Man Yoga

Tags: Posted on November 15, 2011

Dec.5 Update: To see Joshua Lavigne's nicely shot and edited 10 minute Man Yoga video, click here 

Simms on pitch 1 - photo: Joshua Lavigne

Jon Simms and I just finsihed a new route on Stanley Headwall named "Man Yoga", that spanned three seasons.  I put a total of nine days in on it and Simms put in seven.  This past weekend, we spun two laps on it, friday 11/11/11, and sunday for some photos.  We managed the redpoint both days and can finally call the 250 meter line done!  We were supposed to go up there the weekend before but while I was at the Banff film festival, Simms bailed on me via text message.  Jason Kruk was at the festival and chomping at the bit for a good climbing adventure, so we teamed up, and finished the line to the top of the cliff, but came up short of the redpoint.  We did get some pretty good photos of it on Jason's camera, and they can be seen here, along with Jason's account of the day.

Man Yoga (n):  may involve scratching around, getting pumped mentally and physically above natural protection on sometimes questionable rock, while searching for passage up steep virgin terrain, often a mix of rock, ice.  Man yoga involves commitment, digging deep, and on-sighting in back-country situations.  It could also involve scrubbing dirt off boulders or cliffs in full conditions, and / or ducking Roman Candle shots fired by your belayer, arms locked off with poor feet, beyond protection, while engaged in the crux sequence.  Etc., etc..   The term was coined by Jonny Simms several years ago while we were putting up the route Drama Queen - also on the Stanley Headwall, and has since been stuck in our vocabulary, and frequently used when making climbing plans or generally talking about climbing.  It has also been applied to steep skiing situations such as billy-goating down steep, scary snow faces, or just long full value runs in no fall zones, that require skill, tenacity, and a calm confident head to shred.   i.e.: "Let's go do some Man Yoga…"  Man Yoga is not limited to men - women can do it too, although it's far less common to see a women engaging in advanced man yoga, although fortunately, their numbers are indeed growing. 

The story of the route Man Yoga:  
Man Yoga became the name we used to refer to our latest project, and obviously it stuck.  In January 2009, Chris Brazeau asked me if I wanted to join him on a Stanley Headwall adventure to try and gain the obvious steep ice, whose access was blocked by a massive roof, about two hundred meters right of the Suffer Machine.  Naturally I was psyched, and despite the snow covered rock, we nearly finished the second pitch on our first try, via a natural line that skirted the monstrous roof on its left.  The self drive bolt, two thirds of the way up the second pitch marks our high point, and was the only bolt placed that day, after two long leads.  Amazingly (or not), there were no traces of any other parties visiting this crack system up this beautifully immaculate limestone wall, despite the fact the every person who has ever walked back to Nemesis or Suffer Machine has gawked at the ice above the stunning overhang.  Although we planned on returning soon, shoulder injuries from skiing prevented it from happening anytime too quickly.

Between October and December 2010, Jonny Simms was back on the scene after a couple years on the coast, and was in need of a proper man yoga session.  Brazeau's recovering shoulder wasn't up to it, so Simms and I returned five times over two months to the Headwall project.  We finished the second pitch, bolted the belays and added a total of 16 protection bolts to the second and fourth pitches.  It was way more bolts than we hoped to add (the original dream was for a completely natural line),  but the result is a safe and fun route, and it's probably at least as long and demanding as anything else on the Stanley Headwall in terms of overall effort.  We hope the bolts and excellent natural protection will encourage others to repeat it, and we highly recommend it.   We're definitely psyched with how it turned out, and building the route was so much fun.  The rock quality is astounding, the route follows a devious natural line, the climbing is sustained and always interesting, there's lots of variety, and the two pitches of ice at the top are superb.  It might be better in early winter when the thin ice is fresh and well bonded, and the rock is less snow covered, but it should be good right through until spring.  However, more snow will give it more of alpine feel - perfect training for more serious routes in the range.  Actually, it's steep enough that battling the snow isn't too bad as not that much seems to stick to it.  This November (as well as last season's ice), was far thinner than that of the winter of 2009 / 2010, so I would expect some of the bolts on the fourth pitch may be covered in ice on fatter seasons.  This will undoubtably make the crux slightly easier... 

The beta:

M8, approximately 250 meters of climbing in 5 pitches + an approach pitch.  FA: Jon Simms and Jon Walsh.  Special appearances, inspiration, and help from Chris Brazeau, Troy Jungen, Tony Richardson, and Jason Kruk

The route is located about 200 meters right of Suffer Machine.  It's a devious line that skirts the left side of the huge arch and then trends back right to reach the ice flow above it.  There is more rock than ice, on this route, and the rock is of excellent quality throughout.  The route is probably best in early season, but is climbable all season from November to April.  In times of good stability, it's much quicker to leave the trail in the valley, just as it starts ascending the south side, by crossing the creek, cutting through the trees, and ascending the fan directly to the base.

P0 - (the approach) pitch 0 cause we've never actually roped for it, although it is about 5.4.  Climb up two short chimneys with snow ledges between, until below the great roof (about 25 meters).  Make a couple of moves up and left around a corner, then traverse across about 30 - 40 meters of 40-degree snow, or third class in early season.  A bolted anchor can be found near the left side of this big ledge, on then left side of small cave that probably fills in with as the snowpack deepens.  Heads up on the big ledge, it holds a lot of snow and could avalanche.   5.4   70+ meters
(rappel 40 meters from bolts to ground)

P1 - Juggy dry-tooling, and hand-jamming on immaculate rock with bomber gear.  Climb easy terrain above the anchor with sparse protection at first, then trend right towards a shallow right facing corner at the left edge of the huge arching roof.  Climb this with excellent protection in finger sized cracks.  Sometimes the slab on the right gets iced up and sometimes its dry.  Pull a small overhang into a slot, and work your way up the crack that widens from hands to offwidth.  Pull through the roof and follow a 50-degree ramp for about 8 meters to the 2 bolt anchor.  M7  45meters

JW on pitch 2;  photo: Joshua Lavigne

P2 - The delicate face pitch.  Pay close attention to your rope drag - it's crucial to use lots of extendable draws.   Move out left from the belay and then back right towards a bolt, then up a seam past a fixed pecker.  Continue up a left facing corner until below a roof (about 15 meters).  Place a red camelot with a double length runner in the obvious splitter, and traverse right below the roof with good protection.  After about 10 meters of traversing, a series of five bolts and some delicate face climbing up parallel seams leads to the next 2 bolt anchor.  Gear to 2.5".   M7  35 meters
(rappel 60 meters direct to the big snow ledge, then traverse 10 meters back to the anchor at the top of pitch 0)

P3 -  Follow the cracks / groove straight up from the anchor, until it's possible to step right onto a good ledge and a 2 bolt anchor.  (gear to 4 inches)  M5 25 meters

P4 -  The crux pitch - careful of the rope drag - use your extendable draws wisely!  Climb up and right past a knifeblade to a bolt.  Traverse right along the ledge past another piton.  Continue up and right past 2 bolts until you can step around the corner and cross an icy slab.  Keep following the bolts up and right as they traverse below the big roof the ice drips from.  A right facing corner offers steep powerful moves with great pick torquing through the roof, and a pumpy move back left to a stance at the lip.  This will be a bit easier on fatter ice years.   Continue up mixed ground for another 8 meters, past a bolt and a knifeblade, looking for a small ledge on the left with a two bolt anchor.  This pitch is all fixed (11 bolts, 4 pitons,) although small rock gear might be useful for some people, as will ice screws on fatter years.  M8  32 meters

JW pulling the overhang on pitch 4;  photo: Joshua Lavigne

P5 - Proper ice climbing at last, and a fine finish - It starts with some thin, lower angled ice up a right facing corner, with good rock gear for protection, followed by a short but steep pillar to a stance in a small cave.  Straightforward WI 5 from here leads to the cave the ice flows from, and bolted anchor.  A single rack up to #1 camelot and ice screws needed.  WI 5  50 meters

Simms climbing ice with good rock protection on Pitch 5;  photo:Joshua Lavigne

Two rappel options exist.  Obviously rappelling the route is one, although the fourth pitch needs to be back-clipped to make it to the third anchor.  pull the ropes here, then another short rappel down the third pitch.  60 meter ropes land you on the big snow ledge of pitch 0, but 10 meters of walking is required to get to the bolted station.    Alternatively, from the top of the 4th pitch, make a 60 meter rappel straight down to a bolted station at a small stance, just above the lip of the big arch.  This station is about 3-4 meters left of the plumb line of the rappel.  This might be a bit of an intense rappel line if you're doing it for the first time in the dark.     Then make another wild rappel over the big arch, 55 meters to the snow ledge of pitch 0, 10 to 15 meters of walking to the bolted station.  One more 40 meter rappel to the ground.

Ropes:  Two 60m ropes.  Using doubles would be advantageous for reducing the rope drag, which there is a lot of on the second and fourth pitches, unless the leader does an excellent job placing extendable slings in the right places.  We used a single and a tag, but knowing the pitches helped, and we used at least 10 extendable slings.  The advantage is of course the ability to haul, and both climbers climb with less stuff on their backs and harnesses.  If you're hauling the pack, Hauling on the first pitch is best done, by pulling the haul line all the way up, and then throwing it back down in a more direct path to the belay.  It still may get caught and is best tied off as short as possible, so the seconder can help jerk it around some overhangs.

Cams: the following sizes are in BD Camelots, which is what we used
Singles:  #0 C3  (green);  #2 C4 (gold); #3 (blue) #4 C4(grey)
Doubles: #1 C3 (reds); #.3 C4 (blue); #.4 C4 (grey); #.5 C4(purple); #.75 C4(green); #1 C4(red)
1 half set of nuts
Pitons are optional but the route is set up for climbing without hammers, and there are several fixed in key places.
Draws:  16 draws -- 10 extendable and 6 quick draws, one or two extra double length runners

Screws:  7 - 10 including stubbies.  I guess the number depends on your comfort level leading steep ice after a relatively full day of climbing.  The ice gradually gets fatter the higher you get.