MT. STEPHEN

Posted on: September 1, 2003


On April 8 and 9, Rob Owens and I climbed a new line on Mt. Stephen above Field, British Columbia. We intended to do the route in a single push, but took enough gear (belay jackets, a candle and a stove) to endure a bivy if necessary, which it uncomfortably was.

The features of temptation were two WI5 pillars midway up the face that looked like they shared the drainage system above the ice climb Extra Lite (III WI4, 245m, Buhler-Whalen, 1977). At 4 a.m. we started up Extra Lite, continuing on to the great fifty-meter WI4 pitch. Above, snow-covered scree ledges led up and left toward a major gash in the first prominent black cliff band. About halfway up the gash we encountered the first of the technical difficulties, a VW bus-sized chockstone and a flaring offwidth on the left wall. What we thought would be a short ice pitch offering passage past the chockstone turned out to be near-constant spindrift. Dry tooling, chicken wings and knee bars got us through the flare. More snow and short mixed steps led to the ice crux, a steep hollow pillar with crappy screws. Easy mixed then led to the second WI5 pillar and finally the gully to the ridge. Mostly moderate terrain and frequent (and inappropriate) use of Tiblocs allowed us to move together and climb most of the face on the first day.

On the north ridge we were repeatedly frustrated by false summits, so we called it quits at 10 p.m. and dug in for the night. In the morning we discovered we were only a pitch below the summit. A whiteout descent and hours of isothermal wallowing saw us both throw temper tantrums before finally arriving at the Truffle Pigs Café in Field at 12:30 p.m., having completed the route Great Western (V WI5 R M7, 2000m).

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— Scott Semple, Canmore, Alberta, Canada

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