered under it.

 

Doug climbed up to me, climbing the ice easily but using some of the rope to yard his way through the mixed section. We sat down in the forest above the climb and had a bit of a breather to calm down and stop shaking. Rapping back down the route now seemed out of the question so we decided to try and walk off. We found a decent set of benches and ledges to descend to the west of the drainage, although there were a few sections of face-in frontpointing on frozen moss to link the benches. At around the same elevation as the base of the climb we got cliffed out and had to rap 30m off a tree.

 

tf61.jpg

Forest rappeling.

 

We grabbed our poles from the bottom of the gully and hiked out the way we had come, arriving back at the car around 5. It's great to have the longer days in February :)

 

tf71.jpg

Ride'em cowboy log crossing.

 

Overall this was a pretty fun climb except for the last 5m, which were definitely some of the hardest, chossiest and most scary mixed climbing I have ever done. Probably a colder day with the top of the route bonded would be a much better time to do this climb.

 

Gear Notes:

Screws and draws and helmet. Thick gloves help when yarding on Devils Club.

 

Approach Notes:

Park at Carolin Mines u-turn route and walk south on the highway about 300m to the narrow strip of land between the Coquihalla and Dewdney bridges. Cut into the forest to pick up the gas pipeline and follow it back to Dewdney FSR. Walk up Dewdney FSR to an open gate at around 2km, and just beyond the gate look south to see the route. Cross Dewdney Creek on logs and plug c.500m up the hillside to the route, which is at c. 1000m elvation.

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Awesome! :brew: A little brown-pantsing with a 4 day icer eh...

 

As a 1-day icer myself, I can only look forward to future brown pants days of my own, drooling and crying in envy and fear

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So I went back to this area today with Shaun. We soloed the first two pitches of Toll Free and then climbed the routes in the center and left of the upper bowl.

 

"Scottish Play" WI4 60m in the middle.

 

"Taming of the Screw" WI3 40m on the left.

 

Variants to WI4+ available by climbing direct on either of the latter routes.

 

:brew:

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