STIKINE ICECAP

Posted on: December 1, 2002


Guy Edwards and A:the Devils Thumb; B:Cats Ears Spire; and C: the Witches Tits. Routes shown are as follows. 1 South Face of the West Witches Tit (V 5.10+ A1, 2,600', Jones-Edwards, 2002) 2 Southeast ArÍte of Cats Ears Spire (IV 5.10+, 3,200', Jones-Edwards, 2002) 3 Culbert-Douglas-Starr East Face of Cats Ears Spire (nine pitches of fifth-class climbing with some aid, 3,200', 1972) 4 Bearzi-Klose Route (V, 1980) 5 South Face (VI 5.8 A3, ca. 3,200', Jones-Lowe-Tejada Flores, 1973) 6 South Pillar (V 5.10 A2, ca. 3,200', Bebie-Pilling, 1991) 7 The Southeast Face (Alaska Grade 3, Krakauer, 1977) 8 Beckey Southeast Face (1946) 9 Bearzi-Klose Variation. Not shown is the 1970 Culbert-Douglas-Starr route, which takes the complete east ridge. [Photo] John Millar

In May, John Jones and I approached the Devils Thumb via the Baird Glacier, skiing and pulling sleds. The Devils Thumb area is a North American Patagonia: terrible weather, but with spectacular spires of stunning granite. Once well clear of wandering wildlife, we positioned ourselves below the northwest face of the Devils Thumb.

The Thumb was unfortunately in a stage of molt and shedded its winter coat prolifically. We dragged base camp around to the south side of the Witches Tits and Cats Ears Spire and established a snow cave bivy below the southwest face of the Thumb. The fickle humor of the mountains relented shortly thereafter, providing a brief opportunity for adventuring upward. On the first day of good weather, we climbed a new route (V 5.10+ A1, 800m) on the south face of the West Witches Tit that involved 300 meters of 5.9, then 100 meters of snow, followed by seven long pitches up the white granite headwall. The headwall—plum vertical!—had some stout crack climbing with the odd pitch-saving ergonomic knob or weird face feature. The fourth pitch, led at A1, was followed free at 5.11+.

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On our second (and last good) weather day, we made the third ascent of the Cats Ears Spire via a line (IV 5.10+, 900m) just east of the south arete. After a 500-meter approach up a snow/ice gully, the line followed steep, sun-facing corners for seven pitches of knobby, slightly fractured vertical granite. Tricky slab climbing between snow and ice patches was encountered on the penultimate pitch before the summit of the sharpest spire in the Coast Range was attained.

— Guy Edwards, Canada

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