Huge Canadian Faces Fall in Winter Conditions

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Raphael Slawinski starts the crux headwall of the Greenwood-Jones Route (M6 in winter) on Mt. Temple. The route climbs into the prominent corner at the apex of the face. Photo courtesy of Raphael Slawinski.

Raphael Slawinski starts the crux headwall of the Greenwood-Jones Route (M6 in winter) on Mt. Temple. The route climbs into the prominent corner at the apex of the face. Photo courtesy of Raphael Slawinski.

The first bivouac on the north face of Mt. Temple in early March. The team bivied again at the top of the face. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

The first bivouac on the north face of Mt. Temple in early March. The team bivied again at the top of the face. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

Two major Canadian Rockies walls have had significant ascents in winter conditions: one by a first winter ascent, and the other by a new route. Mr. Everywhere, Raphael Slawinski, was on the scene on both climbs.

First was Mt. Temple, where Slawinski had already completed two full-length routes on the north face in winter. Slawinski, Eamonn Walsh, and Ian Welsted climbed the 4,200-foot Greenwood-JonesRoute (IV/V 5.9 in summer; M6 in winter) over two full days of climbing, followed by a third day to trudge to Temple’s 11,624-foot summit in high winds and descend.

“I will not bore you with the usual trivia: We drytooled here, stemmed over there, and grabbed the rock with gloves hands a few times here and there,” Slawinski wrote in a summary of the climb. The team camped one night on a rubble-covered ledge about halfway up the route, and a second night at the top of the technical climbing. The seconds followed every pitch but the last hard lead, which Slawinski led in the dark, after which his partners “had the dubious pleasure of Tiblocing their way of skinny ropes with more than a vertical kilometer of darkness below.”

The line of the Greenwood-Jones Route (IV/V 5.9 in summer) on Mt. Temple, with the bivouac marked. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

The line of the Greenwood-Jones Route (IV/V 5.9 in summer) on Mt. Temple, with the bivouac marked. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

Slawinski had previously made the first winter ascents of the Greenwood-Locke and the Robinson-Orvig on Temple.

Ten days later, visiting Yanks Steve House and Roger Strong blitzed the Greenwood-Jones on Temple in a 25.5-hour round trip from a camp below the face. House credited Slawinski’s good beta for helping with their speedy ascent. “We got caught doing the last 1.5 pitches in the dark, but otherwise it went well,” he wrote at Gravsports-ice.com. “The last pitch was slabby and had bad feet. I A0’ed through that, hooking the many fixed pins on the pitch. Too cold and dark to try to free it as I'd hoped.”

House added that “the highlight of the climb was ascending the upper east ridge under the nearly full moon and not a bit of wind. Beautiful.”

House was supposed to team up with Slawinski and the Swiss guide Pierre Darbellay for the next outing, but the American fell sick, and so it was Slawinski and his longtime friend and partner Darbellay who nabbed the first ascent of the much-tried Dogleg Couloir on the mile-high east face of Mt. Chephren.

Pierre Darbellay in the thick of it, in deteriorating weather, on The Dogleg Couloir of Mt. Chephren. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

Pierre Darbellay in the thick of it, in deteriorating weather, on The Dogleg Couloir of Mt. Chephren. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

Starting on Saturday morning, March 22, the two climbed moderate ground to a snow cave high on the face. After oversleeping in the morning, they tackled the crux upper third of the route, which featured “sustained drytooling with lots of clearing of snow mushrooms,” Slawinski said. “The ’shrooms got bigger and bigger the higher we got, until the place looked like Cerro Torre (not that I would know!). In fact I took a sizeable lead fall when one of these features collapsed under my (obviously substantial) weight.” Unable to find a suitable bivy ledge, the two climbed through the night in poor weather and topped out at 6 a.m. on Monday morning.

Slawinski said the climb went at around M7 A1. “Yes, I used some aid on the last pitch, and I feel very sheepish about it,” he said. “My excuse is that it was 3 a.m., I was tired, and I just wanted off. Mind you, when we told Barry Blanchard about it he loved it: ‘The modern version of the Rockies 5.9 A2,’ he said!”

Dates of Ascents: March 2008

Sources: Raphael Slawinski, Steve House, Gravsports-ice.com

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Mt. Chephren’s mile-high east face. The Dogleg Couloir starts up the obvious snow gully on the right. At about half-height, it branches left toward the summit. The crux climbing is all in the upper third. The Wild Thing (Arbic-Blanchard-Robinson, 1987) starts atop the big snow cone in center left. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.

Mt. Chephren’s mile-high east face. The Dogleg Couloir starts up the obvious snow gully on the right. At about half-height, it branches left toward the summit. The crux climbing is all in the upper third. The Wild Thing (Arbic-Blanchard-Robinson, 1987) starts atop the big snow cone in center left. Photo by Raphael Slawinski.