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daylward

[TR] Slesse - North Face Couloir 5/24/2009

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Trip: Slesse - North Face Couloir

 

Date: 5/24/2009

 

Trip Report:

Being in Vancouver for my soon-to-be-brother-in-law's bachelor party, I decided to escape the drunken stupor for a couple days and go climbing with Seth Adams, who conveniently lives nearby. On Saturday we climbed at Squamish with Seth's girlfriend Susie, but for Sunday we both wanted to do something a little more freaky.

 

We didn't see any prior reports of the N Face Couloir of Slesse on this board, so we looked up the route in Alpine Select. Turns out, this is the perfect time of year to do it. Decision made!

 

We decided to try it Vancouver to Vancouver in a day. We left Seth's place at 2:00 am after 3 hours of sleep, ate a turkey bacon sandwich at Tim Horton's in Chilliwack at 3:00 am, found the trailhead marked by a short log with "SLESSE" written on it by about 4:00 am, and started hiking. Headlamps only necessary for crossing the river and shortly after, then it was light enough to turn them off. The weather was completely splitter. Uninterrupted snowpack started about 1/2 mile before the memorial.

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHczJiewI/AAAAAAAAG4k/kEoubsusaz0/s720/DSCN0658.JPG[/img]

 

Trudging across the basin toward the base of the NE Buttress was made easier by a thick crust in most places, but sometimes we punched through and found the underlayer to be rather unconsolidated. We ascended through old avalanche debris and threaded our way through a chink in the cliff bands directly at the head of the basin. We were in full-on sun now, and the crust was already starting to weaken; some of our steps went up to our knees. Soon, we could look straight into the throat of the Heart of Darkness, the massive and still unclimbed couloir separated from our route by the N. Rib. We eyed large cornices on the ridge that appeared to be above our route, noting where debris might land. We hiked up to a flat and protected area in the upper basin where we could get a line of sight up the N. Face Couloir. It was just after 8:00, and the morning sun was still far enough north that the couloir was bathed in brightness. We watched a few small slides come down on the climber's right of our route, and decided to wait until the sun had gone around a bit, to bring the feature into the shade. We took the opportunity to evacuate our bowels as we continued to assess the situation. Finally, nearing 9:00, we decided we'd waited long enough. As it turned out, it probably would have been better to just go for it as early as we could, but how were we to know?

 

[img:center]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHi2fNtRI/AAAAAAAAG40/n0fF5fTTp7k/s720/DSCN0668.JPG[/img]

 

We started out soloing up the snowcone, with me dragging the rope so Seth could just tie in when it came time. The going was easy up to the first mixed section, connecting the lower slopes to the middle snowpatch. Seth tied in and belayed me a full 60m pitch. Most of the climbing was poorly-adhered ice over rock and moss, but with good rock protection. It was fun, the sticks were good.

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHmmB_RbI/AAAAAAAAG5E/zRXb8_wEmLU/s720/DSCN0674.JPG[/img]

 

After that, Seth took over leading up the snowpatch, a 50-60 degree slope with multiple spindrift runnels. He was hit by a couple spindrift cascades as he traversed back and forth trying to stay out of the line of fire and find protection. We simulclimbed for perhaps 500 vertical feet before Seth felt like he was going too slow and wanted me to lead. His belay stance was near the crest of the N. Rib, and we could see through a notch into Heart of Darkness, just about the same height as the stopper difficulties of that route.

 

[img:center]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHoQWDIbI/AAAAAAAAG5M/dY8Rsom8JVc/s720/DSCN0677.JPG[/img]

 

[img:center]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHpXKzB4I/AAAAAAAAG5Q/PEfxOUIu_AA/s720/DSCN0678.JPG[/img]

 

I took off from there and led through some incredibly fun & interesting climbing. The runnels provided the best climbing of course, but they were fraught with annoying deluges of spindrift. Outside the runnels the snow was soft and the going more strenuous, but still not bad. Higher up, there were extensive sections of solid sinker ice - beautiful climbing. I placed a picket, 6 or 7 cams, and 4 ice screws on the pitch, trying to have 1 or 2 pieces between us at all times. It felt safe.

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHvJ9xv4I/AAAAAAAAG5k/vx7VM5mbmIA/s720/DSCN0684.JPG[/img]

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxHwSpUc1I/AAAAAAAAG5o/QmfzsB1ylUk/s720/DSCN0685.JPG[/img]

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxH0WqEZRI/AAAAAAAAG50/j9edO0s6sR0/s720/DSCN0688.JPG[/img]

 

I stopped at a small alcove where the couloir dead-ends. It was a very secure and comfortable belay, but the only way out of the couloir was to climb vertical mixed snow and rock over the top of the N. Rib and into the upper bit of Heart of Darkness.

 

Seth dropped the deuce. It stunk. Watch out if you're up there anytime soon, my God.

 

I took the final lead as well. It was actually quite fun... it was only 60 meters to the finish, but it involved some excavation, some body tension, and a little levitation. Getting down the other side into Heart of Darkness was interesting - a short but very exposed traverse of loose snow covering compact rock. I created a ramp by digging with my outstretched ice tool, then walked the ramp (sinking in deeply), balancing with the rope tension to keep from swinging off. Once in the main gully, however, it was a piece of cake to top out, into the sunshine.

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxH4b24xzI/AAAAAAAAG6A/XWJyfUGGYzg/s720/DSCN0691.JPG[/img]

 

It was 4:00 pm by the time Seth finished following. We knew the road down the Slesse Creek drainage was gated at the Chilliwack road, so we already knew our only choice was the crossover descent, which neither of us had done before. The weather was spectacular, but there were still ~7 pitches of up to 5.8 climbing to get to the summit. We had rock shoes with us, but to our surprise, there were still large patches of snow on the lower angle sections above, dripping dripping dripping. There was too much uncertainty in what lay both above and below to make it a smart choice to continue to the summit at that point. We headed down.

 

[img:center]http://lh4.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxH5WByCdI/AAAAAAAAG6I/PbepHVuin6E/s720/DSCN0692.JPG[/img]

 

I suspect our experience on the crossover descent was made easier in some places by the large amount of snow, but more difficult in others. We had a great description of the route, and only had a couple very minor hiccups in following it. Even so, it's a very, very long descent (though it is quite aesthetic). It took us 6 hours to get back to the basin below. The short description is you basically have to traverse the N-trending ridge from the shoulder of Slesse, navigating around sub-peaks via their lower-angle west flanks, until you get all the way to a big saddle called Crossover Pass. The ridge traversing was beautiful, but the snow was sloppy and a little treacherous; not quite to "wallowing" condition though. One rappel is required to descend off the final rocky peak before Crossover Pass. From there, you traverse over to the east side of ridge, in front of a peak referred to as "the Wooded Stump", which has a large steep rocky east face above the slightly less steep slopey bench that you traverse across. Finally you can reach a scree slope (in our case snow-covered) easy enough to descend into the basin. I had noticed from below that there was a snow-filled gully on the climber's right side of the lower basin that cut through the lower cliff bands. While I knew it wouldn't be visible from above, I could see that it started right at the point where a patch of short trees met with a patch of large trees. The trick worked perfectly - I found the top of the gully quickly, and the descent to the lower basin was a piece of cake.

 

[img:center]http://lh3.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxH6J0SbfI/AAAAAAAAG6M/WEk3ECQJoh0/s720/DSCN0693.JPG[/img]

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxH_pzvlPI/AAAAAAAAG6c/8u3AiMa_U2Q/s720/DSCN0700.JPG[/img]

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxIKvL7_LI/AAAAAAAAG7A/M6DScI_zqZ0/s720/DSCN0722.JPG[/img]

(Looking back on the final peak on the ridge before Crossover Pass. The rappel was from the high point on the looker's left of the summit saddle.)

 

[img:center]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_ONAZzC2RKGM/ShxINwWCf2I/AAAAAAAAG7M/uBZzUJUn07Q/s720/DSCN0728.JPG[/img]

 

By this time it was nearly dark. We were able to find the memorial without a problem, and the trail out was easy enough, though longer than we wanted of course. We got back to Vancouver at about 1:00 am. Beat the 24 hr. mark! :hcluv:

 

I'd say this ranks up there in the top 5 alpine ice climbs I've ever done. It was spectacular and highly recommended!

 

I forgot my camera, so Seth took all the pictures. You can see his full gallery with commentary captions here .

 

Dan

 

Gear Notes:

We brought 2 pickets, about 8 cams to 2" (mostly smaller), a small set of nuts, 4 ice screws, 10 draws. It turned out to be just about perfect.

Edited by daylward

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Damn. Way to get after it! I would never have thought that to be in condition this time of year.

 

You should post more TRs!

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Cool Route :tup: It's even better you did the Crossover descent. That's way cooler than walking off the west side trail.

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Now that the Moxes have fallen, is the Heart of Darkness the new Last Great Project?

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Now that the Moxes have fallen, is the Heart of Darkness the new Last Great Project?

 

Guy Edwards got turned around..... its gotta be friggin hard....

 

Something about a possible neccesary bolt ladder, and he didnt want to hang out drilling 12 bolts by hand in that couloir in winter....

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Actic wing looks pretty tough right now... you can see it well in the last shot. I would like to get up there but I have grad next weekend and by the time I'm free it will probably be melted out. Shitty how things work out sometimes...

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So what's up with the Sleese Creek Road these days. Your TR says that it was locked at Chilliwack road. does anyone know if its permanently locked these days to keep out the riff raff or can you get a key??

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You can get a key if you are connected. Riff raff will have to hoof it or come down Crossover, which really is better anyhow.

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You can get a key if you are connected. Riff raff will have to hoof it or come down Crossover, which really is better anyhow.

 

Any idea if it is possible to downclimb the rappel on the Crossover Descent if you were solo w/o a rope?

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You wouldn't want to downclimb the rappel itself - its steep and the rock is really loose.

 

You might be able to scramble down a bit further to the west (towards Slesse Creek) or do the "exposed heather traverse" (described in Jer Frimer's topo) which would probably be casual with snow on it wearing crampons. I've also heard the heather traverse isn't as bad as Jeremy says, but I heard that from a 5.14 heather climber.

 

Jer's topo:

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/839067/Slesse_Crossover_Pass_Descent_

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