In 1993, the late Guy Edwards made the first ascent of High Country, a 5.12 gear route, at the Tottering Pillar area of Skaha. Edwards was a cutting-edge climber who established a number of bold rock and alpine lines. He died in 2003 with partner John Millar while attempting the northwest face of the Devil’s Thumb in Alaska.
While many of Edwards’s Skaha routes are absolute classics, High Country isn’t on the radar of many or any travelling climbers. On April 9, local Willis Brown made a rare pre-placed gear ascent of the 25-metre line. Brown noted that he’d have to return to get a true redpoint and that he’d tried it before, including earlier in the day while placing gear. A number of strong sport climbers had started up in the past but bailed before reaching the roof.
Local longtime route developer Doug Orr was also at the crag and said that he’d never seen anyone on High Country. The route starts right of the classic Bottom Line 5.11a and heads up to the right in a thin crack. You make powerful underclings through the stepped roof to an easier (very lichen covered) crack above. Until the early 2000s, it was the hardest gear line in Skaha. Now that title goes to Family Man 5.14b by Sonnie Trotter and repeated by Ben Harnden.
Edwards was remembered by friend Vance Culbert in the American Alpine Journal, which read, “Guy embraced a self-propelled, adventure-oriented climbing ethos that fit so well with the inaccessible Coast Mountains. Quite a few years ago he and I paddled from our homes in Vancouver and headed up Waddington without having gathered any route description—the summit that eluded us on that journey was just a detail of the voyage.
“Two years ago, he was the inspiration behind a classic journey for those who live on the Rainy Coast: heading up into the mountains north of his home in Vancouver and continuing by ski all the way to Skagway.
“Switching seamlessly from buffoon to sage and back again, Guy inspired all those who knew him with enthusiasm. Yet almost unnoticed underneath was the drive that got him where he was and kept him on the edge. I wish that I had the opportunity to talk to him about the accidental symbolism of his death on the unclimbed north face of the jewel of the Coast Mountains, the Devil’s Thumb.”
You keen gear climbers should add High Country to your Skaha tick list. Just bring a brush for the upper lichen.