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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.

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.

Mr Winkle’s Hideout Rock Guide Updates

The lower Slocan Bluffs in Slocan City have seen some development recently thanks to the efforts of valley resident Daren Tremaine with some help from Jason Hartley and Albertan Marcus Norman. The 30-metre-high cliff, called Mr. Winkle’s Hideout, boasts a stunning white face that kicks back at mid-height and offers some fantastic upper-grade climbing. The fact that no-one had developed the crag before last year is surprising given that it’s located just down the old rail trail from the path that leads to the popular “Under the Big Top” route. It is set back behind tall trees, however, and hard to spot from the trail so most people miss it as they walk towards the tunnel. To access the wall, follow the directions for the Slocan Bluffs on page 121 of the West Kootenay Rock Guide. Walk the rail trail past the first walls and the recently upgraded trail leading to Under the Big Top. Continue on the rail trail and 10 metres past Pyramid Rock is a faint trail on your right. This trail requires some maintenance but it switchbacks up and to looker’s left until it reaches the base of the wall. The first completed climb you come to is “Drive By Trucker.” All routes are sport and require a 60-metre rope. The projects here are still closed as Daren will continue to work on them this summer. Members of TAWKROC and Wonow Media have not had a chance to get on these routes yet, so the following descriptions are from Daren. Routes listed from left to right.

Note: A stick-clip is recommended as the first bolts are high. Also, be cautious of kicking off rocks as they have a tendency to careen down to the rail trail where hikers and dog walkers also travel.

A. Gong Show 5.11a. The gong is the flakes by the first bolt. But the name could also refer to the epic effort of putting in the anchor. There’s a possible extension of this route to the top for someone who’s feeling really strong. (D Tremaine 17)

There’s now a closed project between Gong Show and Attenborough Style.

B. Attenborough Style 5.12- More fun than a naked mole rat! A bouldery start leads to fun jug climbing followed by a thin crux and a balancey move over to the finish of Elemental Creamsicle. (D Tremaine 17)

C. Elemental Creamsicle 5.12b/c The first route put up on the wall. A bouldery start leads to some steep slopers and a great rest. Endless underclings will soften you up for the thin and perplexing crux. (D Tremaine 17)

D. Mind the Gap 5.10d Fun climbing up endless rounded jugs. A bit of a stopper crux for short people. The anchors are to the left of the large roof. No one is going to agree on a grade for this one. (D Tremaine 17)

E. Hadron Collider A closed project that is a continuation past the anchors for Mind the Gap.

F. The Exfoliator 5.11+ Step right off Mind the Gap to climb around and over the prominent nose (glue-ins). The rock here is a bit scaly and sandy, thus the name, but it cleans up well over time and the fun movement makes it worth doing. (D Tremaine 18)

G. 7-11 5.11a The name says it all: easy start, hard finish. A quality outing. (J Hartley 17)

H. Fly By Trucker 5.12c An amazing position on the highest part of the wall. Underclings and bad feet will demand plenty of body tension and a couple of deadpoints. (M Norman 17)

I. Project The right-hand arete.

There’s another closed project that’s just started to be developed a bit further right of the arete.

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

New Access at Koch Creek Climbing Area

There’s something so satisfying about improving access to a climbing area – even one that hasn’t seen a lot of traffic in the past decade. Last Sunday myself and six other volunteers enjoyed some late-autumn sunshine at the Koch Creek crags in the Slocan Valley (about an hour drive from Nelson & Castlegar) and built a new access trail. It was part of a joint CASBC/TAWKROC Adopt-a-Crag day and we moved the trailhead so climbers would no longer have to walk the road. We also built stairs up to the new trail, brushed the encroaching foliage, dug steps, carved switchbacks and cleared blow-downs. Here are some pics from the day:

The volunteers for the day included David Lussier, Bob Sawyer, Khaled Ben-rahba, Craig Stowell, Hannah Roy, JT Croston and me and together we cut in about 500m of new trail.

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Directions for the new trailhead are as follows: from the parking area walk west for 30 metres until you see the stairs on your right. Take these to the path and then follow up until you reach a small rock face (there are no routes here). Continue east along the trail, through the switchbacks and the next rock wall you come to is Lower Hydro Slab and the two crack climbs Flying Lichen Crack (the 5.8 on the left) and The Grunge (the 5.11c on the right). From here continue east until you come to a prominent dead stump and fork in the trail. Go further east to reach Upper Hydro Slab and Glacier Slabs or turn west and scramble up the narrow ravine between the slabs to the next trail on the left, which will lead you to Grizzly Slabs. To reach Ambrosia, walk the skid track from the parking lot (ignore the stairs) to its end where you’ll pick up a flagged trail. Follow this for ~10 minutes to the base of the route.

There are 19 routes at Koch Creek and many are excellent crack climbs, including the fun Leaning Corner (5.11b) pictured in black and white below. There are some excellent slabs as well, including the three-pitch classic 5.8 mixed route Ambrosia (seen below in colour – Dave Lussier is poised at the start of it).

There is also plenty of potential at Koch Creek. Just 50m east of the parking lot is a huge boulder tucked into the trees on the north side of the road. And then there are cracks like the one below that still have yet to see a first ascent:

In the Spring of 2015, the TAWKROC volunteers will again return to Koch Creek to continue trail-building efforts and to scrub the routes and retrofit anchors and hardware, some of which have been there since the early 1990s. For more about Koch Creek, check out page 113 in the West Kootenay Climbing Guide.

The TAWKOC volunteers enjoying a beer after a hard day’s work: Vince Hempsall, Bob Sawyer, Craig Stowell, David Lussier and Khaled Benrhaba.

The TAWKOC volunteers enjoying a beer after a hard day’s work: Vince Hempsall, Bob Sawyer, Craig Stowell, David Lussier and Khaled Benrhaba.

 

 

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.