MT. ASSINIBOINE, CHEESMOND-DICK

Posted on: December 1, 2004


The east face of Mt. Assiniboine, showing Cheesmond-Dick (V 5.9 A2, ca. 1200m, 1982). Frank Jourdan soloed the route in July for its second ascent. It was his third trip to Canada; in July 1994 he soloed a direct variant to Skyladder Direct, then climbed The Shooting Gallery, and then climbed The Andromeda Strain, all on Mt. Andromeda, car-to-car in forty-five hours. He then soloed the Robinson-Arbic on the north face of Cromwell. Next, after attempting the north face of Alberta, he climbed the Japanese Route; then attempted the North Face of Mt. Edith Cavell; then soloed the Grand Central Couloir on Mt. Kitchener; then soloed the Blanchard-Robinson on the north face of Howse Peak. His 2004 tour showed his enthusiasm to be undiminished. [Photo] Raphael Slawinski

In July I traveled for the third time to Canada. In spite of bad conditions on the alpine faces I picked off a couple of good routes. After installing a bivy cache at Eiffel Lake I succeeded in climbing the Greenwood-Jones (V 5.8 A1, ca. 1400m, 1969) on the north face of Mt. Temple, then, after a bivouac at the cache, the Supercouloir (IV 5.8, Lowe-Jones, ca. 1200m, 1973) on Mt. Deltaform (the final pitches of which are especially brittle). Two and a half days later, when I was feeling more confident with this type of rock again, I headed to the glacier at the base of the east face of Assiniboine (the longest "twenty-kilometer" hike I ever did). This impressive mixed face was not in good shape either. After resting at the base I started climbing the Cheesmond-Dick (V 5.9 A2, ca. 1200m, 1982) at 2 a.m. I gained height pretty fast, but around 8:30 a.m. I got stuck just below the start of the upper, steeper sections because of intense rockfall. I searched for shelter and waited for dropping temperatures. At 4 p.m. (!) the rockfall abated and I kept going as fast as I could. In some sections, especially the steeper waterfall pitches, the snow and ice were almost gone. Therefore I was forced to climb very tricky, scary, loose and wet mixed terrain with sketchy pro. A ramp system and a traverse to the left leads to a steep rockface which is usually the crux, but, compared to the lower sections, the rock was not too bad. Using free, aid and drytool techniques I reached the easier exit slopes. A final, vertical, ice-and-soft-snow pitch through the cornice at the top made me shit my pants. The face took me thirteen hours to climb (with the stop, twenty-one hours). Another longtime dream was fulfilled.

After some rest days and a twelve-day visit to the remote Waddington Range, where I managed to solo three routes (the Flavelle-Lane route [TD+: 55 degrees 5.8, 980m] on Waddington; a possible new route [5.9+, ca. 650m], left of Perseverence, on the south face of Combatant; and the Southwest Face [TD+: 5.8, 1450m] on Tiedeman), I headed farther north to the main goal of the trip: the 2000-meter unclimbed northwest face of Devils Thumb, the ultimate challenge for a fast solo push. From Petersburg I flew in, highly excited to look at the face, but what a mess: there was no snow and ice at all, only very broken and chossy-looking rock (especially in the lower part). I realized that there is no way to climb this vertical quarry. I left for Canada, where I sat in my car near the river ready to start another attempt on the north face of Mt. Alberta (which I had attempted in 1994, failing below the upper rockband, which scared me too much at the time)—but I hesitated. The last weeks had hurt my knees and back painfully. The stress of being alone in a lot of scary situations had blown my mind, and I decided to not go: I was not motivated or calm enough any more. I started the car, anxious to get back to life, to my friends, to share my beloved red wine... and realizing that once again, I had been lucky to survive.

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— Frank Jourdan, Pforzheim, Germany

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