Brette Harrington and Tony McLane have completed the first ascent of Manchu Wok, a 13-pitch 5.12d, on the Chinese Puzzle Wall in B.C. This is Harrington’s third new multi-pitch trad 5.12 in three years.
The white granite diamond-shaped wall rises above the Nesakwatch Creek valley on the south side of the west buttress of South Illusion Peak. Marc-André Leclerc and Harrington first explored the wall’s potential and eventually made the first ascent of Hidden Dragon, an 11-pitch 5.11c.
“Why hadn’t this beautiful 500-metre wall, just an hour’s hike from the trail head, seen an ascent?” wrote Harrington in her story for the American Alpine Journal. “Described that way, it sounds like a pleasant walk in the park. But from our vantage, we had no perception of the height or the characteristics of the rock. I would later learn that, within the small community of climbers who actually knew about the wall, it had a formidable reputation. It is almost entirely overhanging, with huge, looming blocks the size of grand pianos suspended by unknown forces. The Chinese Puzzle Wall is aptly named.”
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Here's a view of our line Hidden Dragon, as the first ascent of Chinese Puzzle wall, #chilliwackrivervalley, #britishcolumbia . @mdre92 and I spent 8 days cleaning the line by aid, and freeing it. The route is a sustained 12b of 10 pitches. It follows continuous flared cracks. @arcteryx @mtwaddingtons @evolvusa
Hidden Dragon follows continuous corners that move around the giant roofs on the face. “The rock quality was excellent, and the climbing was incredible,” wrote Harrington. “We are confident this will become a popular wall in the future.”
In 2018, Harrington returned with Caro North and Chris Kalman to make the first ascent of Crouching Tiger, a 500-metre 5.12b up the centre of the wall. “It is named for its prominent orange stripped corner on pitch four,” said Harrington. “Marc-André and I planned on climbing this line together after we established the first ascent of the wall via Hidden Dragon in 2016.”
Harrington returned this year with Squamish crusher, Tony McLane, to add her third 500-metre test-piece to the face. The resulted Manchu Wok has pitches that go as: 5.11, 5.10, 5.12d, 5.11, 5.11, 5.9, 5.11, 5.11, 5.10, 5.10, 5.11, 5.8 and 5.10. Harrington wrote pitch-by-pitch descriptions for every route on her blog here.
Watch a short clip of McLane on the route below. “When we established this climb, it was this pitch and the following that caught my eye,” Harrington said about the video. “Two double cracks stripe the wall through a continuous overhang. I established it by aid, then we proceeded to clean it. We returned on Friday to make to continuous first free ascent of the entire climb, including freeing this crux pitch for the first time at 5.12d.”
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Yesterday @tony.mclane and I sent our new route on the Chinese Puzzle Wall at 12d, 12 pitches, 500m. We hiked in the night before, bivied, then started up in the morning. I managed to send the crux pitch by the skin of my teeth, trying my absolute hardest, and it went first go. We then continued up the wall with sustained and powerful climbing in each pitch, topping out in the late evening and rappelled the face. Such an incredible wall to explore. I will be updating my blog soon with beta and topos. photo: of tony climbing one of the stellar upper pitches of the climb #chinesepuzzlewall #ClimbOnMA @arcteryx @lasportivana @julbo_eyewear @mtwaddingtons @dmm_wales #firstascenting #chilliwackbc #explorebc