First Ascent


KAHVEOLOGY - (The science of coffee)
160m, M8 WI5  First ascent by Jon Simms and Jon Walsh, Jan 23rd, 2015


Simms on the approach

Jonny “the Simmulator” Simms and I had a good Man Yoga practice at the Storm Creek Headwall, in Kootenay National Park.  Despite much thinner that usual ice-conditions this year, the end result was Kahveology, a new 4-pitch mixed route, that’s essentially the direct start to final ice pillar of Check Your Head, another route I co-authored a couple years ago with Jason Kruk and Joshua Lavigne.   Kahveology means the Science of coffee, and it’s a also a company in Portland that named one of their coffee blends Man Yoga, after the route on the Stanley Headwall that Simms and I authored, and Joshua Lavigne made an entertaining video of.  We were so honoured they named the main blend served in their shop after us, we named our latest route after them, to complete the circle, as well as a thank you for sending some of their crucial beans our way!  Being the serious coffee fiend that I am, I would definitely drink it all the time if it was closer to home.  

Crucial coffee in necessary for Man Yoga

Anyways, while descending from Check Your Head by headlamp, straight down, rather than reversing a couple traverses we had made, I couldn’t help but notice the immaculate, featured, overhanging limestone that directly lead to a tongue of ice that slithered halfway down it, flowing from the pillar.  What particularly caught my eye was the abundance of natural protection, somewhat rare for a steeper-than-vertical angle, and I immediately planned to come back someday to attempt it.  

Through the crux of the first pitch

That finally came a week ago, as Michelle and I skied up there on a cold day.   I did get on it, but unfortunately, couldn’t make it go bolt free, like I’d been dreaming about.   The route starts with about ten meters of easy stuff to get to the back of a cave.  Unsurprisingly, the back of the cave was chossy, and I had to place two bolts just to get into the steep climbing.  Then two more bolts got placed as I blew my gear and tools out on body weight placements.  With four bolts placed through the steepest and hardest pulls, I got to a nice crack which marked the beginning of what’s probably the best stretch of limestone I’ve ever dry tooled on.  Eventually, I placed two more bolts, perhaps unnecessary ones (although I was pretty psyched to clip them on the redpoint burn a week later), before getting to a fixed-nut rappel anchor left from a couple years ago, which marked the end of the day.   Many thanks to Michelle for enduring a long cold belay.  

Higher on the first pitch but still 15 meters to go

Six days later, the stars aligned for us.   It was much milder making for perfect conditions, the track was still good, and Simms and I made it to the base in 2 hours at a casual pace.  With the route prepped, I was able to get the redpoint, and was even egged on to make it a “mega-pitch” and keep climbing all the way to a small ledge, just above the bottom of the ice.  Definitely one of the best pitches I’ve done in the Rockies.  After a few steep pulls out the cave, the angle eases to vertical to slightly overhanging for about 30-meters, with numerous bulges to negotiate.  Perfect torquing cracks and incut holds, made for really fun sustained climbing, with enough stances to shake out from, although never a hands free position until the belay.  

A raw unfiltered video of on the second pitch

And on on the fourth

The second pitch was also new and of similar quality, although it followed a fragile strip of ice that on average was an inch thick and a foot wide.  By the time we were done it, the snow was falling so we had to hurry as a 2000’ couloir was above the route.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before huge sloughs started coming down at frequent intervals.  We split the last 60-meters of ice into two pitches as there was a good belay spot on the right below a rock overhang and we only had a 50-meter rope.  We had also brought the drill and installed bolted anchors the whole way right to the top, with hopes it will entice others to get out and try this incredibly high quality route.  

starting pitch 2


Higher on pitch 2

Simms on pitch 3

me following it

pitch 4 as the storm intensifies

rappelling from the top.  We had a lot of snow come down on us and around us over the course of four rappels 

The Beta:
Approach: Park at the Stanley Headwall.  Walk or ski for two to three hours depending on conditions.  It is one of the closest to the road on the Storm creek headwall, and you can see the upper ice from the highway.  I believe it’s probably climbable most years.  
-2 ropes, 50-meters will suffice if you have them and want to carry less weight.
-12-14 quick draws, which should include a few long ones
-6 screws, mostly 10-13 cms
-stoppers from 4-11
-Pitons: optional….I placed one #3 Pecker and left it fixed on the second pitch
-I had a double rack of cams up to #3 camelot, and 1 #4.  I didn’t need much in the really small sizes.  I did place two #3’s on the fist pitch, but would probably have been ok with a single set in the hand crack sizes.   Definitely double up in the .3, .4, and .5 camelot sizes, and maybe a bit more.  

There is a sheltered spot below a small overhang about 20 meters down and lookers right of the route to gear up, and leave your skis and packs.

THe route as seen from the approach

Pitch 1:  45m M8 - From the highest point of snow below the ice, trend slight right up easy, scrappy, mixed snow ice and rock.  A fist crack provides protection for a steep bodylength to the chossy back of the cave.  Follow 4 bolts up and left requiring a few honest pulls, to get to a nice crack.  Follow that up.  It soon passes two more bolts and a fixed nut from the old rappel anchor.  After those, trend right, then back left to a bulge below the ice which is used to gain a small ledge and a bolted anchor on the right.  Be sure to put a runner on the first bolt, a medium length draw on the second bolt, and extend other cams etc. where necessary to reduce rope drag.

Pitch 2: 50m M6 R - This might be much easier on fatter years.  An 80-degree ice goulotte, with occasional rock pro for 15-meters, leads to average 60-degree terrain.  It was a very consistent 3 cm thick the entire way for us, and was unprotectable for 30 meters after the angle kicked back.  A fall would be serious.  Fortunately, the ice we had was of excellent quality making it a reasonable endeavour.  The bolted anchor is about 5 meters right of the pillar.

Pitch 3: 30m WI5 - Steep ice, thin and hard to protect at the first, but it does improve.  A bolted anchor is on the right below a rock roof.

Pitch 4:  25m WI4 - Straight forward ice climbing.  The bolted anchor is about 3-4 meters above the top of the ice in some rock.

East Creek

Tags: Posted on August 13, 2014

Michelle Kadatz, Paul Bride and I flew in a heli into East Creek (the West side of the Bugaboos) for a few days last week.  Paul was psyched to shoot landscape photos while Michelle and I checked out some of the incredible rock in the Pigeon feathers.  Although there are quite a few routes here described in the guidebook, the Pigeon Feathers remain a slightly more obscure corner of the Bugs, despite their amazing quality, and proximity to a great camp.  Upon landing, we hiked around until we found something that was really inspiring - some unclimbed splitters on Wide Awake Tower, slightly right of the original Wide Awake route.  

Wide Awake Tower.  Our route starts part way up the snow gully.  photo: Paul Bride

On our first climbing day under stormy skies, we made it nearly three quarters of the way up before the skies started unleashing thunder and lightning.  Going down was the only option.  While pulling the ropes after the first rappel, a toaster sized block popped off and landed right in the pile of rope that was stacking itself in front of us as it fell.  The result was both lead and tag lines were chopped in the middle!  The storm intensified and we had no choice but to hunker down in a chimney, while rain, hail, and a lot of very close thunder and lightning came down all around us.  Backs against the wall and all the metal off the harnesses, we slowly got colder and wetter.  Multiple rounds of this continued until finally it passed and we made it down to the glacier safely.  By the time we were walking back to camp, it was nice and sunny so we lapped the first three pitches of the classic Solitary Confinement.  It was great to get back on this one again as it had been 8 or 9 years since I had climbed it, and it was one Michelle wanted to do too.   Our thirty-five meter rope was exactly what it took to get to the first anchor of this amazing 5.11 continuous crack that gradually expanded from tips to off-width over three pitches.  With only two #4 camelots, the even wider 4th pitch wasn’t really an option, which was fine by me.  Three 4's, and three 5's would be considerated adequate for it...


Michelle on Pitch 3 of Solitary Confinement.  

The following day we hiked to Applebee where it was possible to get two more ropes, which took the better part of the day via the Bugaboo Glacier.  On day 3 we got back to work on what we were now calling Electric Funeral, obviously a reference to a Black Sabbath song, and our experience on it the first day.  Paul and I are both huge Black Sabbath fans and when we get together, Sabbath becomes our theme.  Michelle didn’t know the song, but liked the name!  The climbing went well, although seventh pitch took getting dead-ended on two other option before I finally figured out what to do.  Not comfortable with the run-out traverse to a grassy crack, I pendulummed across the face to the seam, then went into aid / cleaning mode with a nut tool and wire brush.  By the time I got to the next ledge, I was so psyched to come back to send the pitch, as well as the amazing looking splitter above that bee-lined for the summit.  It was cold, windy and getting late so we decided to save it for the next day.

Playing with fire at camp. Wide awake is the rightmost tower in the background  photo: Paul Bride

On Day 4 the weather was looking pretty bad, and confidence of being able to complete the project was low.  However, we were back, and for the first time we brought the power drill and enough bolts to set up some stations.  We were psyched to have gone through the process a couple of times without bolts, and felt like the route was worthy of setting up to attract more climber to enjoy its quality.  Fortunately the weather held and even got pretty nice, although quite windy in the afternoon.  On pitch 7, I led out to a small foot ledge and placed the only protection bolt as high above my head as I could, then lowered the drill back to the belay and continured sending the pitch, which was delightfully sustained and interesting to climb.  It was more like face climbing with a thin crack for protection, than the typical crack climbing that’s far more common in the area.  The crux came right off the belay on the pitch 8 while laybacking off amazing chicken heads to pull a small roof!  Trending right, beautiful cracks and transfer moves continued, and the rope was nearly used up before finally reaching a good stance.  

Michelle following the 7th pitch  photo Paul Bride

JW on pich 8, gunning for the top  photo Paul Bride

Sweet views from the summit and a smooth rappel had us celebrating back in camp before long.  Our time was up and we had the heavy, half-day slog / half-day drive home to look forward to the next day.  It had been a fun process exploring this obscure conner of the Bugs and I know I’ll be back again.  The crack system immediately left - aka Wide Awake, looked amazing!  

Almost at the belay at the top of pitch 5.  It's the triangular ledge a body length to my right.  Photo Paul Bride

Michelle bringing me accross the traverse of Pitch 4.  Photo Paul Bride

Michelle on pitch 6. 

Michelle leading pitch 3 

Michelle following pitch 7

JW starting up pitch 8, photo Michelle Kadatz

JW passing some perched flakes and the chimney on the way to the summit.  Photo Michelle Kadatz


Electric Funeral, 300m, 5.11+,  FA: Michelle Kadatz and Jon Walsh, August 7th 2014

A fun route on great rock, highly recommended, and it’s easily scoped from nearby snow slopes.  Pitches 7 and 8 are nothing short of spectacular!  The route is straightforward to rappel, or to walk off.  

Rack: 1 full set of stoppers.  10 - 12 draws.  Double set of cams from purple C3 or red X4 to #3 camelot. One #4 camelot and one #5 camelot are nice for the short wide sections of pitches 2 and 3.  If the plan is to rappel, the #4 and 5 came lots can be left at the top of pitch 3.  

Approach: Start up a the snowgully to the right of the tower's "nose" and ascend snow for about 80 meters.  Look for a distint left facing corner that leads to a righ faceing corner that make up pitches 2 nd 3.  We climbed a body length of 5.7 and then a 5 meter traverse left of easy 5th class to get a good belay ledge where you can dump your packs and get organised.  This is directly below the changing corners of pitches 2 and 3.  We left a cairn here...

P1:  5.10-, 30 meters; climb through bulge from belay and trend left to a left facing corner.  A couple of balance moves to gets you to a crack that leads back right to a left facing corner with two wide cracks in it, and a two bolt belay station.

P2: 5.10, 20 meters; Climb the obvious wide cracks above up the left facing corner to a good ledge, and a gear belay (takes camelots .5, .75, 1)

P3: 5.10, 20 meters;  A few off-width moves give way to nice hand-jamming.  Belay at a good ledge with a huge, easily slung horn for the belay.  

P4: 5.9, 50 meters; climb a short bulge above the belay and make a rising traverse to the right, until a short down climb becomes necessary.  Climb down a few meters, then back up to a good belay ledge.

P5: 5.10+, 50 meters; Great hand and finger cracks head up and slightly left.  Belay at a small but comfortable ledge below an overlap. A very nice pitch.

P6: 5.10+, 15 meters.  Pull through the overlap and up a short groove.  Rather than continue up the dirt right facing corner, make face moves out left onto the exposed / featured / golden face and up to a two bolt belay at a small ledge.

P7: 5.11-, 30 meters; Face climb up and left past a bolt, to gain a thin crack that leads straight up towards a roof.  Two bolt belay below roof at small ledge.

P8: 5.11+ 50 meters; A crux roof sequence leads to spectacular crack climbing that trends rightwards towards the summit, sometimes transferring from crack-to-crack, one of such transfers providing a second, slightly easier crux!   A two bolt belay at a good stance comes after 50 meters

P9: 5.9, 20 meters;  A short straightforward pitch passes a chimney, and gets you to the summit.  

Rappel notes: easy down-climbing about 5-meters off the summit to a slung block is required to get back to the last belay.  A 25-meter rappel straight down from there (the last bolted station) gets you to another bolted station on a ledge that wasn’t part of the route.  It would be possible to climb over to this on pitch 8, although this wasn’t done on the first ascent.  A 50-meter rappel from here gets you to the bolted belay between pitch 6 and 7.  Then 50-meters to a slung horn you passed near the start of P5.  Two single rope rappels on slung horns throughout the owed angle traverse section, get you to the top of pitch 3.  Then a double rope rappel easily makes the top of P1…     

Spirits of Asgard

Tags: Posted on August 12, 2013

It's been a busy summer as always and I'm getting behind on updating this blog.  About six weeks ago, the video Spirits of Asgard was released, and has been very well received.  It's been posted to Outside Television, as well as received a Vimeo Staff pick, so it's recieved a lot of views, which is pretty cool!  A huge congratulations to Joshua Lavigne for producing it.  Check his website for more photos of the trip as well as the July / August 2013 issue of Gripped which features some pics and a 2500 word story I wrote about it.  Josh's words and images are also shared in the 2013 Canadian Alpine Journal.  Although the video covers the "darker" aspects of our trip, such as a couple of close calls we had, it was very a fun and successful trip.  Some photos and stories have been shared here on a blog post from last August, but I thought I'd take a few a minutes to share a few more images as I link the the video here, as an attempt to share a greater visual tour of the amazing landscape Baffin has to offer.  



Spirits of Ásgarðr from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

The north side of Mt. Asgard and the reason for going here. 

Ines and Josh enjoying perfect weather and spectacular views on the 60km approach.  

One of the many stream crossings

Sunrise at Summit Lake

We were always hungry! 

A cariboo skull and atlers on the Turner Glacier, and the first views of the 1200m high North Face of Mt. Asgard 

Getting up the Turner Gl. required a lot of stream hopping, which sometimes required following them for a long ways before finding the easiest spot to jump.

Base camp on the turner.  Asgard peaking through the clouds.


Our kitchen and living room for about a week

Ines getting started up the incredible south Buttress of Mt. Loki

Smiles on the summit of Loki

Getting high on Asgard. Mt. Loki is the highest rock peak accross the glacier and our base camp is on the strip of rock, directly below its summit.  Photo by Joshua Lavigne

Josh and Ines folllow yet another pitch of perfect splitters

Josh getting western, a couple ofpitches below the summit

Ines at base camp below Asgard.