End of the Season: More Route Development

Morgan and I managed to get out to the mountains for one last day of bolting before, what looks like, the end of the season for anything but bouldering. And we accomplished everything we hoped to do for the day; that alone is a huge success for any day out climbing.

We set out bright and early to hit the parking lot at 9am, with the intent of adding a final pitch to the top of Family Jewels and then hopefully rap bolting another line nearby. It was a brisk start at +5°C but the sun caught the wall all morning and we left a bunch of extra clothing at the top of the first pitch (along with our spare drill bit). Linking pitches 2&3 we quickly regained our high point on the top of pitch 4 of Family jewels with me leading and Morgan carrying our pack. Morgan got a raw deal considering the pack had our water, lunch, drill, hammer, and bolts. At the belay we discussed at length whether we should head up the clean, but more difficult climbing above the belay, or head up the easier, chossy corner system to our right.

I chose the cleaner looking line and equipped with our drill set off from the belay. (Rather than my own boldness this choice was likely due to the fact that Morgan took a dramatic fall, while bolting on lead, just a week earlier when a hold ripped. Morgan took it in stride but his story made the solid rock look much more appealing.) The climbing proved to be about 5.9, maybe 10a, and super fun right off the ledge. After the first bolt it, thankfully, eased off to climbing more like the ledgy 5.7-8 terrain found on the rest of the route.

The first bolt of Pitch 5 as seen from the belay. Not quite hands free drilling for the first couple bolts. Gorgeous rock though!

The pitch proved to be a bit longer than 30m so we elected to add a rappel station midway which allows the route to be rappelled with a single 60m rope. There is potential to add another pitch or two of climbing above the top of pitch 5 but it looks to be low quality, low angle climbing. It would only be worth doing if it turns out that it accesses some better climbing higher up, which might be the case.

Morgan coming up to the belay ledge at the top of pitch 5.

Rappelling down, I managed to break the drill bit while adding the extra station. Morgan generously offered to be lowered down to retrieve our spare drill bit; adding a solid 65m+ of climbing to his day coming back up. During this lowering and extra climbing he scoped our next objective, a line to our right.

Back at the top of pitch 4 Morgan set off to my right with the drill and a bag of bolts. He placed a directional anchor and I lowered him 60 rope stretching meters while he checked out the line. From a large ledge system Morgan climbed back up on top rope, cleaning and placing bolts as he went. We had underestimated the climb and roughly half way he ran out of bolts and had to come up and restock before finishing the route.

Morgan was pretty stoked when he was done so I was anxious to check out the line. We traded spots and he lowered me off and I took my turn trying it on top rope. It proved to be the best pitch I have climbed on this wall so far. 50ish meters of sustained climbing on good rock without the frequent ledges which seem to characterize the rest of the climbing we have found there. Although it is probably only around 5.8 in difficulty it is pretty technical slab and it takes a bit of wandering to find the holds that keep the climbing in that range.

It would have been nice to climb the new route from the ground but, with the extra station and broken drill bit it was getting on in the afternoon and we had both climbed all the terrain in the new line. So we decided to head out early and be home in time for supper.

A new topo is available which includes the new line (which Morgan named “Diamond in the Rough”) and the new 5th pitch on Family Jewels. We hope to get out first thing in the spring and make the first pitch of Diamond in the Rough a little more user friendly. As in my previous post, emerald wall can be found right here.


Topo and Update

Hi all. This week I drew up a topo for the new route (Family Jewels 5.10b/5.8) described in last weeks blog post. It can be downloaded here. Also, I realised that neither of the topos for emerald wall include direction to find the cliff: it’s here.

I have been putting some work into the wall. Adding the planks now. This has required a bit of debugging. It has proved a little finicky. It needs everything aligned properly and a good amount of tension in the chain which, I suppose, isn’t surprising. And it is taking a little more torque than I expected to run. So I will either need to use a bigger motor, a lower ratio gear box, or just run at a lower top speed for now. Or maybe just more lube it is really only a little short on torque.

(edited 14Oct2016: topo link now goes to mini guide for Emerald Wall)

Adventure Time: Bolting in the Crowsnest Pass

You know what’s more fun than building climbing equipment? Climbing! Especially putting up new routes or problems.

Morgan and I set out early Saturday for the emerald wall in the Crowsnest pass. We were hoping to put up a new line but didn’t have a clear objective in mind. We weren’t sure if we would go ground up or top down, but we knew it would be mulitpitch and bolted (this wall tends to offer few gear placements and most of them are in absolute choss).

The view from the emerald lake parking lot.

After considerable deliberation in the parking lot we settled on a line we had eyed a few years ago on a previous excursion. It starts left and up the scree slope from the line, Rags to Riches, that Morgan put up last year. It aims for a, more or less, direct line from the scree cone to the ledge with a big lone tree, starting maybe 40 feet left of plumb.

Since we were bolting on lead, with all the neccesary gear tethered to the leaders harness, we decided to lead in blocks. Just to save time at the belays, moving gear. I took the first block and the crux of the day ended up being a bulge only about 15feet off the deck at around 5.9 or maybe 5.10a. (the grade will likely change as following parties tear off more of the holds) Though, the real crux was getting the first bolt in about 8 feet off the deck, the stance got super pumpy while drilling. Morgan may have given me a bit of an boost while drilling.

Morgan at the belay on top of pitch 1.

I got up about 2.5 pitches before the battery in our drill ran dead and we swapped leads. Aside from the early crux the climbing was all nice, cruisy 5.8ish slab, with decent quality rock. From there Morgan lead the next pitch and a half to the big ledge with the tree.

Morgan torquing up the first bolt on his block. The tree we ended at can be seen above him.

There was some pretty poor rock quality through some of the block Morgan led. We hucked off a lot of choss and there is a lot more to go. But there is some steeper climbing with nice movement that will be awesome once it has been cleaned up. Here are some pictures from the top of pitch four. Including me with a sandwich.

There is another pitch or two above that we would like to add to this route. (they will be awesome, definitely great rock) But our hardware supply was dwindling so we elected to head down and add a couple bolts to the earlier pitches to make them a little better protected. While rappelling and adding these bolts, however, we managed to bust the tip off our drill bit (no spare packed) and run the second battery dead. Soooo, the first pitch is presently pretty run out and the crux of the route. Morgan hopes to return very soon and rectify this.

*Update July 7, 2016* Morgan went out yesterday and added bolts to the first and second pitches to protect the previously run out sections. So it should be reasonably well protected at this point. He also added an alternate first pitch (5.5) to make the route more accessible and consistent after getting on the first pitch again and deciding it was closer to 5.10b.TOPO HERE!