Kootenay National Park
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.
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
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.