Mt. Blane (2993 m) - 2007/08/06
I couldn�t get out for a full day in July but managed to save Heritage Day for a climb. Too much work aside, the harder part was to find a partner. At the end I teamed up with Mark Williams, an Australian surfer who moved to Canada to surf snow in winter and climb mountains in summer.
We left the trailhead under starry skies at 4:50 AM. Getting to the Brock-Blane col is an adventure itself, starting with 11 creek crossings on logs (yet have to complete it with dry footwear at headlamp lights) then a hard-to-find turnoff toward the col and a steep gully ascent to gain a total of 900 m. The summit from here is just 700 m away with another 400 m gain to go. Hard to believe that even experienced climbers average an unimpressive 0.3 km/h from here. Maybe not so hard to believe it if one looks at a photo of the ridge.
We had an excellent route description from Dow Williams and the �Selected Alpine Climbs� guidebook was not bad either. We roped up for 2 pitches. Mark led the first pitch that felt like 5.6. I led the second one that was easier, maybe 5.5, placing only one pro (medium cam) for the crux. On our way down we figured that the first pitch could have been avoided completely with scrambling had we stuck to the ridge� (Bottom line: don�t bother with too much gear if you do this climb.)
After the true pitch we kept the rope on, to protect the upcoming very exposed ridge. Quite a few times the only way to go was to grab the edge of the ridge and climb sideways hanging above the drop-off. At one point I belayed Mark from the comfort of a Harley seat: one leg above the west drop-off other leg above the east drop-off and leaning back to a rock. The worse parts were where the ridge was also rising. It was just scary we would have to climb down the same way. Rock quality wasn�t the best either: we kept testing every suspicious block. After about 2 rope lengths of ridge scrambling we finally found a place wide enough to sit down. We left our climbing gear and rope here, as the remaining part to the summit seemed to be easier. Well, it wasn�t easier as far as the climbing went but at least it wasn�t exposed and Class 4 at the same time.
We spent about 10 minutes on the summit but I wouldn�t say we highly enjoyed it with the descent in our minds. Luckily, the weather held out and we could take our time to descend the ridge safely. Again, we protected the most exposed and steepest part of the ridge with rope, and then finished off the difficulties with 2 rappels. It was the second rappel where we figured the first �pitch� could have been avoided and didn�t really need a rappel either. We used existing stations though.
It took us 8 hours to complete the ridge back and forth. Super slow but it was OK for us, relative beginners in this game. It was still a fairly intense experience so we took it easy on our way down from the col. Back in King Creek canyon, we finally met the first humans during the day. Most of them appeared to enjoy the thrills of balancing on logs above the creek in already wet footwear.