Lillooet Ice Climbing

February 6-7, 2004

Pax and Ken took a weekend off from being pimp daddies, and we all drove up to Lillooet for a weekend of ice, beer, and general debauchery. We left Saturday morning around 5 a.m. with the idea of climbing something... but at 5 am it was hard to conceive of climbing anything. We rolled into Lillooet and checked out the conditions on Honeyman's Falls from the road across the canyon. It was good to go, so we drove through town and started hiking up the approach road. Honeyman's has super easy access and is a great climb. In 20 minutes or so we were at the base looking up at the steep first pitch. I took the first lead, generally taking the easier line up the falls. The ice was really funky, with large pockets of air that really made me work to get good sticks.

Dave starting off on the first pitch of Honeyman's. Photo by: Pax

Finishing off the first tier. Photo by: Pax

I ran the rope out all 50 meters and placed a belay in the shallow ice below the final step. The last bit looked like a short little romp up the ice, but it turned out to be almost another full rope!

Ken leading the last pitch of Honeyman's.

Pax and I simufollowed on the two ropes and soon enough we were debating our descent options. V-threading off the lower tier is the only option for rapping the climb, but with less than inspiring ice conditions we decided to try and rapp down via trees on the adjacent rib. One can also walk off down an overgrown logging road, but we had left our gear at the base.

So we plodded, slipped and slid our way down the snow covered rock slabs of the gully next to the climb. It was so suck. Ken and I's cookie cutter crampons were balling up so bad that in a few steps we would have basketball sized hunks of snow on our feet. Eventually we saw an exposed snow bench that lead back out to the crest of the rib between us and Honeyman's. We belayed across it, and were able to make one double rope rappell back to our packs. All in all, an ok descent, but rapping the climb in good conditions would be much better.

Ken bouldering around on Honeyman's steep left side.

Cherry Ice is a short climb next to Honeyman's, so we went there next. This being Pax's first real season on ice, it was a perfect climb for him to lead. After a short preview, Pax put on his snorkel and mask and began crawl-stroking up the climb. I guess you could say the climb was a little wet...

Ken does a little dance to psych Pax up for Cherry Ice!

As Lillooet is the social hub of the interior BC, and seeing as there was a dart convention going on in town, we skeeeedaddled back to the hotel to claim our room. We stayed at the Mile-O which was a mixed bag in my opinion. On one hand, there was bed-space for 5 people, a kitchenette, and two good sized rooms plus a bathroom. The perfect place to cram as many of your dirtbag friends into so everyone pays like $5/night. On the other hand, the heating system kind of sucks, the maids turn the heat down during the day, AND we were all met that night with a luke-warm to cold shower! That's crap in my opinion... a cold shower and we hadn't even met the 60+ year old dart playing vixens yet! At least the place goes to 11.

Mile-O sets it to eleven braaah!!

A quick A&W dinner left us on our way to the Canadian Foreign Legion club/bar/dart competition. There was going to be an informal "Ice Festival" slide show there that night by Don Serl. The partay hadn't exactly started yet, so as climbers trickled in we all congregated in a circle as the wild, swinging dart competitors danced, shoved, drank and threw darts all around us. Ken turned out to be quite the hot item with the local dart groupies, and had to endure much "excuse me, <grab> can I get past you sweetie?" Luckily Pax had the word on what BC locals drink, so we had already picked up a six pack of what everyone was getting at the bar. This made sneaking our own beers in stupid easy. After finishing those off, Pax took it to the next level, bringing in a 6-pack of Corona WITH a lime... He didn't make it two feet in the door before he was busted. OK, we won't bring in our whole 6-pack. No no, we'll just go back to bringing them in one at a time. :p

We had a message left on our car too.

Morning comes early in Canada. Really early. Thankfully, there is breakfast at the Reynolds. Our plan for the day was to climb Synchronicity, a long WI4 climb up in the Cayoosh canyon on 99. We searched around on the highway for a key pullout that keep you from having to walk all the way up the road from the bridge crossing the creek. Eventually we found it and dug it out so that we could park. A quick walk brought us back up the road to where it curves left, directly across the canyon from the climb. This is where you can drop down a talus field and go a little bit upstream to find a log that spans the river.

Pax working his way across the log.

I won't lie to you, I got pumped crossing the log. It was icy, and high above the river, but thankfully it was (mostly) free of those ball-crushing knots. The approach gully starts a short distance away, and soon we were slipping our way up its slabby snow covered rock. Soon enough the gully gives way to several short and stepped pitches of moderate ice. We cached some gear under an overhang and begun climbing. Ken soloed ahead while Pax and I running belayed these approach pitches. Not much to write home about here, but as you turn a corner up higher, the whole amphitheater comes into view. Yeeehaw!!

Pax ready to rip it up on Synchronicity!

There is a short curtain of ice that leads up to the ramp pitch in the basin above. The ice is so perfect I don't bother placing pro. Soon Pax has joined me at the base of the ramp pitch, and we take shelter under an overhang. Ken, free spirit that he is, was soloing the rest of the climb above us. It goes to show how with a good day and a clear mind you can do just about anything. The ramp pitch was sweet, perfect soft hero ice with good pro. We split it into one long, and one short pitch with Pax leading the second. The first pitch sucks you under this overhanging wall of rock which added a neat alpine feel to the climb.

Dave leads off on the first of the ramp pitches. Photo by: Pax

Looking down as Pax follows the ramp pitch on Synchronicity.

Pax lead the second half of the pitch in good style despite some soft screw placements and slightly snowy ice. He ran the rope out up the snow to the final tier of the climb.

The final tier of Synchronicity.

The ice looked steep and nice. Ken had soloed it too, so it couldn't be too hard, right? I lead up, climbing two steep pillars followed by another 25 meters of rambly ice. I was just able to make it to a v-thread below the last steep bit up to a ledge in the trees. After bringing Pax up, I lead off on the final step which lead to a nice ledge in the forest. There is one last pillar of ice up in the trees here, and I continued on up to meet Ken at the top. This last little bit was great, it had a bouldery no-feet start over the open water pit, and finished with vertical smooth ice. Wow!

Dave starts off on the last pitch. Photo by: Pax

Curtain call on Synchronicity. Pax cruising the final step.

With no doubt, Synchronicity was the highlight of my ice season. The combination of the lofty position, tons of moderate ice, a couple steep challenging sections, and going from Canyon floor to top make this a spectacular climb in my opinion. In total, I think we were took about 7 hours car to car.

But wait!!! We're not out of the woods yet, we still need to get back to the car. Most of the rapps were strait forward with 50m ropes, with a few exceptions. We rapped from the highest trees, which took us down to the v-thread near the top of the final tier. There is a tree at the top of the tier (on the ledge) that you might be able to make it down to the bottom of the tier with 60 meter ropes. From there, downclimb the the lowest tree with webbing on it. From here, a 60 meter rope (I've heard) will just reach the snow at the base of the ramp pitch. As we had 50's, we needed to rap off of this:

Heavy dudes go first!!

A short rapp off of those twigs brought us to the base of the ramp pitch from where the rest of the descent is trivial rapping on slung trees. One alternative is to rapp down the ice of the ramp pitch, instead of down the rock to the right as we did. You could v-thread somewhere on the ramp then and make it down in two rapps.

All in all, a freaking kick ass weekend with Pax and Ken.

Thanks Canada!

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