Lillooet Ice Climbing
January 3-4, 2004
Cold weather had been sweeping down from the north for days, so Loren
and I decided that we wanted to know what climbing ice at the North Pole
might be like. We hit the road after work Friday, and arrived in Lillooet
after a relatively easy 5 hour drive. We hop out at the Reynolds to claim
our reserved room before unloading the gear. When I ask about our room
the clerk says,
"Heh, the really funny thing is we just gave your room away like
2 minutes ago!!!"
"Oh really? Heh, that's funny. Ok, so what is our room number?"
"Uhhh, we actually did give it away two minutes ago... I don't know
how this keeps happening."
I had an idea how it 'keeps happening', but I kept it to myself as the
11pm hour was drawing near and there were several nervous looking folks
behind me wanting to buy beer before the store closed. We waited while
the beer sales were completed, slightly annoyed that they had triaged
us to the back of the line. Eventually amends were made with Loren and
I getting two rooms... ah yes, we were living large!
Canadian waitresses, with their pre-dawn lethargy, could not have turned
over the coffee cup too soon for Loren. Early rising robots that we are,
we sat in our silent morning stupor, waiting for the grill to heat. The
local gave us the usual "ice climber" oogling, but like the
grill, eventually warmed up for us. As both Loren and I are rusty on our
ice skills, we signed up for a day of climbing at The Rambles,
a good area for moderate climbs.
Darkness and an unfamiliarly biting cold met us as we geared up. Jens'
spirit of maximal climbing time was with us, and thus we began hiking
up the hill with our headlamps on. I had always wanted to climb the "central"
line at the Rambles, as it looked like several pitches of enjoyable WI3s.
Racking up at the base was frigid... sure enough, Loren's watch read 0F.
Dave leads the first pitch of The Rambles Center. Photo
The mercury drop had caused the ice to be brittle and shatter into spectacular
dinner plates with every swing of the ice tools. Many of these chucks
of ice simply spewed on down the climb, hoping for a little belayer-pegging
action. Every now and then though, a chunk would attain a veritable coup
de gras by smacking me in the eye or knee. Good sticks and a healthy dose
of The Dreaded Thaw saw me to the top of the pitch before Loren
had completely frozen. Unfortunately my camera's battery was not quite
as lucky. A short easy pitch lead up hill towards a nice set of pillars.
Loren styling up the brittle ice as I learn that two
down coats are indeed better than one!
After following the right hand side, we setup a top rope on the delicate
central pillar that had just touched down, as well as the mixed corner
to its left. Some goofing around on these finally warmed us up enough
to consider some more leading. We descended by rappelling and started
working our way over towards the far right climbs at the Rambles. These
are located really far up the right hand gully. Even though we were hiking,
the constant breeze reminded our bodies that sitting in front of a raging
fire might be more natural.
There was a short and moderate hunk of ice that lead up towards an amphitheater
of impressive looking climbs. We soloed on up to find the people who's
tacks we'd followed. They were a local guide and client pair climbing
some burly looking stuff.
"As you can see, just tap.. tap.. tap that tool on in there."
As they were on the nice looking WI4 in the background when we arrived,
we decided to check out the corner climb. This neat looking feature started
out steep then continually eased and thinned as it approached a mixed
problem at its top.
The corner after my lead, and blunder...
The guide said the mixed slab at the top was M6 in iced conditions, and
MHard if there was no ice. It sure looked hard from the ground! The ice
route was fun though, and I lead up on a mix of brittle and soft hero
ice. When I arrived and looked up at the dirty, slabby corner I decided
that I wasn't into flailing my up it today. Save that crap for a warmer
day! Others had come to the same conclusion this season, as there was
a perfectly set v-thread anchor right at the end of the ice. As I rapped
off, I setup the ropes for a TR for Loren. Unfortunately I left both strands
of rope running through one screw! The end result: both of us at the bottom
with two fixed lines. Loren tried to re-lead the pitch but ended up being
too cold already, so I lead up again on the other ends of the ropes. Combine
this with me dropping a screw on the first lead, and you could practically
hear the guide whisper to his client, "Take a good look there son,
those guys are what we call gumbies!"
Beer and heat met us at the car... thanks guys. Soon the long showers
back at the motel rewarmed our cores enough to go in search of food. In
town, you basically have two choices: the Greek place or the pizza place.
We went for pizza, and ran into my friends Steve and Elaine Ramsey who
had been up suffering (err.. climbing) for a couple days already. After
taking the other's orders, I informed the waitress that "I'd like
to Savour the sizzle of Beef!", as the card on our table tempted.
She then pointed out that the back of the card makes no sense...
... as compared to what?
That night, the Vancouver Kanucks wooped ASS on the Calgary Lionesses
(?). Loren was kind enough to explain the rules of hockey to me... as
he does every year. Soon though not even the icy fist fights or full on
board-checking could keep us awake. The alarm was prudently set to a later
We arrived at Marble Canyon around 9am, amazingly as the first ones there.
Climbing vertical ice was a mere walk in the park compared to stepping
out of that warm, comfy car into -5F. Well, except when that ice is also
in -5F. It sounded like we had picked a "warm" spot today, as
Steve and Elaine were experiencing -15F at the Rambles that day! We walked
across the lake as a determined ice fisherman, who had left his van running,
geared up for a little morning on the ice.
The deeping wall at Marble Canyon as fat as I've ever seen it.
We top roped a rather picked out incarnation of The Dihedral before
packing it back to the car to heat back up. Let's just say that when things
"downtown" start to freeze, it's time to go!
One burly dude leading Icy BC while his partner becomes a popsicle.
The cold had gotten to me today like it had to Loren yesterday. There
is really something to never getting totally frozen... it just makes you
want to give up and go. We tossed around ideas on what to climb on our
way back. I spotted Car Wrecker Gully (WI2+?) and we decided to
scrog down the scree and climb it. This unusual climb forms below
the highway in a drainage just past the bridge where the train tracks
go over the road.
Brrrr... oh yeah, it's still cold out here.
Car Wrecker's main pitch.
The gully lived up to its name as there were tires and strange pieces
of metal all over. There is a main tier a few hundred feet below the road
followed by a short step near the end. We rapped in from a tree and then
solo'd back out. The ice was very unusual. It looked like it would be
wet but it was actually frozen solid into these wild mushrooms, chimney-like
slots, and blobs.
Coming up the first pitch.
Loren vigorously attacks the long and dangerous final pitch!!!!!!
With none too much sun left in the sky, we decided to check out the approach
for Small Creep before heading back home. Loren had me drive all
the way home, as he had him some devious plans in his head. First, there
was more roadside ice to look at along the Frasier Canyon to make margaritas
for the entire world. Second, well...
Oh no, how to go from a WI4+ leader to WI0 in one sitting.