Date: August 1, 2019
Partner: Julian Stoddard
Alpine climbing can be perfectly rewarding even when the quality of the actual climbing isn’t very good. Indeed, this is a reality that I have come to accept in much of Southwestern British Columbia. However, this is not to say that I don’t appreciate the rare instances of solid rock and splitter cracks.
Back of Beyond Buttress was first climbed in 2002 by Jordan Peters and Mike Layton. The route received a handful of ascents in the years that followed but seems to have remained relatively obscure despite positive reviews and some humourous online discussion. With a half dozen or so pitches of climbing up to 5.10b on good quality granite, the route is certainly deserving of more attention.
In my enthusiasm to check out the climb, I was perhaps somewhat wilfully blind to just how far away it is from Squamish. Not only is Boston Bar quite a drive beyond Hope, but the route itself is some 30 kilometres and hundreds of cross-ditches from there. I think it was the longest I’ve ever driven for a daytrip and if I were to do it again, I’d try to combine it with some other objectives in the Fraser Canyon area.
Thankfully after the long drive, the approach to the route is quite short. We parked after having driven about 5 kms up the Kookipi West Branch (if you didn’t mind dragging through some deep cross-ditches you could drive a couple kms further) and walked down the road. Just before it crossed the creek on a bridge, we took a spur road that led along the east side of the valley. This soon ended, but a reclaimed road bed remained for some distance which made for reasonable walking. Finally, the roadbed ended and we traversed through a clearcut. From near the end of the clearcut, we climbed directly up through moderately dense forest and up the talus to the base of the route. Crossing the bridge and staying on the Kookipi West FSR would make it much easier to spot the correct drainage but would add a short bushwack down to the creek. Including the road walking, we took about an hour and a half to the base the of the route.
The main feature of the route is the 100m high “endurance slab”. While this might sound like a bit of a hyperbolic name, the best belay stances are very small footholds at best and it certainly tested my ability to endure hanging belays in my lightweight alpine harness. The rock quality on the slab is excellent although there are a few suspicious flakes in places. We both felt that the grade of 5.10b was fair but that the climbing was fairly sustained at that level. Because of the gear belays in what is mostly a thin-hands crack, we were happy to have brought a triple set of cams in purple, green and red camalot sizes.
Above the slab, the climbing becomes much more friendly with a number of different line possible on broken but generally solid rock. We stretched our 50 metre rope three times with most of the climbing behind mid-5th class near the crest of the buttress. After a short but difficult tight hands crack we unroped and scramble along the ridge to easy ground. We then dropped our packs and wandered up to the summit (or possibly a sub-summit) of Mt. Ichor and marvelled at the various peaks which we couldn’t identify.
To descend, we dropped west from the end of the 3rd class ridge and contoured down and right across rocky heather slopes to the top of a gulley that dropped back into the approach basin. The correct gulley should clearly connect to the basin with no technical difficulties. From the basin, we retraced our steps back to the truck while making lots of noise so as not to surprise any bears (we saw three on the day including one that was likely a grizzly).