Trip Report*Photo TR* Crack fiends search for fissures in the land of bolts (Skaha)
Crack fiends search for fissures in the land of bolts
Easter 1987 Howie Richardson and Bob Cuthbert went for a hike in the bluffs above Skaha Lake, Penticton BC. They decided to go have a closer look at the Great White Wall. After they inspected it, upon turning around they saw this (among many others):
After several years of wet coast escape trips I’ve fallen in love with this place. I make a habit of going every spring and fall. I missed my spring trip this year but made up for it with two summer trips, but I still hadn’t revisited some of the classic cracks I wanted to get back to.
My lovely girlfriend and I had it all organized at the start of the month but we both got sick the day we were supposed to go.
A week later I called my buddy Kyle to see if he was at work. He said “No. I’ve been laid off!.” So I quipped “ Sweet! When are we going to Skaha?” He laughed and said he didn’t really have too much else to do. I told him we should go that night! He said he had a couple things to do and I realized that I should tie up a few loose ends as well. We agreed to set out early the next morning.
Duffey Lake Road
Choss just outside Lillooet
BC roads are extremely stable....
After a five hour drive, we arrived in Penticton BC. We set up camp at Waterworld. A former waterslide resort which faltered after the slides fell into disrepair.
Being so late in the fall only the residents in their mobile units were onsite, and one other tenter, a young gentleman from Edmonton who was in town to skateboard and attend a church retreat.
After we dropped off our camping gear we headed up to the new Skaha Bluffs parking lot for a couple of afternoon climbs. Kyle couldn’t believe I hadn’t climbed Et Tu Brutus, so we headed to the Fortress.
The Fortress, East Face
Et Tu Brutus is a 3 star 50m 5.9. It ascends a diagonal ramp finger/hand crack to the right of the last photo which runs the entire length of the cliff. I quite enjoyed it and found that it took good gear (lots of it) and was a lot of fun.
After we rapped Kyle told me he wanted to go do Genetic Mirror another 3 star 10b just down the way in the Corridor. So we packed up the gear and headed over there.
Fortress, The Corridor
Climber: Unknown Climb: Rats will play 5.9?
Genetic Mirror is a sport climb which goes up an incipient crack on beautiful incuts which seem to become smaller all the way up. It is very sustained and if you have been jamming cracks all summer like me, will make your fingers a bit raw. :)
Kyle sent it and I cruised it on tr, took it down and we headed back to the campsite to get ready for dinner.
Moonrise over the bluffs above our campsite
We were trying to keep the costs down on this trip but the one thing I wanted to splurge on was dinner at Theo’s. This authentic Greek restaurant has been around for ages and has the best rabbit I personally have ever had the pleasure to savour.
Fortress, Penal Tower, The Burglar’s Dog
The next morning after a leisurely breakfast we headed up to the Penal Tower, a small outcrop at the end of the Fortress. I had climbed Burglar’s Dog 5.9 in the past and suggested to Kyle that it would make a good warm up.
Kyle on Burglar’s Dog
I have learned that the best climbing photography happens when you are not attached to your subject. Unfortunately this was not an option for us this trip so I decided to make do and see what I could get.
Kyle cranks face holds on Burglar’s Dog
After I took it down, we went to Upper Red Tail to get on Pink Toe-nails. This was my lead but my stomach was feeling a bit woozy and I didn’t really feel like getting sick on the sharp end so I gave it to Kyle.
I set up a gear anchor at the base of the route so I could lean back and take some photos, but it wasn’t a very good angle so I didn’t really bother.
Pink Toenails 10b was a 50m Howie/Tony Richardson/Barley mixed route which apparently had recently been retro-bolted. We didn’t know that though and Kyle took an assortment of mid-sized gear. He found the slab crux at the top a little stiff, and scrapped every last sling and biner he had together to make draws.
I followed cleanly until the crux but I set up for it too far left and pumped myself out trying to move back right. We walked over to Treasure in the Lichen and rapped down it leaving an anchor so we could top rope it.
When we reached Dead Hawk Rake, we barely had enough time to take our shoes off when who should stroll up but Mr Howie Richardson himself, and his friendly border collie Joe. He saw our rope on Treasure and asked what we were up to. I told him “We just climbed Pink Toe-Nails and we rapped down Treasure to get back down and figured we’d top rope it in the process.”
He seemed pretty excited that we had climbed Pink Toe-Nails and asked us how we had liked it. I said “It was fun but some bolts seem to have been added to it. Kyle only used 1 cam!”. He replied that he had recently retro bolted it to increase traffic. Kyle told him it seemed a little stiff for the grade and he just smiled and nodded. Then he headed off to go retrieve his stashed rope from the top of Red Tail.
Chillin on Dead Hawk Rake
After a little snack break we tr’d Treasure in the Lichen, a 40m 11a. I found the crux pretty hard and it took me a couple hangs to figure it out. Kyle cruised it and was disappointed he didn’t lead it… Especially with the 17 bolts for protection!
We were going to go to the Prow and do Slow Pitch but we realized it was getting late and we only had a couple of hours of light left, so we decided to rap and climb Sursum Corda a two star 10b directly below us on Red Tail Lower.
On the way down we met a gentleman named Nick who happened to be leading Preface (*** 5.9), and he graciously allowed me to snap a couple pics.
Nick just past the difficulties on Preface
Preface 5.9 *** Very sustained
Nick makes funny faces for the camera
I had onsighted Sursum Corda in the past so I gave the lead to Kyle. He sent it with a little pause to consider the runout. I had crappy light so I didn’t get any decent photos. We packed up the stuff and headed back to the truck.
On the way back as we popped out of the corridor we saw this:
We thought we would head over to the top of the stairs and take in the view
Skaha Lake Sunset
A beautiful way to end a spectacular fall day and a good omen for the following day.
After intensive guidebook research over drinks that night we decided that we needed to return to the Fortress to send Itchin To Climb, another three star 10a.
Fortress, East Face
Climb: Itchin to Climb 10a *** Climber: Jason
When we got there the next morning, Jason from OK Falls was just gearing up for it, so Kyle braved the lazy wasp crux on Dad’s Army Strikes.
Fortress, East Face
Climb: Dad’s Army Strikes 10a Climber: Kyle
You can’t see them but there were dozens of these weird lazy wasps hanging out by the cracks at his feet. They didn’t seem hostile but I didn’t want anything to do with them.
Kyle seemed to think they were fine and Jason reassured him that they weren’t hostile as long as you didn’t touch them. So he got the wasp lead. I followed cleanly and found the crux to be trying not to touch any of the wasps. ;)
Fortress, East Face
Climb: Valient Vetrans 11a Climber: Unknown
This gentleman chose this climb because of his allergy to wasps but found the crux to be rounding the lip where he found more of them.
Kyle placing a nut on Dad’s Army Strikes
Jason on Itchin to Climb
Jason and his wife finished up quickly and I racked up for Itchin to Climb. As I did I noticed that I was missing one of my link cams, but I brushed it off thinking that I had just left it in the truck.
Jason suggested I could just take a set of stoppers like he did, but being my first lead of the day and onsight I chose to take a little more than that.
Me on Itchin to Climb
This was Kyle’s first and last attempt to take pictures while belaying this trip. (It’s hard! Gri Gri would be ideal!)
I sent the climb and found it quite enjoyable. Jason told us that he had just scrubbed it recently and took a bunch of loose rock out of the blocks in the middle of it.. I ran the loose looking stuff out anyways because it was easy.
After Kyle took it down we had a little snack, then packed quickly and rushed off to the Prow. On the way we passed the bathroom, so I stopped to relieve myself and wondered…
Skaha self composting toilet
Did Anders help build this? :)
We made it to the Prow and pulled up at the bottom of Slow Pitch.
Slow Pitch initial corner
First thing Kyle says when he gets a look at it is, “That looks hard.” I thought “I didn’t come here cause it was easy!”
This crack is a beauty jammer with a sick initial roof crux which is very sustained and provides little rest. The 35m of climbing contains at least 4 cruxes but sucks up gear and is better experienced in spring or fall to avoid being dive bombed by white-throated swifts.
I grovelled up the initial corner with a couple hangs at the first crux before the roof, but managed the rest of the pitch in decent style. Kyle got to the belay after a bit of cursing at a nut that I had bailed on at the bottom.
We managed a quick change over at the belay as the sun went down over the horizon and it chased Kyle as he started up the next pitch. It got very cold in my t-shirt very fast while standing at the best belay ledge at Skaha. I shook and jumped around to try and generate some warmth.
Slow Pitch P1
Kyle sent his pitch quickly, but it seemed like forever to me. He took up the slack and got me on belay, and I was instantly warm as soon as I started climbing. I cleaned quickly and climbed smoothly.
When I reached the belay we both agreed that the first pitch was much harder than the second. It was comparable to the Split Pillar grading but not as pumpy. We chilled for a bit in Bomb alley on the walk off, and then quickly packed up our gear and made our way to the truck as it got dark.
When we got back to the truck I ripped the entire contents out onto the parking lot asphalt and tore apart our climbing bags. Kyle had also realized he was missing his #2 BD cam and I was determined that they were in the truck, but they were nowhere to be found. Rampant speculation on where they had gone was plentiful from this point onward.
It was our last night in town and we hadn’t had a fire yet, so we decided to go to the Skaha Lake Beach where such things were still permitted. We roasted smokies for dinner and had a few libations.
Skaha Lake Beach
I didn’t have a tripod with me so Kyle’s cooler ended up taking the photo.
The next morning we packed up camp and went to Shades on Main for breakfast.
Shades is a Skaha roadtrip staple for us. Your typical greasy spoon, it is very popular with Penticton’s blue haired crowd. Unfortunately we forgot it was a Sunday and our food took forever.
We arrived at the upper parking lot about the crack of noon and decided to go to Grassy Glades. Halfway there we ran into our friends Andrew and MC from Whistler.
They were warming up at Elusive Edge, so we stopped and chatted for awhile. Andrew saw all our gear and asked us “You guys climbing Trad here?” We told him about our mission to tick some of the classics.
It seems like a lot of climbers come to Skaha for the sport routes, but the number of people with racks on their shoulders surprised me the couple of times I was there this summer, so maybe things are changing?
We met a Squamish local who asked about our gear and then proceeded to tell us about his Skaha crack experience. He said “Have you climbed Gang Bang? The gear on that one is sketchy. It probably wouldn’t even hold a fall.” I replied “Yes, I had a buddy hang dog on that one.. Gear seemed fine to me?”
When we got to Grassy Glades, Kyle said “You should lead this one then I’ll lead Fun Run at Great White.” I was happy with that deal and started racking up.
Grassy Glades, Grassy Glades 10a ** (Crack on Right)
Climb: Brilliant Pebbles 10c *** Climber: Unknown
I redpointed Grassy and Kyle tr’d it clean. As he was taking it down I took some shots of the couple next to us climbing Brilliant Pebbles. I was impressed when this girl decided pull the rope and pink point the climb instead of tr.
Brilliant Pebbles, Grassy Glades
Stretched out on Brilliant Pebbles
Kyle was eager to get on Fun Run so we packed up and headed around the corner. The Great White Wall is the opposite side of the formation that Grassy Glades is on.
Fun Run 10a **, Great White Wall
I was glad Kyle wanted to lead Fun Run because the last time I was on it my buddy Dave bailed after he got sketched out and couldn’t get any gear in. He had to run around quite a ways to get on top to retrieve our gear. I knew Kyle would get through it no problem.
Fun Run, Great White Wall
Climb: Fun Run 10a ** Climber: Kyle
He sent it of course, with ease and I lowered him to the ground. After I cleaned it we went around the corner to Gang Bang.
Gang Bang 10c ***, Great White Wall
This one was my lead and I got about ten feet up, got pumped and barely got a piece of gear in before I called take! I realized that I could send this corner but It wouldn’t be pretty and decided Kyle had a much better chance of leading it in better style.
Plus I wanted to get a few pictures of it.
Kyle halfway up Gang Bang
Climb: Gang Bang 10c *** Climber: Kyle
Right before the whip
He almost got the red-point but tried to rush through the crux.
Great White Wall summit sunset
When we got down we were packing up and I realized that I was also missing one of my aliens! We realized that the last place we had seen them was Red Tail when we did Pink Toe-Nails. We decided that we had better at least go check.
When we got to Dead Hawk Rake there was a couple coming down. They said the had done “Right Cheek”. They asked what we were up to and I told them about our missing cams. They said “Oh, the anchor” “The Anchor?” I said? Then suddenly it dawned on me…
THE ANCHOR!!! I ran up to the base and saw my link cam, alien and Kyle’s camalot set-up exactly where I had left them… The Anchor!
Thanks to all that left our gear in-situ!
On the way home I stopped to take this picture of the amazing harvest moon.
Hope you enjoyed the eye candy!
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