Trip Report
First Ascent of Vulcan's Thumb, SW BC (sort of)
Sunday May 1, 2011 9:34pm
Inspired by the recent Mt Karl Heller east ridge in winter trip report, Damien Kelly and myself decided to come to grips with the locally infamous Vulcans Thumb, last unclimbed summit remaining in southwest BC (or so they say). Over the years the full spectrum of the local alpinist diaspora has hurled themselves at this beast, like austrians at the Eiger or lemmings off a cliff. Well actually 99.9% usually took one look from afar and immediately thought of better things they should be doing, wisely i might add. I myself had 30 years previous embarked on such a noble quest under the tutelage of such alpine luminaries as Bob Milward (first winter sideways ascent of Ben Nevis) Peter Shackleton (voted best Marty Feldman impersonation 4 years in a row) and Greg "Bricks" Shannan (First levi denim ascent of the Cassin Ridge).
Back then, The thumb was a remote and austere mystery. It took us 2 days just to get a distant look at it before blisters, bong hits and frozen jeans forced a retreat.

east face of the thumb (left spire)
east face of the thumb (left spire)
Credit: Bruce Kay

These days no such mystery remains. In fact our approach involved no more than a 1/2 hr screaming rip on 900 cc sleds up a groomed double wide sled road right to the base - and we weren't alone. In fact the whole area was buzzing with mechanical hornets and smelling like a fuel farm. Threading the gauntlet of stray kids, ausies and camera tripods we presevered to the ridge crest for our first view of the beast.

Not ones to defy tradition we took one look and decided there were other fish to fry (so to speak - not literally, even if it did look like a fish). Fortunately there was a good plan B handy - Mt Cayley. The drive to within spitting distance of the summit and its ski slope incline was deemed more suitable to our delicate palate - nor was it fishy. We left our vehicles with the courtesy valet service and skinned up to the crux headwall, stepping carefully over various photo shoots and sled repairs along the way.

Credit: Bruce Kay

Being modern alpinists we elected to leave all essential items behind like the rope. But being from squamish we took the beer. This proved fortuitous as it provided both "bottled courage" as it were, as well as the old "empty plant" which proved critical in overcoming the one technical impediment standing in our way - a rock. This pitch we rated M1 and we are sure that it is a new variation.
Starting the M1 crux
Starting the M1 crux
Credit: Bruce Kay
preparing for the empty plant
preparing for the empty plant
Credit: Bruce Kay
executing the empty plant
executing the empty plant
Credit: Bruce Kay

Above this Damien demonstrated his prowess at the balling crampon technique. another beer was in order here to overcome his internal dilemma and there was still some left by the time we summited
celebrating.... prematurely it turns out
celebrating.... prematurely it turns out
Credit: Bruce Kay

Unfortunately we confronted this, the other last remaining unclimbed summit in southwest BC
who put that there?
who put that there?
Credit: Bruce Kay

We, no doubt like all others before us, chose to ignore this feature as"not really part of the mountain" (there has been much precedent established on this point) as what looks like rock really has all the consistency of air, thus must be a hallucination. Other hallucinations upon the summit consisted of an old wrecked sled, an abandoned kicker, and much feces and broken bottles. We finished our drinks and returned to our skis.
Being careful not to sample the 7000 ft descent into the wrong valley
Being careful not to sample the 7000 ft descent into the wrong valley
Credit: Bruce Kay
Traversing to the right valey
Traversing to the right valey
Credit: Bruce Kay

The current cultural state of affairs on the mountain can best be described in the following photo. On the left is the landing zone of an ubiquitous snowboard kicker, the tell tale sign of another boring photo shoot. In the center is the path of a high marking sledder. On the right are tracks left by the rarely seen "old school". Note the closely linked turns.
Interbreeding
Interbreeding
Credit: Bruce Kay

After bidding adieu to our valet we returned to the valley and by 2 in the afternoon we were back where we should have been in the first place - the Smoke Bluffs.

The Vulcan's Thumb remains inviolate. No doubt another generation will rise to the challenge. We Canadians have a long tradition of offering up our prized routes, summits, natural resources and women to foreign raiding parties and perhaps this would interest some of the "young international tigers" . Although not quite Sierra granite, the rock provides an interesting texture if molded and packed down with enough moisture. Local wisdom suggest a good solid freeze to further augment this desired texture and ensure a reasonably stable upright position. A good rack of 6 to 10 inch spikes (galvanized and spiral) has been used to good effect here. If anyone knows Mick Fowler, I'm sure this would interest his refined sensabilities.

















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Bruce Kay
About the Author
Bruce Kay is a gym climber from BC.

Comments
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Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 1, 2011 - 09:37pm PT
Where did that weather come from and whatever possessed you to leave the gym?

WHOOT!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  May 1, 2011 - 09:43pm PT
Bruce, aren't you supposed to be at home writing letters to the editor or something?

Anyway, has the Vulcan's Thumb ever had a serious attempt, that isto say one involving the use of rope, crampons, ice axe, grappling hooks, or high explosives? Lots of people have looked on it from afar, but apart from the ascents of Pyroclastic, Mount Fee (N & S), and Mount Cayley, has anyone actually laid hands on it with malice aforethought?
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Canada
  May 1, 2011 - 09:47pm PT
HAHAHA !
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 1, 2011 - 09:55pm PT
Loved the commentary,

As Kanucks, why did you ever leave the BAR? .....:)
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  May 1, 2011 - 11:55pm PT
Not even Mick Fowler would go anywhere near that pile of poo.
MH2

climber
  May 2, 2011 - 12:26am PT
But is it life? Is it duty? Is it common sense? Is it allowable? Is it not wrong?
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
  May 2, 2011 - 12:30am PT
Aboot this, I give an Eh plus!
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  May 2, 2011 - 12:42am PT
The Thumb oughtta be treated like Chernobyl; covered in a concrete sarcophagus.

I was gonna chew on yer ankle about the mechanized approach buttchyaknow who the f * # k cares. 'Sides, I like the likker shots. Just don't ever breed with the 'bilers. The offspring might be hardwired to overenjoy that fuel-dump smell, hi-markin' under the affluence of incohol or shavin' their bikini line whilst pilotin' something 900cc.

Snicker.

Osama is dead, the 'Nux are still in the playoffs & Jack is doin' fab in the polls. This is an odd year indeed.

Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  May 2, 2011 - 12:46am PT
The Canucks aren't doing so good.

Anyway, as long as horses aren't frightened in the street.
sac

Trad climber
Sun Coast B.C.
  May 2, 2011 - 01:03am PT
Awesome TR BK !!!
I'm... stoked. eh!!
Good call, considering that THAT part of the mountain,
wasn't part of the actual mountain. Heads up, eh?

RIGHT ON!!..... right?

A.
PellucidWombat

Mountain climber
Berkeley, CA
  Jan 23, 2013 - 03:58pm PT
Eh plus, for sure! That's what I'm all aboot!
Tricouni

Mountain climber
Vancouver
  Jan 23, 2013 - 04:53pm PT
Dick Culbert, Hamie, my brother Bob, and I made an attempt on the thing in 1965 (I think). No crampons, because it was September (I think). We got high enough.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Feb 7, 2013 - 01:21am PT
Bumping some real content from a good climber.

With much respect for you good sir.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Feb 7, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
Hey I missed this one before, cool stuff Bruce. Looks like a good day on the stink pot :-) Gonna have to look for u in the background on my shred videos.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Feb 7, 2013 - 12:42pm PT
Alp the gnar!
MH2

climber
  Feb 7, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Not ones to defy tradition we took one look


Nothing wrong with another look.

Yep, same answer.
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