Sunday, March 14, 2010

First Ascent - "Sails for Seniors" (IV, M6+, WI6, 125m)

On Thursday Mike Adolph and myself climbed what we believe is a new route on Mt. Murchison. It is just visible from the road in a narrow gully on the headwall up and left of Balfour Wall. It always looks unformed from the road and usually isn't there at all.

The route is in the rock gully in the very middle of this picture.

The approach from Balfour Wall parking lot takes 1.5 hours to the start of the gully. The first pitch was 25m of rotten WI3 ice leading to a 15 minute snow walk up to the slender pillars on the left-hand wall.

The first rotten but easy pitch.

The first 30m section of steep pillars was completely detached from the rock and was way too dangerous to try and climb directly. Fortunately we had a full rock rack so I headed up the rock on the left side. It proved to be challenging but excellent mixed climbing with lots of drytooling moves, a few splatterings of ice, and even a few fist jams in a crack near the top. Our 70 meter ropes just reached a safe belay spot below the upper pillars. The pitch was about M6+ and had good gear.

The hard pitches!

The next pitch was one of the most amazing ice features I have ever climbed. Instead of tackling the pillars directly, I climbed into a chimney cave behind them with splatterings of ice on both walls. After 15 meters in the steep icy chimney, I went through a tunnel in the ice and emerged on the upper part of the pillars. Another 20 meters of steep chandeliered ice led to the top. With some creativity, the pitch protected quite well.

Mike topping out on the last pitch.

The route is named in honour of all my climbing buddies that are trading in ice tools for paragliders, kites, and sailboats...

J. Mills

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