Thar's West Ridge Couloir (FA, 2015 March 7) - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 05:12 AM Thread Starter
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Default Thar's West Ridge Couloir (FA, 2015 March 7)

Party: Alan Trick and Mike VanWerkhoven

Grade: AD+

Summary: I found this route incredibly fun. While mostly moderate climbing, the short steps add variety, and a great sense of adventure. Be careful with conditions, an avalanche on this route would be very bad.

Last year, when I first came to this area, I made a vain attempt to climb this route, only to be turned away at the very bottom by an impassable wall of sugary powder snow. In the end, we went and climbed the North Face Couloir instead, and much fun was had; but I did not forget my defeat. This year, with the wonderful mixture of a spring snowpack and winter temperatures, I figured that I owed this route another attempt. Mike and I drove up on a beautiful Saturday morning to test our luck.

The hike in went quickly. The trail to Falls Lake is very icy right now, so there was a little excitement, but fortunately not too much. Once I got to the lake, there were some fishermen already there and they told me the lake had 60cm of ice. However, what the frozen lake didn't have much of was snow; and so we ended up half walking, half sliding are way across to the other side. On the other side we took a break, scoped out our route and went for it.

We climbed up some moderately steep snow to get straight in the base of the couloir. Mike took the fist lead up an ice ramp to the first step, which lead to the wall I had met last time. The bad news is that it was still a pile of sugary snow, but this time, instead of just snow, there was also bits of ice and rock in there. I spent 10 minutes of faffing about, clearing away snow, looking around at all the options. Then a lieback on a column of ice, and a bit of gymnastics, and it was in the bag.

Following this, there is some easier (45 snow) leading to 50-70 snow and ice for most of the climb. Snow quality & protection was highly variable. There was lots of styrofoam, and lots of soft snow, often within a few meters of space. Pickets placements were the most frequent and generally good, but there were also a decent ice screw placements and even several cracks that accepted cams nicely (mostly .75 or .1/.2-ish).

Near the finish, the quality and quality of the snow diminished, and the protection was more sparse. On the second to last pitch, Mikes first three pieces of gear were a 10 cm screw, a tied off 13 cm screw, and then a sling around a small bush that could have passed for a bonsai tree.

The top of the couloir was mostly guarded by a cornice, but the left side was wide open. After a careful traverse to left, we topped out into the glorious sun. From there we walked over to the old avalanche path below Nak and hiked down to the Pipeline Road and back to the cars.

Gear Notes: as I already mentioned, some cams/pins may be useful on this route, ice screws as well depending on conditions. Pickets are definitely recommended, but don't expect the snow to be of superb quality. We brought 2 pickets, and more would have been nice. There are a few trees slightly off-route which can make for solid anchors.

Naming: I think this is the route's first ascent, I'm suggesting the name "West Ridge Couloir" because it's the most obvious route up to the top of the ridge. There is at least one other obvious couloir on further down the ridge, and there are several other possible routes on the face there too.

Photos:
1. Topping Out
2. Route Topo
3. First Pitch
4. Interesting gear placements further up

n.b. this report was originally posted at http://alantrick.ca/trips/2015/thar_west_ridge_couloir
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trail_blazer3 and DPM like this.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 09:58 AM
DPM
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Nice one Alan and Mike! Nice to see your persistence and patience pay off.

For those willing to wait and watch for the right conditions, I suspect that there may be a few more lines back there that have not yet been climbed (have some "unfinished business" of my own in that neighbourhood).
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 06:14 PM
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Way to take advantage of conditions and timing

At either end of the social spectrum there lies a leisure class

Instagram: http://instagram.com/sharon_and_lee
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 06:41 PM
Dru
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If all the threads are in ice, then it's better to just leave the screw sticking out than it is to tie it off. Tie-offs reduce the strength of the screw signifcantly in testing.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 07:23 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dru View Post
If all the threads are in ice, then it's better to just leave the screw sticking out than it is to tie it off. Tie-offs reduce the strength of the screw signifcantly in testing.
Good point. I'd forgotten about that. This led me to look for the actual research. I didn't find the primary source, but there's a summary here http://www.needlesports.com/catalogu...5-9c9e00a633da
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2015, 09:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trick View Post
Good point. I'd forgotten about that. This led me to look for the actual research. I didn't find the primary source, but there's a summary here http://www.needlesports.com/catalogu...5-9c9e00a633da
Yeah, I'm going by memory off a study by Craig Leubben et al published in Rock and Ice circa 1999 or 2000, iirc.

Same study said it's better to angle the screw 15 degrees down than horizontal or 15 degrees up
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