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8/30/13 – Blake Herrington and Madaleine Sorkin have free-climbed the original route up a little-known 2,000-foot granite wall in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains. The west face of 9,200-foot Mt. Bute was first climbed in 1986 (Foweraker-Serl, 5.10 A2) and had been repeated only a couple of times. In 2009, three Canadians climbed a 50-pitch route on the buttress forming the left border of the west face (School of Rock, Kay-Martinello-Sinnes), and they commented in the AAJ: “The west face is certainly one of the finest pure rock features in the Coast Range; it deserves a free ascent.” This inspired another Canadian team to attempt the free ascent the following summer; although they were able to repeat the route, they were prevented from free-climbing it by cold and snow. In 2011, Martinello and Dean Potter free-climbed the wall during a National Geographic–funded expedtion, via a route that starts on the original route and then takes a line further to the left. Potter then flew a wingsuit off the summit (see trailer for the 2012 National Geographic Explorer film below).
After flying in to the mountain in mid-August, Herrington and Sorkin climbed the face in a long day, finding many pitches of 5.10 and 5.11 on “world-class granite.” Sorkin led the crux pitch at 5.12- high on the route. The two topped out in deteriorating weather and immediately began rappelling the route. They bivied partway down in a cave discovered by the first-ascent team, and then continued down in rain the next morning.
The adventure wasn’t over yet, though. After sitting in the tent for many days of rain, the two gave up on more climbing and began hiking out toward the ocean at Bute Inlet. Two hard days of miserable bushwhacking got them to a homesteaders’ camp, where they were able to radio for a float plane to come and pick them up.
Herrington has posted a full report and many photos at his blog—well worth reading!
Date of ascent: August 2013
Source: Blake Herrington, American Alpine Journal