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Recap – Kootenay Climbing Festival 2015

It’s amazing to think the Kootenay Climbing Festival has entered its fourth year. This past Sunday, September 20, the TAWKROC directors again returned to the natural rock climbing wall behind the Lions Head Pub in Robson, BC, and set up a zipline for the kids, slackline, door prize draw, silent auction, and the always popular Tower of Power competition, which sees competitors try to stack the most number of milk crates… while standing on them! New for this year was the kid climbing wall (affectionately referred to as the route “Underage Drinking,” as well as the story-telling competition at the end of the night in which competitors told tales based on the theme “Epic” and were awarded prizes.

The Kootenay Climbing Festival 2015 also included an excellent presentation by guest speaker Ian Welsted who talked about his various mountaineering adventures around the world and described what it took to win the prestigious Piolet D’Or award.

Over 200 moms, dads, kids and climbers visited the festival that lasted from 2pm until 9pm. The event is hosted by TAWKROC, a chapter of the Access Society of BC, and its mandate is to promote outdoor climbing and raise funds for new route development in the region.

Huge thanks go out to this year’s sponsors: CASBC, Vpo Nelson, Powderhound, ROAM, Snowpack, High Country Sports, Summit Mountain Guides, Black Diamond and Kootenay Meadows.

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.

 

 

Record Numbers Attend Kootenay Climbing Festival

I was happy to be involved with organizing TAWKROC’s third annual Kootenay Climbing Festival this past weekend.  A record number of kids came out and at one point there was a child on every single top rope on the wall. So awesome!  It was held at the Lion’s Head Pub in Robson and the events included a zipline, slackline, sport climbs on the crag behind the pub and the ever-popular “Tower of Power” crate stacking contest. Here’s a link that explains more about the event and below is a gallery of images taken throughout the day.

Kootenay Climbing Festival Returns September 20th

The Kootenay Rock Climbing Festival is pleased to announce that Australian mountaineering and climbing legend John Fantini will be guest speaking at the event. Fantini, who now resides in Penticton, BC, has innumerable first alpine and rock climbing ascents to his credit around the world and, at 71 years old, is still going strong, putting up hard new sport routes in Skaha Provincial Park.

Organized by TAWKROC (the Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers), the Kootenay Climbing Festival is now entering its third year and will occur on Saturday, September 20, from 2:00pm to 9:00pm. The event will be held by the natural rock climbing wall behind the Lions Head Pub in Robson, BC, and will feature a zipline for the kids, slackline, door prize draw, silent auction, and the always popular Tower of Power competition, which sees competitors try to stack the most number of milk crates… while standing on them!

Different for this year is the fact the Lion’s Head now has a family dining license which means kids can come and go from the restaurant anytime before 7:00pm. (Children must be accompanied by an adult.) Everyone young and old are welcome to the event and there is no coverage charge although, as this is a fundraiser to help new outdoor route development, donations are greatly appreciated.

TAWKROC was established in 2009 to help promote outdoor rock climbing in the Kootenay region by organizing work parties to improve rock climbing areas, both for locals and tourists, and by offering a bolt fund for climbing developers. Every year the organization reimburses climbers who spend time and money putting up new rock climbs in the area. In 2012, TAWKROC became a chapter of the Climbing Access Society of British Columbia and its directors are now committed to ensuring various climbing areas in the Kootenays remain accessible for all.

Last year TAWKROC reimbursed outdoor route developers for $668.48 worth of climbing hardware for new areas developed in Castlegar, Nelson and Creston. Also, later this autumn TAWKROC is organizing a work party to improve access to the Koch Creek climbing area in the Slocan Valley. In addition, the organization’s directors have been busy replacing old anchors and bolts at the Kinnaird Wall in Castlegar, an area that’s been a climbing destination for locals and visitors alike since the early 1960s.

For more information about TAWKROC or the Kootenay Climbing Festival, please contact director Vince Hempsall at vhempsall at access-society.ca.

Report from Kootenay Climbing Association AGM

Nelson is one step closer to having a rock climbing gym again after the first Annual General Meeting of the Kootenay Climbing Association last night. Over 75 people came out to the meeting at Selkirk’s Mary Hall, hosted by KCA, the non-profit organization that took on the task of building a new climbing gym in the city after Gravity closed its doors last Spring.

Attendees ranged from families with young children to hardcore climbers and mountaineers from all over the Kootenay region. Everyone from Mirek Hladik (the former owner of the Gravity) to Golden resident Dave Jones, author of the new Rogers Pass mountaineering guidebook, were in attendance.

Aside from choosing Directors at the meeting (local climbers Shawn Tasker, Scott Jeffery, Larry Bickerton, Ico de Zwart, Cam Shute and Nate Smith), the group also discussed the fact the City approved its proposal to use a portion of the Mary Hall gymnasium to install a climbing wall. The KCA is now negotiating with Selkirk College regarding the facility.

Currently, the group’s financials includes approximately $20,000 in 0% loans from members of the climbing community and about $100,000 is required to build the wall. Intentions to apply for grants through the Columbia Basin Trust were shared along with other fundraising ideas including a $50 “Wall Sponsorship” program and a “Founding Investor” plan. Also, new memberships, donations, investor loans and the silent auction at the event have raised a total of $4,500.

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Guide and Nelson resident David Lussier was also in attendance and he presented a slideshow about his climbing history in the region, which includes numerous first ascents such as the first free ascent of Mt. Dag in the Valhallas, which he did with Alan Jones. He also discussed his adventure in Patagonia last month when he climbed Cerro Torre, one of the most visually stunning and yet technically difficult peaks in the Southern Hemisphere.

For the past four months Dave trained at the tiny bouldering cave at Selkirk College in Castlegar and on the 5-metre-high ice falls on the side of the road going up to the Whitewater Ski Resort. He then flew down to Argentina but because of the infamous weather in the Patagonia region he and his climbing partner (Canmore guide Carl Johnson) didn’t have a lot of expectations. They lucked out with a good weather window, however, and decided to attempt the 3,100-metre Cerro Torre. The approach took them two days of hiking across rivers and over glaciers and, when they reached the tower they only had a few hours rest before they began simul-climbing the lower half of the route in the dark. (The duo climbed the 1,500-metre West Face route on Cerro Torre a free line that involves rock, ice and mixed climbing skills with a rating of M4 and grade 5+ ice.)

To make the adventure even more interesting, Dave dropped one of his ice tools half way up the route and was facing the prospect of somehow trying to finish the technically demanding upper ice pitches with only one tool. Luckily, there was another climber on the tower who had soloed the route earlier in the day and was rappelling while Dave and Carl were still ascending. In a moment of extreme generosity, he loaned Dave his ice tool and Dave managed to finish the route, reaching the summit in perfectly sunny conditions.

“It was a climb of a lifetime really,” said Dave, who’s celebrating his 40th birthday this year. “We went there not expecting to climb that route but when we got the weather window we went for it and everything worked out.” Dave went on to say that having an indoor climbing gym in Nelson is integral to ensuring others enjoy similar adventures. “It’s really important for our community, our families and individual climbers to have a climbing gym in Nelson,” said Dave. “

There are four ways to become a member of the Kootenay Climbing Association:

1. Fill out a form at Valhalla Pure Outfitters on Baker Street in Nelson

2. Go to the KCA web site, print out a membership form and mail it to the address on the form

3. Call Ico de Zwart at 250-505-3479 and make arrangements

4. Email info@kootenayclimbing.com
For more information, log on to the KCA’s facebook page.

For more images of Dave Lussier’s adventure, log on to the Summit Mountain Guides facebook page.

Donors for the silent auction event included: Valhalla Pure Outfitters, Ridgeline Metal Works and Kootenay Glass and Mirror, Whitewater Ski Resort, Summit Mountain Guides, NRG, ROAM, Oso Negro, G3, Kootenay Bakery, Otter Books, Red Moon Gallery, Gravity Therapy, Kootenay Allergy Solutions, Shelley Adams, Brad Winter, Dave Jones and Wonow Media Ltd.

Grohman Narrows Trail Party a Success

Another successful work party was hosted by TAWKROC and CASBC on Sunday, June 9th, with volunteers giving a face-lift to the Grohman Narrows canyon climbing area near Nelson.

Kudos to volunteers Shawn, Hannah, Shane, Khaled, Nadine, Brendan, Youri and Vince for getting their hands dirty and doing a ton of work before hopping on the sweet routes there. For a list of the 11 different things the crew accomplished that day, log on to www.tawkroc.org.