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Grand Forks Rock Climbing

Grand Forks, British Columbia, isn’t well known for its rock climbing but local Bill Sperling is changing that with his new guidebook. Just don’t call it a guidebook.

The first thing you notice when you scroll through the 24-page “Grand Forks Rock Climbing” document is the qualifier on the cover that reads “not a guidebook!” Author and local route developer Bill Sperling put it there to clarify that this is a “compilation of existing crag beta made over the years. The only guarantee is that it is full of inaccuracies.” Despite this warning, he’s done a damn good guidebook…uh…not guide. Grand Forks rock climbing has been happening since the ’70s but Bill’s effort is the first time anyone has tried to write it all down. It’s also the first time anyone’s really committed themselves to intensive route developing in the West Kootenay city: if the guide is to be believed, Bill is responsible for the majority of the routes there.

I caught up with Bill to ask about Grand Forks rock climbing, the scene, and what the routes on the old bridge pillars are like. You can find that interview at mountainculturegroup.com

Download the full Grand Forks rock climbing guidebook (which isn’t a guidebook) here: Grand-Forks-Climbing-Guide-2020.

Also, it’s awesome to hear GF is getting its own indoor gym this fall.  The Fresh Tracks Outdoors Club bouldering wall is opening on November 1, 2020.

Castlegar’s Newest Climbing Area is One Of The Best For Families

It’s hard to say what the best part about Castlegar’s latest rock climbing destination is. It could be the outstanding views of the valley that take in the mighty Columbia and Kootenay river. Or maybe it’s the fun, moderate routes that can all be ticked in an afternoon. Perhaps it’s the fact the area was developed as part of a new routing clinic offered by The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers and taught by David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides during the annual Kootenay Climbing Festival. Or maybe it’s the fact the approach is relatively easy and there’s a huge meadow near the base of the wall where kids and families can hang out, enjoy the views, and play. Yes, definitely that last one. Aside from Waterline Walls and Pub Wall, the newly developed Grad Wall is one of the best in the city for families. There are nine moderate routes ranging from 5.8 mixed to 5.10b sport and it’s easy to access the top of the crag in order to set up top ropes. (There are multiple anchors from which to rappel in order to access the tops of the routes, most of which end three-quarters of the way up the cliff face.)

The following information was provided by David Lussier and the original route developers.

Access

From Castlegar, drive north on Highway 3A. After the Brilliant Bridge over the Kootenay River, turn right on the Robson Access Road. If coming from Nelson on Highway 3A south, turn right on the Robson Access Road just before the Brilliant Bridge. At 1.2kms, turn right onto Terrace Road (Verigin Tomb Road). Park about 300m up the road on a wide shoulder. From the parking area, walk a steep, faint trail up the middle of a bowl-shaped grassy slope. Once the trail levels out, continue directly towards the walls. You will cross a deep ditch and soon find yourself on a gas line. Walk west on the gas line for about 50m then follow a faint trail up the hill toward the rock walls. After about five more minutes you’ll arrive at a beautiful open grassy bench below the Grad Wall. The total approach takes about 15 minutes.

Even on a cloudy day the view from Grad Wall is excellent.

Route Descriptions

New School (5.8 mixed 23m small gear and 2 bolts). The dihedral on the far right side of the wall. Make your way up to a bolt, then layback and stem your way up a crack that protects well with small cams and nuts. Arrive at a leftwards sloping ramp, clip another bolt and head up to the anchor. FA D. Raber and K. Story

Pump & Circumstance (5.10b 25m 8 bolts). Follow the flake on the right side of the wall up to the second bolt, then move onto the face for some fun, steep climbing. Shared anchor with New School. FA D. Lussier

Pass or Flail (5.9 21m 7 bolts). Start on the right side of a solid flake. Follow the flake to the second bolt, then move left and head up for a steep crux. FA D. Lussier and D. Raber

Career Path (5.8 50m 2 pitches). A pleasant two pitch climb that starts on the large boulder in the middle of the wall.P1:(30m 9 bolts) Clip the first bolt on top of the boulder, then take an airy step onto the face. Move up the face, then traverse right under a bulge, move up through a groove, then traverse left to a slabby finish. P2:(19m 7 bolts) From the belay, climb up to the roof. One tricky but well protected move gets you over the roof. Follow a blocky ladder up to a flake. Finish at a two bolt anchor on the top corner of the wall. Descent:Two rappels or turn right from the top and enjoy a bushy walk off. FA K. Lessard, D. Lussier, D. Raber C. Stowell, and Y. Troutet

Graduation (5.10 28m 8 bolts). Start just left of Career Path.A tricky opening slab move followed by fun, steep climbing in a great plumbline. FA D. Lussier

Prom Date (5.7 50m 2 pitches). A beginner friendly lead that starts just right of the graffiti. Steep for the grade. P1:(30m 10 bolts) Enjoy fun three dimensional climbing with lots of options for hand and footholds. About 2/3rds of the way up, take an awkward step left onto a sloping ramp and traverse upwards to an anchor on a large ledge. P2:(20m 6 bolts) Trend up and right on easy climbing towards a steeper finish. Descent:Two rappels or turn right from the top and enjoy a bushy walk off. FA J. Brooks, N. Coates, D. Raber, and Y. Troutet

Overhead Projector (5.10b 30m 9 bolts). This route climbs up past the graffiti and through the middle of the obvious roof. Start on easy slab that gets harder as you approach the roof. After you pull the roof, enjoy face climbing to the ledge finish. FA D. Lussier

Grade Inflation (5.10a 25m 9 bolts). Technical face climbing brings you to an undercling, then a ledge. Enjoy a layback off the ledge and a few more moves to the mantle finish. FA D. Lussier

Friends & Colleagues (5.10a 25m 8 bolts). This route follows the pillar left of the alcove. A slab start brings you to some steep moves on the face of the pillar. Finish on jugs and some blocky moves. FA D. Raber

The new routing course participants about to set their tools to work on Grad Wall for the first time in September 2019. Photo by David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides.

Rock Climbing Waterline Walls – A Retrospecive

A retrospective on the early days of development at Waterline Walls in Castlegar, British Columbia.

Ron Perrier, the author of “Where to Hike and Climb in the West Kootenay,” recently reminded me of an article I did for the Kootenay Mountaineering Club’s newsletter “Kootenay Mountaineer” in 2009. It describes the early days of development at Waterline Walls, one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. It was fun to look back, especially considering the drama that ensued the past few years when the property that Waterline is located on went up for sale, was closed to climbing, and the eventual success of the purchase of the crag by The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers.

Here is the article in its entirety as it appeared in the Sept/Oct 2007 edition of the Kootenay Mountaineer.

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK

Forty Six New Routes, Two Minutes From Downtown
By Vince Hempsall

Ask long time locals, newcomers from across Canada or those who travel here from other parts of the world – Interior B.C.’s rock climbing scene, well, rocks. And it just got better. To the Slocan Bluffs, Kinnaird and Penticton’s Skaha you can add Castlegar’s Waterline Wall.

With the help of Kootenay climbing veteran Hamish Mutch, the new climbing area has been bolted and mapped, with more routes to come… t’s 7:30 in the morning and Neil Ives and I are at the new Waterline Wall climbing area watching a family of wild turkeys forage in the field next to us. I mention that it’s hard to believe we’re a mere two-minute drive from downtown Castlegar and he replies, “That’s what sets this area apart from others in the Kootenays – the access is really easy but it’s got a sort of remote feel to it.”

A copy of the second edition of the Waterline Walls guidebook created by Neil Ives and Aaron Kristiansen. The latter went on to create the West Kootenay Rock Guide with Vince Hempsall.

The newsletter this story originally appeared in.

Ives is one of four developers who have been busy this past year putting up new routes at the Wall, which is named for the utility water line that runs under the access trail. This gravel trail is actually a city “right of way” and it links the two halves of 14th Avenue, just west of Castlegar’s Columbia Street. In years past it has been a popular destination for birdwatchers, dog walkers and cross-country skiers but it wasn’t until the fall of 2006 that climbers began to visit regularly. That year, three Selkirk College students (Aaron Kristiansen, Kyle Ridge and Ives) and Hamish Mutch, a Kootenay climbing veteran, began developing in earnest, cleaning vegetation off the cliff, which is located on property owned by a Salmon Arm holding company, and bolting sport climbs. The area had seen some ascents decades earlier when mountaineers practiced placing pitons in the more obvious cracks, but it wasn’t until Kristiansen was introduced to the cliff by an aviation student, who spotted it while on a flight, that interest really took off. “We couldn’t believe this area hadn’t been developed already, considering the quality of rock and the easy access”, says Ives.

There are now 46 routes on six walls that range from easy traditional crack climbs to harder sport projects in the 5.12 range. The variety of climbing at Waterline is only partly responsible for the exponential increase of climber visitations in the past few months, however. “Since we put out the guide book to help offset the cost of bolting, this place has gone off”, Ives says. The 24-page guide costs $10 and the proceeds go towards hardware, which, given the cost of bolts, hangers, chains and drill bits, averages out to $85 per route. There are still many more lines to be developed at Waterline Wall and Ives says the increase in popularity will only spur him and the others to create more. “This place is fresh out of the oven”, he says, “and we still have a lot more to do.”

WATERLINE WHEREABOUTS Drive West from Castlegar on Hwy 3 toward Grand Forks. Turn left on 14th Ave and drive to the end past the baseball diamond. Follow the dirt road and park on the left. The first wall is 200 metres past the gate. Guidebooks are available at The Powderhound in Rossland, the Chamber of Commerce in Castlegar and Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Nelson.

New 5.10a Route in the Valhallas is a Monster

This summer professional photographer Steve Ogle and I climbed a new route up a beautiful swath of virgin slab in Valhalla Provincial Park near Cahill Lake. These are the details.

There’s a giant south-facing slab that can easily be seen from Highway 6 north of the village of Slocan before the S-bend that takes you over Enterprise Creek. It’s impossible to judge from that distance just how large it is but after a recent adventure Steve Ogle and I can now confidently attest to the fact that it’s really, really big. And in 30+ heat, it’s really, really hot.

In August we paddled from Slocan to Evans Creek and then hiked the three hours up the relatively mellow Beatrice Lake Trail. (The only real steep part of the hike is at the beginning as you rise out of the mouth of Evans Creek.) We passed the aptly named Emerald Lake, encountering another short steep hiking section up from its west end, to Cahill Lake in Valhalla Provincial Park. Our objective was the face of a large dome of gneiss on the north shore of the lake that’s backed by the sub-peaks of Hela Peak. It’s a stunning piece of white rock that’s easy to access from the campground at the west end of Cahill Lake. The same day we hiked in we did a recon mission to the base of the wall, scoped a line, stashed some gear, and went back to camp to rest before the next day’s push.

Hela Monster as seen from the Cahill Lake campground.

The next day proved to be a bit longer and hotter than expected. In hindsight, Steve dumping a half litre of water at the start of the route because it was too heavy wasn’t the best idea. Nor was leaving one headlamp at camp. By the time we reached pitch 5, bolting the occasional blank section on lead, the temperature had climbed above 30°C. Luckily there were intermittent clouds but it wasn’t long before I was sucking on the lid of my chapstick trying to trick my brain into believing there was moisture in my mouth. Another five pitches took us near top just as the sun was starting to set. We ate wild blueberries on the fly, savouring the minuscule amounts of moisture they provided, and then stumbled down talus for 1.5 hours using one headlamp and the light from a cellphone, before reaching an unnamed creek where I consumed about three litres of water in 10 minutes. We walked back into camp 15 hours after setting out, toasted the new 10-pitch route with scotch, and collapsed.

Despite our challenges, I highly recommend this climb for those who want an adventure in a beautiful setting up easy slab. There’s only one 5.10a move on the whole route and it’s protected by a bolt. The rest of this monster climb is mostly in the 5.5 to 5.7 range, although you’ll want to be comfortable running out easier sections of slab as gear can be sporadic in places. Oh, and pick a day that’s not super hot.

Cahill Lake photographed the morning after the first ascent of Hela Monster.

Hela Monster Route Description

Hela Monster • 5.10a • 350 metres • 10 pitches • South-facing • FA: Steve Ogle, Vince Hempsall August 2020

About The Route Name

Hela is a prominent peak in Valhalla Provincial Park named for the Norse goddess Hela (aka Hel) who is the daughter of Loki and giantess Angrboda and who presides over the realm of the dead. Her appearance is described as half blue and half flesh-coloured, which is appropriate given the views from the route, which include the stunning blue lake and the pasty Slavic-white skin colour of the rock. A Gia Monster (pronounced “Hila Monster”) is one of only two poisonous lizard species in North America, which is also appropriate given this route has bite when you’re climbing it in 30+ heat, like we did.

A Google Map topo of the route in blue and the approach and walk-off in red.

About The Climb

Hela Monster is located on a huge slab of granitic gneiss that is solid, textured and clean, except for where dirt has gathered in the cracks. The climbing is mostly in the 5.5 to 5.7 range. Route finding is very easy thanks to all the bolts but protection is sparse on some of the easier terrain. All crux moves are protected. Most stations are bolted but those that do not have either trees or boulders that can easily be slung.

History Of The Area

Slocan Lake and Evans Creek were important fishing grounds for multiple First Nations throughout the centuries as evidenced by the pictographs on the lake’s west shoreline between Slocan Village and Evans. In the 20th Century this area became a hotbed of mining and logging – in fact, the tiered lake systems from Beatrice to the Slocan were flooded and then released so as to move timber down the drainage. The Beatrice Lake hiking trail is an old logging road and there’s still a lot of evidence of the old camps, from rusted cans to rotting machinery. Today the popular hiking trail leads you into Valhalla Provincial Park, which was established in 1983.

Steve Ogle enjoying bolting on lead for the first time while on the first pitch of Hela Monster. Huge props to Jeff Hammerich for the loan of the drill.

The Approach

From the village of Slocan, boat or hike the 8km trail to Evans Creek Campground. From here, hike the Beatrice Lake Trail 8.5km (800m of elevation gain) past Emerald Lake to Cahill Lake where you’ll find a campground at the west end with six tent pads, an outhouse, and a metal food box. You can see the route from here as it follows the prominent white streak that runs down the slab from the top corner system which is stained brown. The route starts just to the looker’s right of the white streak, next to the lone tree at the bottom of the face. The tree has branches on only one side. From the campsite walk north over the small tributary (it’s easy to cross via logs or boulders) and then veer northeast towards the scree slope. Walk the scree, diagonally up and east until you reach the first line of conifers. To avoid excessive bush-bashing, walk up the scree slope from here until you reach the base of the wall. Follow it east until it slopes back down and you’ll see the tree at the start of the route. Scramble up the grassy gully and then up to the ledge the tree resides on. You’ll see two bolts on the wall directly above you.

Vince on the crux move of the second pitch of Hela Monster.

The Gear

Take a standard rack to 2” plus doubles of .75 and 1.0 and a rack of nuts. Both climbers should have a nut tool to dig dirt out of cracks for protection if required. Also take 14 draws including 6 extendable ones. One 60-metre rope is all you need if you’re planning to walk off. Take two 60-metre ropes if you want to rap. Be aware rapping is not recommended, however. See descent description below for more info.

Steve questioning the decision to dump water at the start of the route to save weight as the day’s temperature rises past 30°C.

Pitch Descriptions

Start Location: 49°52’01.5” N 117.33’06.7” W

P1 (58m 5.7): Start at the tree and pass the two bolts. Trend left using sporadic gear and pass three more bolts to finish at a bolted station on a small ledge just below a larger grassy ledge at 58m. There’s one 5.7 move off the deck but otherwise this pitch is in the 5.6 range. 5 bolts

P2 (58m 5.10a): Climb past two bolts then follow the flake, laybacking and jamming through 5.8 terrain until you can step over to easier ground. Continue up, aiming for the V-shaped notch that is past a big left-facing dihedral. Pull a mantle move over the roof, which is protected by a bolt that can only be seen once you’re at the roof. This is the only 5.10a move on the route and can easily be aided. Continue another 10 metres past an additional bolt to a station. 4 bolts

P3 (45m 5.6): Move up a wide corner and then either step left to the arete or continue up the corner. Past this feature is an easy section of slab climbing where protection can be found by the large block to the right if needed. Gain the large ledge and find a two-bolt anchor to the left of a bushy gully.

P4 (58m 5.6): Go directly up a seam and two overlaps, continuing slightly left above to gain more cracks with sparse but adequate protection. Finish on the twin cracks to the right of a whale-like feature and belay by slinging the lone ottoman-sized white boulder.

P5 (30m 5.2): Scramble up low fifth-class terrain to gain a huge ledge that slopes downward slightly to the left. The bolt anchors are about 20m left from where the scramble meets the ledge.

Steve leading the excellent 6th pitch of Hela Monster.

P6 (60m 5.8): From the anchor angle up and left over fourth class terrain (no protection) to gain a broad V-shaped crack system that trends up and left into a right-facing dihedral. Belay from the ledge at a two-bolt anchor at the top of the dihedral.

P7 (60m 5.5): Continue up straight, skirting below and to the right of a large bunch of bushes and trees. Then angle slightly right and up through easy terrain. Aim for an area approximately 10 metres to the left side of a large sloping roof. Belay at a very small tree with a good-sized root ball with a fixed sling.

P8 (58m 5.8): Climb easy terrain and then left onto mellow slabs. There is a bolt in a more blank section of rock at around the 40m mark. Continue left past the bolt and follow a small seam with one small gear placement. Finish up on a ledge with darker rock where there’s a two-bolt anchor. 1 bolt

P9 (60m 5.2): Move up and left over easy ground then walk on the moss-scattered ramp skirting below the treed cliffs as far as you can reach to a fir tree. Sling this and belay.

P10 (60m 4th class): Continue walking uphill and to the right across pine needles, over blocks and around trees until you reach easier ground at the 60m mark. Belay from whatever you can sling. From here it’s an easy walk to the height of land but be careful not to veer too far right towards the cliffs.

Vince enjoying the relatively mellow terrain of Pitch 8 above Cahill Lake.

The DESCENT

It took the first ascentionists two hours to walk back to the campsite and some of that time was spent in the dark. From the top of pitch 10, continue hiking east up mellow terrain to where the ground flattens out. Once there, walk in a north-east direction past wild blueberry bushes and conifers. Although you’ll be trending slightly downhill, it’s important to stay relatively high as most of the south-east slope cliffs out. Eventually you’ll reach a scree slope that you can follow down, first east and then it swings around south and a creek is on your left. Keep walking towards the lake and when the scree ends, trend southwest through the trees (this is the only heavy bushwhacking you’ll have to endure) to gain the scree slope below the south face of the slope you’ve just climbed. Stay approximately 80 metres above the lake edge for easier walking. Rappelling the route is not recommended because it’s so low angle and the chances of getting your rope stuck are high. However, if you get stuck and need to rappel, remember that all pitches require two 60m ropes. You’ll have to sling trees at the top of P10, P9 and P7 and make an awkward diagonal west-to-east rappel from the anchors at the bottom of P5 to the ottoman-sized boulder at the top of P4. From there rappelling to the base of the route becomes easier.

Here’s a downloadable PDF of the route information for Hela Monster: hela monster full description

A few weeks after the first ascent, Greg Amos and two others climbed the route and provided some feedback on the pitch descriptions. Big thanks to them. Also, they recorded their route and have a KMZ file available. Comment below if you’d like a copy of it.

Rock Guide Updates for Waterline Walls in Castlegar, BC

One of Canada’s best climbers, Sonnie Trotter, points to one of Canada’s best crags. Photo taken during the annual TAWKROC Rock Climbing Festival in September 2019.

Author note: Without the hard work of The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers, these updates would be pointless because Waterline Walls would have been lost to climbers forever. If you are not already a member, I encourage you to join. Actually, I believe it’s mandatory. If climbing at Waterline (and Kinnaird) isn’t worth a membership fee of $10 a year to you, it’s time to take up another sport. You can join at tawkroc.org. Also, big thanks to Hamish Mutch for his help with this one.

Belaying on Pool Boys, Pitch 1.

The route descriptions below are an addendum to the information found in the West Kootenay Rock Guide (WKRG). See page 47 of the Guide for access directions to this popular area, which is comprised of six different crags in close proximity to one another. Mountaineers have been practicing their rope skills on the easier terrain at these cliffs for decades but it wasn’t until 2005 that Aaron Kristiansen and some friends set about putting up the majority of the routes here. The community enjoyed 13 years of unencumbered climbing until the 80-acre swath of private property that the walls were located on went up for sale in late 2018.

Callie walks the quartz vein. Nostalgia, Pitch 2.

A developer expressed interest but thankfully Nelson rock climbing couple Mirek Hladik and June Ray stepped in, bought the land and then got permission from the City to subdivide the portion with the cliffs. While the legal aspects of the land purchase were being negotiated, The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers ran a campaign to raise the $60,000 that Mirek and June were asking for the 11-acre parcel with the cliffs. Generous donations from community members, businesses, organizations and a $30,000 land acquisition grant from the Columbia Basin Trust made the purchase possible and in the summer of 2020, TAWKROC purchased the property and the “No Trespassing” signs were removed. NOTE: Although owned by a non-profit organization, Waterline Walls is still considered private property and all those wishing to recreate on the land must sign an online waiver to do so, which you can do at tawkroc.org. See the TAWKROC signs at the base of the cliffs for more information.

Doug tries a heel-hook. Lauryn’s Line.

Beta: This area is excellent for families as the kids have room to roam without worrying about traffic or natural hazards. Plus the approach is five to 10 minutes along a flat trail. Most anchors were retrobolted in 2019 thanks to TAWKROC, CASBC, and a monumental effort by Bob Sawyer. All walls enjoy afternoon sunshine throughout the year, however, the first three listed here are in the shade until late afternoon and so are good options during the hotter months. You can expect some mosquitos in late spring.

Gear: Most routes in these updates are sport and a 60m rope and 14 quickdraws are adequate. The exception is the mixed line Black Bird, which requires some small cams.

Access: See page 47 of the WKRG. If there are no parking spaces available on the side of 14th Ave, please park at the baseball diamond and walk in. Also, with the new development, Raven Wall has been divided into three sections (Left, Centre, and Right) for clarity.

On September 22, 2019, Waterline Walls opened for one day during the TAWKROC Rock Climbing Festival Clinics. The instructors were Jasmin Caton and Sonnie Trotter and the 20 participants spent the day projecting lines on Raven Wall. It was the first time in 10 months anyone was allowed on the property since it had gone up for sale. But as of July 2020, the area has now reopened to everyone, thanks to the efforts of TAWKROC.

All routes listed in order of approach (North to South) from the car park.

Metamorphosis 5.12d SPORT
This climb is located on a short wall between the car park and Raven Wall. (Look for the giant fallen tree on the left.) It’s a bouldery and powerful route on a gently overhanging wall that gets steeper as you climb. Dyno the finish or channel your inner gecko and use the crimps. Finishing out right eases the grade. 4 bolts. (A Fitz-Earle, M Goodrich 13)

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RAVEN WALL LEFT

Lauryn’s Line 5.8/5.10a SPORT
This route is located at the far left of Raven Wall above Kathryn’s Crack (P. 47 in the guidebook). Approach either by the trail that leads up from Scallywag or by starting on the old trail to the top and then cross the scree slope. The regular route has four bolts and goes from face to rib to ledge and then crack. The direct finish is 5.10a and takes you through two bulges past 5 bolts total. (K Ridge, H Mutch 09)

Shady Lady 5.10a SPORT
Starts on the other side of the gully from Lauryn’s Line. Short and steep. Finishes on some of the only chicken heads at this area. (C Chatten, H Mutch 10)

Grana Padano 5.11d SPORT
Located between Kathryn’s Crack and Nathan Law, this 20-metre, 8-bolt route is named for a popular Italian cheese that’s hard with a sharp finish. The finale is easier for you tall persone out there. (S Senecal 17)

Nathan Law 5.12c SPORT
Start a few metres left of Scallywag (P. 47) and continue left past the roof and up the overhanging face to the thin, left-leaning crack above. (FA: JT Croston, A Kristiansen 10. FFA: L Neufeld-Cumming 10)

Go for Gold 5.11a SPORT
Start as for Nathan Law but stay right and pull the small roof, then transition right to gain the steep arête. Rejoin Scallywag at the last bolt and finish on its anchor. So named because it was first climbed on the same day the Canadian men’s hockey team won the gold medal final at the 2010 Winter Olympics. (C Shute, JT Croston 10)

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RAVEN WALL CENTRE

(See pages 48-49 in the guidebook.)

The Tourist 5.11d SPORT
In 2009 Dave Sturpin put up a line between Newly Weds and Brad’s Corner (P. 49 of WKRG). In 2013 Jesse Brown freed it and he and Keith Robine got permission to move 2 bolts to make it flow better. (J Brown 13)

Black Bird 5.12b MIXED
P. 49. This route was known as “Rattle & Hum” at one time and was listed as such in the WKRG. However, Andrew decided to change the name in keeping with the wall’s theme. The grade has also changed to accurately depict the pinky-jarring crux through the roof. Take some small cams to 1″. 27m. 7 bolts. (A Fitz-Earle, S Payne 12)

Feather Quest 5.12a SPORT
Located 3m right of Black Bird, this is one of the best and most consistent climbs at Waterline. A technical face takes you to the roof and then it’s an overhanging jug haul race against the pump. A crowbar was used on the flake by the first bolt but it wouldn’t budge. An optional small cam will protect the run-out finish through easy terrain. 26m. 7 bolts. (A Fitz-Earle, M Goodrich, S Payne 12)

Angry Birds 5.12a SPORT
Starts 2m right of FQ. Technical face climbing takes you to a crux move through the roof. Trend left and finish above the ledge with small tree. 24m. 8 bolts. (A Fitz-Earle, M Goodrich 12)

Raving with the Raven 5.12a SPORT
Starts 5m left of Super Grover. Sustained, steep climbing leads to a challenging roof and the left-facing corner above. (M Hladik, J Ray 11)

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THE VALHALLA WALL

See pages 52-54 of guidebook.

Feast or Famine 5.12c MIXED
Located to the right of VPO on the overhanging arête. Start as for Carnivore. Take a few small cams for the beginning where the climbing is easier then tackle the short, bouldery crux through a small roof before it eases off on the upper arête. (M Hladik, J Ray 10)

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CBC Wall

See page 51 of guidebook.

Down Wind To Base 5.10b SPORT
Located on a short buttress at the top and to the left of the CBC wall. To reach it either climb Sad Goat or Nostalgia and then prepare for some thin and balancey moves. 5 bolts. (A Kristiansen 09)

Nostalgia 5.10d/10a SPORT
This climb is located on the buttress just left of CBC Wall and crosses Sad Goat in the middle. (p. 52 in the guidebook.) P1 (5.9): Follow the 6 bolts to a 2-bolt station on the half-way ledge. P2 (5.10a/d) There are 2 choices: Continue straight up the buttress, using a burly lunge/dyno move which is 5.10d, or walk 10 feet left on the ledge to a second 2-bolt station. Climb back right across the brown wall to join the direct line above the crux. (5.10a) Both take 5 or 6 clips. The route ends at the bolted station for Sad Goat. A 70m rope will have you off the route in one rap, otherwise use the mid-station. (H Mutch, A Kristiansen 09)

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THE BIG BOULDER

See page 52 of the guidebook.

Pool Boys 5.10b SPORT
This route traverses across the Big Boulder. P1 (5.8): Start on the left side of the Boulder, halfway up the trail to the top. Belay from a few small trees, 3m left of the tall pine. Traverse right along the slab across four existing routes to the anchor below a bulge. P2 (5.10b): Strenuous moves over a steep bulge on the right lead to easier ground above. Belay from the Air Farce anchor. Rappel off V20. (M Curran, H Mutch 18)

Mansplaining 5.12a SPORT
The line of bolts located between Deep End and Deep Throat. Ends at the P1 anchor for Pool Boys. The crux is after the open book corner. 24m 10 bolts (S Senecal 18)

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Nurses Wall

See page 57 of the guidebook.

Nurses Crack 5.10a TRAD
p. 57. Be aware of the big, loose block above. Finish left of the roof.

Self Awareness 5.9 TRAD
p. 57. The chains are just over the roof to the right of the last horizontal crack.

Med Error 5.11a SPORT
p. 57. A bolt now protects the upper section so there’s no need to bring gear.

Nursery Rhyme 5.10a MIXED
P 57. The start for this route has changed due to a broken hold and is now a bit harder than 5.9.

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For a downloadable pdf of these updates, click here: 2020 Waterline WKRG Updates.

 

Rock Guide Updates for Pulpit Rock in Nelson, BC

Pulpit Rock is an iconic feature in Nelson, British Columbia, and also the most popular hike in the city. Dozens of people a day tackle the three-kilometre trail to the lookout at the top of the bluff to enjoy one of the best views around. However, a lot of people don’t know there are rock climbing routes up the face of Pulpit. “The Date” was the first to be developed there in 2008 and is so named because the first ascensionist, David Lussier, thought it was a great, casual outing for Nelson couples. It’s a three-pitch 5.10a that is described on page 89 of the West Kootenay Rock Guide. Seven years later Nelson local Vince Hempsall developed another three-pitch route on Pulpit to celebrate the engagement to his wife, thus the name “The Engagement.” Dave and Vince then joined forces in 2016 to create “The Fling,” a two-pitch route that requires you to fling your body around an arête to gain a crack system near the mid-point of the second pitch. And last year, Vince again returned to project the show-stopper slab half way up the Pulpit face. Many people have top-roped that section of smooth granite but it didn’t go free until the key hold was unlocked: a mono on a crystal that looks like a diamond poking out of the granite slab. Naturally, the name of the route had to be “The Diamond.” Finally, this year visiting Australian Bokkie Hairsine and Nelson local Craig Stowell set to work to scrub a line on the other side of the gully. The result is the aptly named “Four On The Side” and, for good measure, Bokkie put a new pitch up beside the “The Fling.” Below are descriptions of the routes that have been developed on Pulpit Rock since the establishment of “The Date” in 2008. For full access details, see page 89 in the West Kootenay Rock Guide.

Gear: All routes are sport and a 60m rope and 14 quickdraws are adequate, including two long slings.

Access: See page 89 of the West Kootenay Rock Guide.

David Lussier on the first ascent of “The Fling.”

The Date 5.10a SPORT
P1: Start up the left hand (south-facing) slab and veer right continuing over blocks to a traverse. Finish below the dark slab at a station. (25m 5.7) P2:  To avoid rope drag, use long slings on the first 2 bolts of this pitch. Step right into the dirty gully and then back left onto thearête. After three bolts the route splits – go right for the 5.6 variation or left for the 5.10a. Finish at ta station above a short slab. (25m 5.6 or 5.10a) P: Step left and then back right up to a roof and pull through this using a giant hand hold (crux). Continue to the chains. (26m, 5.10a) (D Lussier, M Terlingen 08)

The Engagement 5.10b SPORT
Starts as for “The Date”. P1: Follow the first four bolts of “The Date” and then at the open-book corner, step left and finesse your way up the slab past 4 bolts to the large ledge and an anchor. (26m 5.10b) P2: Climb towards the roof, step right onto the face and continue up the easy slab to the anchor. (22m 5.10b) P3: Continue up and left, through the two roofs, then veer left to another roof. Step right and follow easy terrain to the final anchors. (26m 5.10b) (V Hempsall 15)

The Fling 5.11a SPORT
From the belay platform at the base of Pulpit Rock start on the right hand (west-facing) wall. P1: Follow the bolts to a bulge and pull the move up and to the left. Finish at the same chains as the first pitch of “The Date.” (22m 5.9) P2: Step left and down from the anchor to a small bush. High step onto a ledge and, using the arête, gently pull onto the slab. (This is the crux move of the pitch, aside from the thin crack. See video above for beta as to how to pull the move.) Follow the arête to a good rest then gently fling your body around the left side of the arête and into a corner. Climb the thin finger crack clipping the bolts on the right then step back right onto the face. Continue up easier terrain to the anchor. (20m 5.11a) P3: Finish on either the third pitch of “The Date” or “The Engagement.” (V Hempsall, D Lussier 16)

The Diamond 5.12a SPORT
This one-pitch climb is located to the right of the second pitch of “The Fling” and on the steepest part of the slab. To access it, climb either the first pitch of “The Date” or “The Fling.” From the anchors, step directly up onto the slab, then balance and finesse past the first two bolts. Trend right past the key crystal (the “diamond”) to a good finger ledge. Continue up to the open book corner and muscle your way to the top of it before stepping left onto easier ground that leads to the anchor up and right. Finish on either the third pitch of “The Engagement” or “The Date.” (V Hempsall 17)

We Met On Vernon Street 5.10a SPORT
This one-pitch climb starts 5 metres right of the platform at the base of “The Fling” at a horn of rock atop a large boulder. (There are bolts for the belayer.) Follow the bolts onto the slab and through a steep corner. (If you’re so inclined, take a .75 cam to protect the move.) Pass 3 more bolts to the anchors atop the first pitch of “The Date.” Continue on “The Fling,” “The Date,” or “The Diamond.” (P “Bokkie” Hairsine 18)

Craig Stowell navigates the spectacular crux move of the 3rd pitch on “Four On The Side.”

Four On The Side 5.10c SPORT
A four-pitch climb that follows the right side of the gully that splits the Pulpit face. The first two pitches are an example of adventure climbing in the city but the third boasts a spectacular move through an exposed roof. You can access this pitch by traversing right from the first anchors on “The Date,” across the gully, past the ring bolts to the two-bolt anchor below the obvious corner.  The access for the bottom pitches of this route are different than the rest on Pulpit as it starts lower on the face. Follow the regular approach onto the talus slop and look for the first rough track on your right. Follow this for 20 metres, past a small, mossy cliff, to the base of the gully and a belay bolt. P1: Traverse up and left through the lichen and dirt. (27m 5.9) P2: Side pull off the belay to reach the large detached flake. Continue up through progressively cleaner rock. Ignore the first ring bolts you see and traverse 5 metres right of them over easy slab to the two-bolt anchor below the corner. (28m 5.10a) P3: As mentioned above, you can skip the first two pitches and access this one by traversing to it from the first anchor of “The Date.” Climb up the corner to the diving board and then through the roof (crux). Continue up the corner and over the low-angle rock to the anchor. (28m 5.10c) P4: Follow the ramps up and right to the roof. Use the finger crack to power through it then continue on easy terrain to the top anchor. (28m 5.10a) (P “Bokkie” Hairsine, C. Stowell 18)

For more written descriptions and updates of other areas in the West Kootenays, download the West Kootenay Rock Guide updates.

Blundstone Boots Review – 4 Sports, 1 Day, 1 Pair of Blundstones

I’ve reviewed a lot of gear over the years and sometimes it’s hard to think of new ways to test things. This one, however, was a lot of fun: 4 sports, 1 day, 1 pair of Blundstones. This is how the review starts:

Blundstone boots are the de facto footwear for the mountain town I live in. They’re so ubiquitous, the entrance way to house parties resemble a Blundstone factory floor. I remember one New Year’s Eve bash in particular where there were about 20 pairs of the boots by the front door and at the end of the party, CBC Journalist Bob Keating was dismayed to learn a particularly exuberant reveller had taken home his size 12s, and left him her size sevens. Despite their popularity, I had never owned a pair of Blundstones, preferring my Chuck Taylors even in the soppiest of weather. So when I was given a pair of black, leather-lined, round toe #558 boots to review I admit it took me a long time to leave the Chucks behind and start stomping around in them. In fact, my first few goes with the Blundstones were a bit uncomfortable: there was a particular spot that pinched around my ankle but very quickly the leather moulded to my foot and they were good to go.

At that point I looked into the company and learned it was started by John and Eliza Blundstone in Hobart, Australia, way back in 1870. It’s since changed hands a few times and is now owned by the Cuthbertson family who continue to operate the headquarters out of Tasmania, but most of the boots have been made overseas since 2007. (As of this writing the company makes 37 different kinds and colours including steel-toed work boots, kids boots and winter-specific boots with Thinsulate insulation.)

Read the entire review on Mountain Culture Group.

Bouldering in Blundstones. Not recommended.

Helheim Rock Guide Updates

There’s a new rock climbing area on Bannock Forest Service Road in the Slocan Valley thanks in part to the efforts of valley resident Daren Tremaine with help from Jason Hartley and Albertan Marcus Norman. The area, which they’ve named “Helheim,” boasts steep lines on two, 20-metre-high boulders, which are made up of a type of gneiss that’s reminiscent of limestone. It’s a great spot for hot summer days as it’s completely shaded. Alternatively, some of the steeper routes can be done in the rain. Be warned, however, that it’s a popular spot for mosquitos in the late Spring so bring bug dope if climbing here in June. To access the area, follow the directions for Gimli Peak on page 143 of the West Kootenay Rock Guide. Once you turn onto Bannock Forest Service Road set your odometer to zero. You’ll cross a bridge, navigate through two deep water bars and when your odometer hits 1.3 kilometres look for the orange flagging tape on the poplar on the left (south) side of the road. If you have a low-clearance vehicle, park at the large pullout on the left of the road before the first water bar. (In fact, this is a good pullout for all vehicles as there’s very little room to park on the road closer to the crag.) From this spot Helheim is an easy 300-metre walk up the road. The rough access trail to the crag is about three metres downhill (east) of the flagging tape. Step off the road and down a steep bank then follow the trail for about 100 metres until it reaches the western most point of the west boulder. Follow the trail to the left (north) where you’ll find a flat area that’s great for dumping your gear and allowing young kids to play. The first climb you come across is the steep “Hela Monster.” The east boulder is just past this and harbours the majority of climbs. All routes are sport, all have anchors and a 50-metre rope is required. Members of TAWKROC and Wonow Media have only been on a few of these routes, therefore the following descriptions are mostly from Daren. Descriptions start at “Hela Monster” and then follow a clockwise direction around the boulders. (Daren’s original topo had the routes listed from East to West – see if you can figure out the word play on some of the route names.)

Project – The first route you come to when approaching via the trail. It goes up the super steep arête on the north-east corner of the West boulder. Marcus has requested this remain a closed project until he gets it. Not that he need worry as there aren’t a lot of 5.14 climbers in the area.

Hey Yo! Sediba Man 5.10c —This route starts on the west face of the east boulder and traverses left through a line of pockets to the arête. The upper slab ain’t a gimme. (D Tremaine 16)

Sediba Left 5.11a — A bouldery start to “Sediba Man.” Grab the quartz crimper and traverse right after the first bolt to avoid the scaly rock. A long draw on the third bolt is helpful. Continue up the arête through the tricky slab. (D Tremaine 17)

The Fuzzy Bucket 5.11b — Named for the mossy jug at the start of the route, which has since been scrubbed clean and is now a bucket with a brazilian. This route boasts a few stacked boulder problems and three people had a hand in its construction including Daren, Gary Parkstrom and Ryan Johnstone. (R Johnstone 15)

In Buckle Boots 5.11a — The line up the centre of the East Boulder’s North face. This route also had a bomber hold with moss in it but it too has been shorn.  Save some jam for the crux move at the top. (J Hartley 18)

The Lazy Dog 5.10b — Follow the obvious flake that starts near the east side of the face and then finesse through the steeper wall above. (J Hartley 15)

Jumped Over 5.11d — The easiest way to get a taste of the prow. Start as for “The Lazy Dog” then step left at the roof and when things start getting too technical, head back right to the last bolt on “The Lazy Dog.” (D Tremaine 16)

Brown Fox 5.12a — Follow “Jumped Over” but stay left near the top until you’re perched on the arête at the summit of the prow. (D Tremaine 16)

The Quick 5.12+ — This route lays it on from start to finish. A series of big pulls leads to a fingery, slopey traverse and a balancey finish on the arête. The slopey edges to the right of the last bolt are in, but if you traverse all the way onto “The Lazy Dog,” then you’re a lazy dog. (D Tremaine 17)

Helgrindr 5.13a — High-quality climbing that Marcus says will soon to be an area test piece. After an easy start the action gets going with a step-up dyno. A selection of bad holds guards the finishing arête. (M Norman 17)

At Precisely 12 o’clock 5.12a — Practice your heel hooks and knee smears for this one, which is found on the eastern-most route on the face. You can start as for Helgrindr and then move right to the arête but the more aesthetic line is to start on the left below the small roof. Follow the knife-edge arête and hang on for the lip traverse. Stepping left onto the slab by the fourth bolt invites public shaming. (D Tremaine 16)

The next two routes are located on the shorter south face and are reached by walking in a clockwise direction for about 10 metres from “At Precisely 12 o’clock.” They’re located to the right of the obvious, narrow chimney.

BJL Direct V3 — You can top rope this one off the chains for “BJL” or you can boulder it although this highball problem isn’t without consequence. There’s a crux getting off the ground and another on the upper slab. Start just left of the arête on the side pull. Hit the slopey pod, then a jug. Top out on the same tricky slab that completes BJL. (D Tremaine 16)

Bill, John and Lisa 5.10c — This route boasts a surprisingly hard start which then leads to a fun traverse on great holds. Start at the bottom of the obvious chimney (the log that’s there has become a much appreciated feature, but the route does go without it) and then trend right through the wacos. Save some juice for the top slab because it ain’t over at the lip. (D Tremaine 16)

The next three routes are located on the short west face of the east boulder toward the south-west corner. The easiest way to get to them is from “BJL”: walk in a clockwise direction from the chimney until you reach the obvious two-metre-wide gully between the west and east boulders. Step into the gully and you’ll notice a line of bolts on the right (east) wall. This is “Down The Rabbit Hole” and the two routes on either side of it can either be done on top rope or as boulder problems. (Note that the landing here is not great, however.)

Black Rabbit 5.10 top rope — Top rope the line to the right of the bolts by using the directional and the anchor of “Down The Rabbit Hole.”

Down The Rabbit Hole 5.10b — Follow the line of bolts. This was meant to be an easy way to the top of the boulder that avoided the chimney grovel but it turned out to be harder than it looks.

White Rabbit 5.9 top rope — Top rope the line to the left of the bolts but using the directional and the anchor of “Down The Rabbit Hole.”

For more written descriptions and updates of other areas in the West Kootenays, download the West Kootenay Rock Guide updates.

New 5.7 Route On Natural Rock Arch In Purcells

Jasmin Caton prepares gear for the first ascent of the route that leads up and over the arch feature in the background. Vince Hempsall photo.

Last July professional photographer Steve Ogle, ACMG guide and Patagonia athlete Jasmin Caton, and I climbed a new route up a beautiful natural rock arch feature in the middle of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy.

The entire adventure is detailed in my article coming out in the Canadian Alpine Journal this Spring but below you’ll find the description of the new seven-pitch route we put up on the arch called “Grizzly Groove.” The name is to honour the Ktunaxa nation that refers to this Jumbo-Toby Creek watershed area as Qat’muk, a sacred place where the Grizzly Bear Spirit is born, where it celebrates in ceremonial dances, and where it eventually dies. If you’re visiting this incredible piece of rock, please be respectful of the importance of this area, both culturally and environmentally, and leave no trace.

Steve Ogle photographs Jasmin Caton on the 5th pitch of the Grizzly Groove. Vince Hempsall photo.

ACCESS

From the parking lot of the popular Monica Meadows camping spot in the West Kootenay, hike the trail for about 45 minutes until it flattens out and you come to a camping area. Head through this and make your way down the hill in a south-east direction over bogs and streams aiming for a talus field. Follow the talus heading north-east. There will be a notch on the north-east side of the talus that looks quite steep, but as you come around the corner there’s a lower-angle couloir that you can go up to access the next drainage. From the top you’ll see the arch and the lake at the base of it and it’s an easy hike through meadows to reach it. All told it was a surprisingly easy three-hour hike. From the lake closest to the arch, hike up the talus and, depending on the time of year, the snow slope, make the awkward move past the bollard and cautiously step through loose gravel and stones to reach the main corner that leads to the arch. The rock in the corner is too chossy to climb but there’s good quality rock on the slab about five metres to climber’s left. Start there.

Grizzly Groove topo. Wonow Media copyright. All rights reserved.

SUMMARY

Grizzly Groove, AD, 5.7, 300m (7 pitches), gear to 3”. FA: J. Caton, S. Ogle, V. Hempsall, July 26, 2017

Gear: 1 full set of Black Diamond camalots from 0.2” to 3” plus doubles of a #1 and #2. Gear belays. Two 60-metre ropes and webbing necessary for rappels.

P1. 5.7, 45m: There are many loose rocks at the base of the route as well as spread throughout different sections so tread lightly and be aware of your rope. Start 4 metres to the left of the main corner and climb the low-angle slab to a large ledge.

P2: 5.5, 60m: Continue up the slab, placing small pieces in discontinuous cracks to a small stance.

P3: 5.5, 60m: Same as above.

P4: 5.7, 60m: The wall steepens slightly here. Continue up and then veer right to a stance about 20m under the south side of the arch.

P5: 5.7, 20m: Move up through the large loose blocks to a stance beside a triangle-shaped horn on the north side of the arch.

P6: 5.7, 60m: Step right, then down climb three metres before traversing right and into a dihedral. Place gear then continue up and right to another fist-sized corner crack. Follow this to its termination then step left into easy terrain to the top. The quality of rock on this pitch is spectacular and the jamming is excellent.

P7: If you’re so inclined, climb onto the top of the arch. From a spot about 10m down the east side of the main ridge make an awkward move over a chasm onto the arch proper and climb the easy terrain (5.7) making sure to go over the large boulder feature rather than around it. Descend the way you came to the main ridge.

Steve Ogle leads the 6th pitch of Grizzle Groove. Vince Hempsall photo.

DESCENT

There’s a small tree one metre below the main ridge that’s northwest of the north side of the arch. Using two 60m ropes, lower off that to another larger tree about 38 metres directly below. From there do another ~35m rappel, trending skier’s right, to a slung horn. From that station keep lowering skier’s right for about 55m to a large group of trees. The next rap is a full 60m and deposits you on the large ledge where your first anchor was located. There’s a two-nut anchor there and another 55m rap takes you to near the base of the route. (Be careful of loose rock.) One more 20m rap off an anchor left behind made of two stoppers and a #1 cam leaves you at the top of the snow field. (We rappelled off a snow bollard at the peak of the snow field to avoid hiking down the slippery slope. A 60m rap landed us about 20m above the rock talus.)

Canada’s Only Rock Climbing Pub

The Lion’s Head Smoke and Brew Pub has a special place in my heart…and belly. Not only does it have dozens of amazing brew pub beers on tap, it also serves delicious BBQ and smoked food. And it’s located close to rock climbs. Really close! In fact, it’s the only pub in Canada with rock climbing in its backyard.

I recently did a story for Destinations Castlegar about the the Lion’s Head that involved a really fun photo and video shoot with Castlegar photographer Lee Orr. The pub is located on Broadwater Road about a five-minute drive from downtown Castlegar, and “is a decades-old, tudor-style institution that’s renowned for it’s craft beer offerings,” I wrote in the piece. “The business was established in 1986 and Troy Pyett and Carly Hadfield purchased it in 2009. It wasn’t long after that local rock climbers approached them for permission to establish new, bolted, sport climbing routes on the impressive rock face located in the bar’s backyard.”

To read the story in its entirety, log on to www.destinationcastlegar.com/2017/06/20/only-rock-climbing-pub-in-canada.

For a topo of the routes, visit the Pub Wall updates page on this site.