Mt MacDonald - North Pillar

Tags: Posted on September 22, 2007

At 7 a.m. on the 19th of August 2005, Bruce Kay (Squamish B.C) and I were racking up at the toe of the steep pillar on the right side of Mt. MacDonald's 1000 meter high North Face, for our first adventure together. We were surprised to see a bolt at the first belay, although we knew the pillar had been attempted a couple of times before. On the second pitch (5.7), two unnecessary and appalling protection bolts appeared, both within a couple of feet of bomber green camelot placements. Unfortunately, the nut on the first one was tight, but Bruce managed to get the second one loose, remove the hanger, and unleash the fury of his hammer on the protruding stud. It was the first time he had chopped a bolt in 30(?) years of climbing. The pillar steepened and Bruce led a nice pitch of 5.10-. One final bolt appeared at the belay above the third pitch which we left in place. The fourth pitch and the technical crux of the route moved right on to the arete. I managed to weld two knifeblades for protection from crimps before pumping out and having to hang. Tighter shoes would have been helpful for this short section of 5.11 face climbing. At the top of the sixth pitch, we passed the last signs of other attempts. Pitch after pitch of sustained 5.10 climbing followed with one more section of 5.11 on the eighth pitch. Finally, after eleven pitches, eight of which were sustained 5.10 and 5.11, we topped out on the pillar. Ahead, the angle eased a little as the wall split into a series of gullies and buttresses.

It was now four in the afternoon and we knew it was going to be long night. I smiled as Bruce signaled to continue. We moved left into the gully, the line of least resistance, and simul-climbed for three long pitches to the final headwall. A more direct buttress line had been the original goal, but time was of the essence. Bruce led a pitch of 5.10 in the fading light to a small ledge below a dripping squeeze chimney. He assumed we'd spend the night here, but by headlamp, I found way to avoid this by some knifeblade protected 5.10 face climbing to the right followed by a desperate 5.10+ bulge above a ledge. Climbing by headlamp seemed a better option than shivering the seven hours of darkness. More pitches of 5.10, 5.9 and 5.8 followed. Finally, at 1:30 a.m., we hit the ridge just below the summit after 18 hours of continuous climbing. The full moon lit up the SW ridge descent route, and allowed us to descend without the use of headlamps. As the moon set and some clouds made route finding more difficult, we tried to sit it out until dawn, but after 30 minutes, the shivering forced us to keep moving. Near the base of the ridge we made five rappels, two to the col, and three down a chossy couloir into the bowl that descends to the highway, where talus, creeks, and perfect bear tunnels led us through the jungle and back to the car, 30 hours after leaving it.

Summary: Mt. MacDonald's north pillar, Selkirk Mountains B.C. - 19 pitches, 1000 m, 5.11- A0, (the A0 is for a couple of hangs with the free grade being about 5.11b) F.A. Bruce Kay, Jon Walsh August 19th 2005. Nice corners, cracks, and featured face climbing up excellent quartzite with excellent protection the entire way. Rack: a double set of cams (one #4 camelot), one set of nuts, and a couple of KB's and LA's. We placed about six or seven pitons and left three fixed.


Pitch 3


pitch 6 


pitch 7