Friday, March 31, 2017

Field follies, part 3: The Chase Is Better Than The Catch

From Luka to Raphael:

Hi Raph,

Ian suggested that I should ask you about your new route in Field.

Cheers, 

Luka

***

From Raphael to Luka:

Luka,

Here’s a photo of it. It's a couple hundred metres right of Twisted. The pitches go something like this:

Pitch 1: 50 m, WI4. 2 bolts then thin ice getting thicker. A few screws for protection and a screw belay.
Pitch 2: 20 m, M4. Move right then up over chossy rock to ice. Small cams and some screws. Screw belay.
Pitch 3: 25 m, M7. Move right up some small pillars, then follow a few bolts up and right. Screws to start, cams to #2 Camalot to finish. Bolt belay.
Pitch 4: 30 m, M8. Move right then up past many bolts. Not physical but sustained. 15 draws and #1 and #2 Camalots to finish. Bolt belay.
Pitch 5: 10 m, WI3. Easy ice to finish.

If you have 2x70 m ropes, you can probably get down in 2 long raps. There’s a bolted rap station straight down from the belay on pitch 3.

Let me know if you go do it.

Raphael

***

From Luka to Raphael:

Hi, 

We did the route today, but it was really warm and I think its time is coming to an end. The picture you sent me is not from few day ago or is it? However we had great fun on this hard and steep dirty wall, the last hard pitch is really sustained as you said. We agree with the grades.

Does it have a name yet?  

Luka

***

From Raphael to Luka:

Luka,

I’m psyched you went and did the route, and that you had fun on it. Yes, it’s a dirty wall, but then again, the whole Rockies are dirty! Good to have the grades confirmed, too.

The photo I sent you is from almost 2 months ago. As you say, it’s very different right now. I guess spring’s here. The route is called The Chase Is Better Than The Catch, after the Motorhead song.

Raphael

***

Day 0

On a chilly day in February, instead of joining the crowds on shady Mt. Stephen, Ian Welsted and I hiked up to WWF on sunny Mt. Field.

We found good mixed climbing with a strong traditional flavour. But as fun as WWF was, I couldn't stop staring at the smears across the valley.

Day 1

On another chilly day in February, Ian and I, joined by young Fred Giroux, hiked up to have a closer look at said smears. Photo: Ian Welsted.

The first two pitches might have shared some ground with Fat Tire, an obscure mixed and thin ice route. Then it was off into virgin territory: climbing, aiding, bolting, and uncomfortably squeezing three people at a hanging belay. Photo: Ian Welsted.

Day 2

A few weeks later, Fred and I came back to try to finish the line. Unfortunately snow conditions had turned sketchy, and where before we had romped around unroped, now we tiptoed roped up, hearts in our throats.

An approach that should have taken less than an hour took over two. But eventually we made it to the base, and started up the thin ice of the first pitch.

The second pitch was much as we remembered it: easy, loose and surprisingly engaging.

After largely aiding my way up the third pitch the other day, I was curious how it'd actually climb. And it climbed well, with delicate ice columns leading to thin drytooling. I even managed to place a few cams to keep it from being a complete clip-up.

Unfortunately by the time I'd aided and bolted my way up the fourth pitch, it was getting late in the day. We'd have to come back for the send.

Day 3

For a while, it looked like the send would have to wait until next season, as temperatures turned springlike and the rock turned black with water streaks. But a crisp forecast had me texting Fred at eight o'clock on a Saturday night: "What are you up to tomorrow?"
Photo: Jon Walsh.

On this occasion, Jon Walsh joined us to sample the climbing and take photos. Photo: Jon Walsh.

The thin ice on the first pitch had retreated up the slab, and much of the icy glue holding the choss together on the third had evaporated. No matter, though, it all still went. Photo: Jon Walsh.

The fourth pitch was a different matter. Starting up it, I wasn't sure if there were sufficient edges and divots in the blank open book to make it go. There were - barely. Photo: Jon Walsh.

Even though we were only a few ropelengths up, the position was outrageous, with the undercut rock disappearing out of sight and the icy slab of the first pitch far below. Photo: Jon Walsh.

The last pitch, if ten metres of easy ice could be called that, was a formality. However, like many formalities, it was an important one. In a way, this little lick of ice at the top of the wall justified the route's existence. Still, there was no question that the chase was better than the catch. Photo: Jon Walsh.

Summary of statistics: First ascent of "The Chase Is Better Than The Catch" (135 m, WI4 M8) on Mt. Stephen, Yoho National Park, by Fred Giroux and Raphael Slawinski, March 26, 2017, with help from Jon Walsh and Ian Welsted.

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