Friday, 21 June, 2019: The Summer Solstice
Seamus was putting his newly purchased 2004 Chevrolet Tracker to the test. Several large cobblestones on the narrow "road" to Amon Rûdh had us praising the quarter-inch steel skid plate protecting the SUV's viscera. After crossing two narrow creeks and teetering along a steep washout, we arrived for a trailhead bivvy just before midnight. The storied walls of the Eldred Valley surrounded us but were shrouded in darkness. My (Nick's) imagination flickered with visions of granite monoliths as I drifted off to sleep. Our alarm would sound at 5:00 AM, heralding dawn and the start of our ascent of On the Virg—an obscure route that sees few attempts.
August 20, 2018. Scottish sea shanties played boisterously over Seamus’s van stereo as we careened through Rogers Pass toward Glacier National Park of Canada. We were three: Nick, me (Erik), and Seamus - the third leg of our trio being a good friend from Newfoundland. Our destination was the crown jewel of the park: Mount Sir Donald, a striking 3,284 m peak that passes by the window of most as they whiz by on the Trans Canada Highway. A monolithic Matterhorn-like mountain, it rises well above its neighbours and is listed in Roper and Steck’s 50 Classic Climbs of North America. Easily accessible from the park, its soaring Northwest Ridge route has a grade of 5.4 and calls out to novice and expert climbers alike.
Check out the video and click the "Read More" link for the full trip report!
We were on a roll.
Bathing in the ice-cold rush of the Chilliwack River and breathing in the alpine air of the Bugaboos had done amazing things to our climbing psyche. Barely a week into our August 2017 outing to British Columbia, Nick and I (Erik) were high off ascents of Mt. Slesse and the Beckey-Chouinard route on South Howser Tower… and we were eager for more. In just a few days our trip would be over. Nick would start grad school; I would be continuing my own studies. But all that meant nothing if we could just fit in one more climb.
Thanks to our climbing friends Robert Jong and Andrew “Toba” Osnatch, we had seen images of the striking prow of Mt. Gimli’s South Ridge. It rises high among the peaks in Valhalla Provincial Park, a small alpine paradise in the splendid Kootenays of interior British Columbia. If an image is worth a thousand words, then an image of a featured mountain in the crystal alpine air of the Rockies is, to a climber, worth a thousand daydreams.
“My God… it’s beautiful… we should climb it… what’s the grade? Can I see the topo? Damn... look at it. What’s the approach like? What’s the recommended rack? How cold is it up there? Let’s go!!”
Monday, 21 August, 2017 - The Bugaboos
Fresh off our ascent of the glorious Northeast buttress of Mount Slesse, Erik, Toba, Jamie (another good friend from NL), and I (Nick) beelined it straight to Brisco, BC where we were eager to make the most of an auspicious alpine forecast at Bugaboo Provincial Park. For myself and Toba this was a return trip to the Bugaboos and we were ecstatic to get back to Applebee Dome campground during the best conditions of the year.
As luck would have it, we happened to time our arrival with a special astronomical event: a solar eclipse. We took it as a sign that the stars were aligning for our stint in the mountains.
Our ascent to Applebee dome coincided with the August 21 solar eclipse. At our latitude, the maximum coverage of the sun was around 85%.
Wednesday, 16 August, 2017 - Squamish Chief Campground
"It's no problem, we just have to make it to Chilliwack. I booked us two Greyhound tickets leaving Thursday at 10AM."
"Ok, so where's the Greyhound station?"
"Don't worry about it Erik... I'll just call Greyhound's customer service and ask them to have the bus pick us up in downtown Squamish. It's a 45 minute walk. Easy."
Friday, 18 August, 2017 - Highway 99
Soon enough, Erik and I forgot about our roadside trek. After all, we were finally on our way to Mount Slesse, the cynosure of our expedition, and nothing could stop us.
And then someone flipped the “On” switch in my brain. Under a title that read “What’s Next for the Choss Boys?” was a photo of the soaring North East Buttress of Mt. Slesse. The image was taken with impossible exactness, with every contrasting relief of the knife-blade North East Buttress etched in perfect detail. I shuddered in my Rubbermaid chair. The steep ridge led directly into a dark, ominous, black headwall of gneiss that towered above neighboring peaks. A plane had crashed into Mt. Slesse in the 1950s, exploding airplane fuselage and body parts all over the mountain, a history that added a sense of tacit foreboding. Nick said he was hoping to climb the peak next summer… “maybe.”
With that, the presentation was over, and a chapter was closed on the Choss Boys' epic adventures. Although I sensed a whole new chapter was just beginning…
This post is all about mine and Nick’s climbing adventures in British Columbia during August of 2017. It’s our “prequel,” highlighting some of the planning, training, and preparations that went into our two-week-long tear through the alpine that resulted in successful ascents of two "50 classics," and three stunning mountain summits. So “Read More” and jump into another season of Choss Boys adventures - and stay tuned for three follow-up stories featuring each of the mountains we climbed.
Coming to Mexico, Daniel and I (Nick) were looking for two things: bolts, and a break. After five straight months of trad climbing, big walls, and alpine climbing, we wanted a vacation from our vacation. Well, El Potrero Chico gave us all that we wished for, and more.
In case you haven't realized, a common theme has emerged in many of our climbing exploits.
"We head up the approach trail and in good Choss Boys style get immediately lost and disoriented."
- Erik in "Choss Boys tackle The Grand Wall"
"4 AM again. True to the Chossboys style, Daniel and I (Nick) had attempted to climb the North East ridge of Bugaboo Spire the previous Wednesday, but instead got hopelessly lost."
- Nick in "A ridge tale: Summit fever"
Yeah... I guess you could say we haven't exactly been slaying it on our big climbing days. This time, however, I (Nick) am happy to report that we finally managed the first ever Choss Boys anti-epic!
The hardest part of any big objective is getting started. Apprehension and nerves are rampant. However, once underway, even the most daunting projects can unfold with relatively little anxiety and stress. This is a detailed account of the Choss Boys' most ambitious climb to date.
The Salathe Wall on El Capitan is 35 pitches, with 3500 feet of climbing; the difficulty rating is "5.13b or 5.9 C2". Since the Choss Boys were not skilled enough to free climb 5.13b, it required using a combination of free climbing and aid climbing. After training for months leading up to and during their time in Yosemite, the Choss Boys finally committed to the climb at the beginning of November, 2016.
We arrived in Yosemite valley rife with stoke from our brief introduction to aid climbing in Smith Rock. The first thing we did upon our arrival was rush straight to the base of El Capitan and climb one of the valley's most famous single-pitch climbs, Sacherer Cracker.
The next three days were spent honing our big wall techniques: aid climbing, hauling, and managing logistics as a team of three. After substantial practice, and careful analysis of our timing, the decision was made to commit to our first multi-day wall ascent, the West Face of Leaning Tower.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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