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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.

Good News In The Time Of Covid

We’ve all seen the bad news. But what good news stories are happening out there during the Covid-19 global pandemic?

I was getting tired of the bad news barrage and we were only one week into the global shut-down due to Covid-19. So I decided to turn the tables and dedicate all the Kootenay Mountain Culture and Coast Mountain Culture social media channels to good news. It was therapeutic and inspiring. This is how I started off the blog that tracked all the good news items:

Hello beautiful readers. By now many of us have undergone a barrage of recent news and social media posts that are doomy and gloomy. So we’ve decided to change the channel. For the foreseeable future we’ve dedicating all our social media posts to sharing the good news happening locally, as well as all the good local businesses out there and how we can continue to support them to help them stay afloat. We’ve also decided to collect them here so we have one resource for all the goodness out there.

Remember, we are all neighbours. We are all each other’s support network. We are all locals. #localsforlocals

To see all the good news items, visit mountainculturegroup.com.

Meet Her Highness Mia Noblet – The World’s Best Highliner

From Brazil to China to Norway, British Columbia highliner Mia Noblet has spent this past year walking her way into the record books.

“I never really cared much about records,” says Mia Noblet who, despite her nonchalance, has had an epic year highlining around the world. In April 2018, she set a new female world record, with a 614-metre-long highline walk in Brazil. The next month, she walked a highline in China in high heels. And in August, she set another female highlining record in Norway: she walked a full kilometre in the sky.

So begins a story I did about Mia Noblet for Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine that appeared in the summer 2019 issue. Mia has always fascinated me because of her humble beginnings, her calm personality and, above all, her skill. I can barely hold my composure on a slackline that’s a foot off the ground never mind commit to walking a strip of webbing between two mountain peaks. The amount of strength, balance, and mental serenity required is staggering (excuse the pun).

UPDATE: I had the good fortune to see Mia in action in July 2020 while on a canoe excursion with my son and father on Cottonwood Lake, a regional park near Mia’s hometown of Nelson, BC, that’s threatened by logging. I took the above photo and video of her while there and after she walked the line without incident she told me it was one of the harder ones she’d done because there wasn’t a safety line, which typically helps stabilize things.

To read the KMC story about Mia in its entirety, visit mountainculturegroup.com.

Squatter’s Bluff Rock Guide Updates

This is the second in a regular series showcasing the new rock climbing routes in the West Kootenay Region of south-central British Columbia. For written descriptions of these and other routes, download the West Kootenay Rock Guide updates.

Kootenay Climbing Association Coverage in the Nelson Star

My article about the KCA’s AGM and fundraising efforts for a new climbing gym was picked up by the Nelson Star. It garnered a full-page spread in today’s hardcopy issue and an online spread in their sports section: http://www.nelsonstar.com/sports/197674301.html

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.

dl3

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.

Amazing Gimli Peak Video

Feast your eyes on this great video of the classic South Ridge climb on Gimli Peak in the Valhalla Mountain Range. It was put together by photographer Paul Lapides and it documents his ascent of the route in July 2012. For more about Paul’s adventure check out the Paul Lapides Blog.

Beware the Adorable Mountain Goat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.