With another weekend of bad weather in the North Cascades, we turned our eyes north, to BC, for some lengthy, moderate multi-pitch. Squamish was out of the question – too many people, too many lines.
Instead, we’d travel a few hours east towards the Coquihalla Range, enticed by its excellent rock quality and relative obscurity. Our objective? Seven One Move Wonders of the World (5.8-/PG-13, III), an infrequently climbed fifteen pitch friction slab bonanza that meanders up Yak Peak’s SW face.
Our base of operations for the weekend would be the scenic Zopkios Rest Area, a truck stop. Pro-tip: Bring earplugs. A refrigerated truck parked next to us the first night and proceeded to idle ‘til it departed around 5AM. Neither of us got much sleep.
Day One: Is This Our Route?
The plan was simple: get an early start Saturday and be climbing by sunrise. We’d spend Sunday bouldering and cragging near Harrison Hot Springs, which Mountain Project promised was well-maintained, with a bevy of closely spaced trad routes and boulders.
The evening prior, we’d run into a pair of climbers who’d climbed Yak Check and asked about SOMWOW and the trail. They knew the route but hadn’t climbed it, and directed us to a path about 1km up the road. Though it contradicted the route description, which had the trail starting just out of the rest area, we’d found no sign of it and decided to trust the locals. Mistake #1.
We donned headlamps and started up the road at quarter to five. If everything was as described, we’d pop out of the woods right at the base of our route. Instead, we emerged under Yak Check, a considerably more popular line nearly a kilometer to the east of our intended climb. Undeterred – and not yet realising how far off we were – we traversed westwards along the base.
An hour’s scrambling and multiple consultations of the topo and route description had us at a loss. There were a few features that looked almost, but not quite like the ones we’d seen in other climber’s TRs, but no evidence of anchors on the face or the
two ponds we were to belay between. In our defense, 1,000’ expanses of fourth class slab look pretty similar 😬.
Westward progress was halted by a thicket of pines and the realisation that Camille had lost her climbing shoes during the traverse. Our real-life round of
Where’s Waldo with green TC Pros on brown-ish tinged granite took up another hour and a half.
Now convinced we’d taken the wrong trail and concerned it was too late in the day to complete the route and descent before nightfall, we descended back to the rest area to find the proper start. Diving straight through the brush at the second telephone ball, just past the brake check sign, we saw a flash of orange to our left – a trail marker! To save you repeating our mistake, here’s a GPX we recorded the next morning.
Day 2: Do you see any bolts?
The forecast for the second day was grim, so we set out with two ropes lest we were forced to retreat. From the proper trail the initial belay is obvious and well-marked with cairns. We roped up, consolidated packs for the carryover, and got to climbing.
We found the first seven pitches were 5.- strolls. On several, it was possible to walk straight up, sans hands. Apart from a cool move on P3, which followed a flower-filled crack, we didn’t find any of the
One Move Wonders or the bolts mentioned in the topo. Simulclimbing these would have sped up the climb significantly and not been much riskier - there are bolted belays metres and only one or two placements per pitch either way.
There was some trouble finding the anchors for pitch eight, and we ended up ten metres above them. As the topo warned, the bolts were between two large wet streaks, and the traverse couldn’t be protected. It would’ve been safer to stay to the right on the broken rock band and belay the UFO pitch from a gear anchor; rope drag wouldn’t be much worse.
From here, the climbing improved, and grades began to seem more appropriate. The mantle over the UFO was wet enough to spice up an otherwise bland lead. The technical crux of the route comes at the end, with the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth pitches building in both difficulty and length of runout.
We made it through eleven and twelve in good form, and then had a bit of a scare on the thirteenth. Though considerably worse at slab than my technically-proficient partner, I’m less shaken by being far above pro (i.e. less likely to imagine the consequences) and got to lead the crux. Unable to spot the first bolt after leaving the belay, I eventually located the the second far above and to the right. The only spot for intermediate pro was a dirt-filled lip to our left. With a #0.3 in place, I padded towards the most nervewracking traverse of my short climbing career.
I’d failed to notice returning right would require crossing a markedly less featured portion of slab. Wet slab. Swearing under my breath, I prayed to the friction gods with every step. The cry of
HALF ROPE! sounds an arm’s length from the clipping stance. Feet planted precariously, I removed a sling from my shoulder and leaned in for the clip. My right foot slipped.
Performing my best impression of the Howard Dean scream, visions of cheese-grating sixty metres down the face run through my head. I throw all my weight to the left and push off, right arm outstretched. The carabiner’s nose finds its mark. I hurriedly clip the rope and move upwards to a better stance, then rush to finish the remaining twenty-five metres. Placements are ample but unnecessary, the final move a fun, juniper-assisted step to the anchors. Once secured, I plop down and enjoy a few moments reflecting on the
fun of trad.
With all but one cam still on my harness, I was elected to lead the penultimate, fourteenth pitch as well. Not one to learn from my mistakes, I strayed too far right and made it a fair bit more difficult for myself and the follower. Again, we could only find the second bolt.
From P14 anchors, you’ve the choice of continuing upwards to the summit or rappelling to the base. Not fancying thirteen double rope raps on shallow slab, we opted for the walk-off. Camille lead the final pitch, a proper adventure climb with plentiful trees for slinging.
Though the summit was still a few hundred feet away, we paused to savour the cookies we’d saved for the end of fifth class terrain and relief from our climbing shoes’ confines.
Summit Scramble & Descent
The remaining scrambling was exposed and chossy. Safety-conscious parties (and especially those without approach shoes) may want to remain roped up for the first section past P15, which is 5.Fun gravel masquerading as rock. From above the meadow, the path to the summit is straightforward. Bear north, making ample use of juniper bushes for self-belay. Views from the summit pyramid are remarkable.
From the summit, descent is to the north. Follow the cairns down and across the gully towards the Yak Crack trail. Including scrambling, my bad knees, and some backtracking to find the proper trail, it was roughly three hours back to the car.
We had way too much gear. Rack included pink and brown tricams, single C4s 0.5-4, C3s 00-2, .2 and .1 X4s, and a set of nuts. C3s and nuts never left the harness. Highly recommend bringing a #3.5 or #4.
We brought a second rope in case we had to rappel and wouldn’t countenance climbing the route without one. Even a spritz of rain would render otherwise trivial portions extremely difficult.