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Four Memorable New B.C. Alpine Routes in 2019

Four headline-making new alpine routes from British Columbia this year

As the year comes to an end, it’s a tradition here at Gripped to look back over the past 12 months at some of the new routes and epic sends.

From new moderate bouldering problems to mega alpine lines, there’s been a lot of memorable climbs from coast to coast to coast.

There were dozens of high-quality alpine routes climbed across Canada this year, below are four that made headlines from B.C.

Kootenay Canaleta

In November, David Lussier and Jen Olson made the first ascent of Kootenay Canaleta, a new 350-metre M5 WI4 mixed route on B.C.’s famous Mount Gimli in Valhalla Provincial Park.

It climbs the north face of Gimli up rock, ice and snow to the summit. “David graciously let me lead the first pitch which had the most ice climbing on it,” said Olson. “He then gracefully and bravely ascended a classic heady thin ice flowing over rock pitch that led us into the main weakness of the face.”

The two top climbers then rappelled the route off slung horns and chockstones. Olson said the route reminded her of the classic Supercanaleta on Fitz Roy in Patagonia, which she climbed a few years ago.

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Kootenay Canaleta D+, WI4, M5, 350m. David Lussier of @summit_mtn_guides inspired a grand Valhalla adventure on the north face of Gimli Peak (9100’ / 2774m). We camped the night before near the south ridge, we used skis over snow, rock, ice and moss to get to the west col. David graciously let me lead the first pitch which had the most ice climbing on it. He then gracefully and bravely ascended a classic heady thin ice flowing over rock pitch that led us into the main weakness of the face. Four more mixed pitches took us into the last hundred meters of the upper couloir. We found it protected reasonably well with stubbies, nuts and cams. We descended the route with mostly slung horns or chockstones. Sadly, my phone slipped away down the face and with it many spectacular photos of David crushing. This route reminded me of the supercanaleta on Fitzroy (a mini version) without the international traffic. Gimli offers a pristine setting ‘more beautiful than the sun’ and the North face is definitely a ‘fire-shelter’. We were lucky with perfect winter temperatures just below freezing. David is a solid partner right through to the 18th hour after slogging in the forest with skis on our packs for an alpinist's dinner: chips, beer, and kombucha 🍺🍹 I feel blessed to be a part of such a talented and strong community of climbers and guides. Thanks for the invitation @summit_mtn_guides Photos by David Lussier Aerial photo of Gimli by @wildairphoto

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Canadian Ian Welsted and Scottish climber Simon Richardson made the first ascent of a huge alpine route Mount Waddington via the Epaulette Ridge. The two veterans spent five days en route in deep snow navigating a number of complicated sections of the peak.

“It’s a beautiful, classic line that I had my eyes on for a long time, but I never got there before retiring,” said the legendary Don Serl, who spent many years climbing new routes in the area.

“Unprotected snow climbing is my least favourite kind,” said Welsted. “As we traversed through the top-out of Eamonn Walsh’s Uber-Groove, we encountered just that. Surfing the very top of the snow ridge for a rope length, Simon belayed off a snow bollard using a somewhat old-school belay technique, telling me, ‘If you fall, fall to the left.’ As I was pirouetting on the cornice in an effort to au-cheval, I had to somewhat briskly ask which left. With no snow stakes present, we opted for a very powdery traverse of a 50 degree face.”

In the photo below, they climbed the obvious slanting snow ramp just below the northwest ridge crest, slanting up from lower left in this photo. They gained the Epaulette Glacier (centre with the Angel Glacier behind) and then had some difficult corniced ridge pitches beyond that.

They then topped the False summit (centre), Northwest summit (snowy summit at left) and main summit (right rear). “They then made a challenging descent of the Bravo Glacier to Rainy Knob,” said Serl.

Epauette Ridge on Waddington Photo John Scurlock

Ruggend Mountain

This summer, Ahren Rankin, James Rode and Garner Berferon completed a new route on Rugged Mountain that goes at V 5.10 A0 over 22 pitches.

“Climbed over a series of three weekends starting in Augusut 2017 and finished on August long weekend 2019, this route climbs the dramatic Southwest face of Rugged Mountain in the Haihte Range which rises above the Nomash Valley near the coastal community of Zeballos on Vancouver Island,” said Rankin.

“The intention of establishing the route the way we did was to leave behind a large and safe alpine climbing route which could be attempted by climbers of various ability levels, with the bolted belays allowing for rapid retreat back down the route if necessary.”

The Southwest Face of Rugged Mountain

Chinese Puzzle Wall

Brette Harrington and Tony McLane completed the first ascent of Manchu Wok, a 13-pitch 5.12d, on the Chinese Puzzle Wall in B.C. earlier this year. While the wall isn’t a typical alpine face, it’s remote and found high in the alpine. This was Harrington’s third new multi-pitch trad 5.12 in three years on the feature.

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 5.12c.

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.

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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

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Harrington returned this year with Squamish crusher, McLane, to add her third 500-metre test-piece to the face. 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.

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.”

Manchu Wok