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Two Climbers Circumnavigate the 13 Peaks of Mulvey Basin in a Day

Dave Lussier photo

On August 22, 2017, David Lussier and I successfully completed a circumnavigation of Mulvey Basin in Valhalla Provincial Park, bagging all 13 peaks. I wrote a story about it for Mountain Culture Group. This is how it starts:

The headlamp beam glared off the white surface of the golf ball, forcing me to squint to make out the black cursive lettering: “Miracle Flight+ 2”. Appropriate considering we’d need some good fortune to complete the mission we had just embarked on. I placed the ball back on the rock where I found it beside its twin and a golf club and finished hiking the 20 metres to the summit of Mount Dag, one of the tallest peaks in the Valhalla mountain range.

It goes without saying a nine iron and two golf balls are strange items to find on top of any mountain peak. But the fact it was 2:30 in the morning and my climbing partner, and mountain guide, David Lussier and I were embarking on a quest to traverse 13 peaks of the Mulvey Basin in under 24 hours, made the discovery even more surreal.

This was our second attempt of this traverse in as many years and the forecast was perfect: clear skies with zero percent chance of precipitation. Then again, good weather was predicted for our first attempt in 2016 and that ended with us cowering under a boulder during a freak electrical storm at 8,500 feet.

As David signed the register on the summit of Dag, I continued thinking of my bizarre discovery. Why a nine iron? Why not a driver? Surely that would be a lot more satisfying. I imagined teeing up and driving a ball across the two-kilometre-wide span that separated us and Gladsheim Peak, the final destination of our mission. Suddenly all thoughts of golf vanished as David asked, “You ready?” He had replaced the register in its waterproof canister, slotted it back in the stone cairn and was looking at me expectantly. It was time to descend from the summit, collect our bivouac gear and start the 12-kilometre circumnavigation of Mulvey Basin: 13 peaks, eight of which we’d have to rock climb, and over 2,300 metres of elevation gain. At that moment, I wished I could’ve just soared over to Gladsheim as well.

To read the rest of the adventure tale, visit mountainculturegroup.com/mulvey-basin-circumnavigation-in-a-day.

New Route in the Valhallas is one of the Hardest

 

For the past three years David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides and I have projected a new route on the little south face of Gimli Peak in the Valhalla Mountains. It’s a line that’s noticeable from afar and we thought the corner crack on the upper headwall was going to be incredible. And it is. But it’s also seamed out and very, very hard. My favourite memory from all our attempts is Dave, while on lead, drilling one of the  bolts that’s required on the protection-less part of the 3rd pitch – he got tired and took his daisy chain and clipped himself to the drill bit that was still embedded in the rock…and rested! (Do not try that at home.)

A description of one of our attempts made it into Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine in my “KMC Rock Wars article” but the moves on the third pitch kept eluding us. Then, on October 7, Dave and Jason Luthy from Sandpoint, Idaho, successfully did the crux pitch clean. Here is a description of the route:

Valhalla Gold   5.12a
This climb is located on the shorter, south-facing wall that leads to the true Gimli summit. If you are looking at the prow of Gimli (the south ridge) it is the shorter wall back and to the right (east) where the descent route starts. Access: from the “beach” hike to the South Ridge route then traverse right (east) about 100m around the base. Scramble up a grassy (or snowy depending on the season) ramps towards the upper east-facing basin below Gimli peak. Ascend to the base of the East-facing couloir, seperating the upper south ridge and the main summit of Gimli. Take a double rack to #2s. All stations are bolted and it is possible to rappel the route with 2 ropes. P1: Start from a ledge 10m right of the gully separating the 2 summits of Gimli above a short green colored wall. Climb up following the prow of a broad grey buttress. (5.9 40m) P2: Climb up and left past a small pine tree and the left side of a 5m high detached pillar. Continue up and left to a beautiful hand crack in a shallow, right-facing corner and eventually a small overhang near the top. (5.10- 40m) P3: Climb the thin crack above passing a 2 fixed pitons. Continue up the steep wall following the thin crack past 5 bolts. Beautifully exposed. (5.12a 45m) P4: Climb up a right-facing corner with a small bolt-protected roof near the top. Harder than it looks. (5.10+ 25m) P5: trad. Climb up and left through easier ground to the summit. Beaware of large loose blocks. (5.4 25m) (FA: D Lussier, V Hempsall,  B Sawyer ’12. FFA: D Lussier, J Luthy ’14)

Vince at the 2nd belay

Dave on the crux pitch

Dave on the crux pitch

Dave at the summit

Dave at the summit

2014 West Kootenay Rock Guide Updates

Wonow Media has announced the 2014 West Kootenay Rock Guide Updates are now available to download for free.

The updates include over 200 new sport, trad and alpine rock climbing routes from all over the West Kootenay region of South-Central British Columbia including Castlegar, Nelson, Slocan Valley, Arrow Lakes region and Ymir as well as beta on Grand Forks and Onion Creek in Washington State, just over the border from Rossland.

The free PDF download also includes a tick list of all 500+ routes in the region, from the 5.4 trad route “Exfoliation” at Kinnaird Bluffs to the 5.13 sport climb “A Delicate Push” at Kootenay Crag. What it does not include, however, is photo topo maps. Those will showcased in separate posts such as this one in the “rock updates” section of Wonow Media be available for retail in the coming months. If you have any corrections to these updates, please contact Vince Hempsall at: vince (at) wonowmedia.com. Click here to go to the page where you can download the free PDF.

Mountain Goats Threatened at Gimli

We’ve all seen them up at the camping area near Gimli Peak: cute, white, and way better rock climbers then we’ll ever be. But the mountain goats in Valhalla Park are being threatened by our contact with them and, in turn, our access could be in jeopardy. Luckily, there are a few easy things we can do as visitors that will ensure their longevity and our continued access to one of the best alpine climbing areas in the Kootenays.

We may have good intentions but the fact is the habituation of goats is bad for goats and bad for park users too. Firstly, there’s always the threat of a goat not taking kindly to your presence and running you through, like what happened with the unfortunate goring of a hiker in Olympic Park.

That is an extreme example of what could go wrong during an interaction with a mountain goat. Typically, what we find is they’ll hang out near wherever we are and wait for us to go pee or brush our teeth and spit so they can saunter over and lick up our mineral leavings. And while a bit of sodium is good for a goat’s diet, this behaviour is unhealthy in the long run because it’s unnatural for them to linger in one location for too long and it makes them easy pickings for hunters, as evidenced when one was shot near the Beach camping area a few years ago in front of a group of hikers.

As climbers all we have to do to curb this habituation is the following: 

  • make sure we urinate in the porta-potty located near the camping area
  • brush our teeth and spit into the porta-potty
  • do not approach the goats
  • store all food and sweaty articles of clothing in the food cache or on the cable cache
  • and of course, do not feed the goats

Hopefully, by following these easy guidelines, we can lessen the interaction between mountain goats and humans near Gimli. If not, more drastic changes may have to be made to halt goat habituation in Valhalla Park and that could look like lessened access – something we all definitely want to avoid.

Currently, BC Parks is collecting information from park users to understand what the human-goat interactions are at and will use this to build a management strategy that is best for the wildlife. If you have an encounter with a mountain goat, please contact BC Parks Area Supervisor Chris Price directly at 250-354-6026 or via email at Chris.Price@gov.bc.ca.