WHO: me, burndug and alhike
WHAT: the White Dyke on Edge. Reputed to be a long scramble on good rock, verging into 4th class climbing in a few places. Similar in general challenge to the southeast face of Stonerabbit or the West Buttress of the South Peak of the Old Settler.
PAST TRIP REPORTS:
(alhike, Simon and Spectrum)
“Do we need any gear? No.
A scrambling rope, just in case? Yep.
Lots of water? Check.”
Alhike has done this route several times before over the last 40(!!) years. So he’s the designated guide for the day and Doug and I are along for the ride. We will go where he goes and climb what he tells us to climb
And he says we need no ropes and no gear, that we can get up the legendarily obstreperous summit of Edge and back down without using a rope. Sounds good to me.
We met at the West Canyon parking lot just after 7. Said Hey to Darren, Bailey, Leigh & Spring, who were off to GE, and made vague plans to meet later for beers at the Black Sheep. We followed the West Canyon trail all the way to Alder Flats. Btw there is no water at Alder Flats these days, the last running water is 15 minutes back along the trail. And someone took a dump next to it and left their used TP at the side of the trail. GROSS! But hey: somebody’s pooch already ate the feces, only the TP is left. DOUBLE GROSS!
At Alder Flats we turned off the trail and followed the dry streambed up to the cliffs at the head of the cirque. No snow at all, dry all the way to the base. Al found us a trickle leaking from the walls, which he described as “flowing mountain spirits.” We drank deep of the Mountain Spirit, and it was clean and good.
First view of the route.
What with the lack of snow, the scree gully leading to the base looked like last fall’s flash floods had eroded it pretty good. Most of the rocks were solid, but some were not. We avoided some loose rocks via solid scrambling on the right side of the gully, and eventually we got to the base of the WD.
Scrambling to the base
Dug on some solid rock
The 1974 Culbert guide calls it “Class 3 with a stiffer pitch at the bottom, after snow leaves”. The difficulty of that stiffer pitch probably depends on where you climb. There are a move or two with bomber jugs for handholds but smeary feet, which probably push into low-5th difficulty. However, you won’t have good pro if trying to lead those moves, so 4th class is likely the best descriptor for the whole pitch. I found it to be harder than anything on the standard route on Rexford or the southeast face of Stonerabbit, but easier than the crux moves on the west buttress of the south peak of the Old Settler, other comparable 4th class routes.
Al coming up to the base of the crux
Looking up the crux
Dug working through the crux with Al waiting his turn
Dug happy, climbing above the crux
Al having a good time!
At the top of this crux pitch there is a rappel/bail anchor consisting of a sling tree-and-chockstone combo. I wouldn’t trust the webbing, which is pretty weathered by now. Above this rap station the climbing kicks back and eases off and there’s more or less 500 m of clean 3rd class up to the ridge crest on the NW ridge of Edge. To here, the route feels very similar to the Crater Slabs on Crown, with a harder but more solid start. The only loose rock around is on the last section to the summit ridge, where you find a rubble-and-sand layer overlying the solid rock.
Onto 3rd class ground
An embarassment of route options on the upper slab
High on the route
A little bit of looseness as we reach the ridge
Once we got to the NW ridge, we circled around to the right (west) and got into the chockstone chimney that leads up to the summit. This has dirt and loose stones on holds, and involves some stemming up to the chockstone, which you then avoid on the left via a short near-vertical face with good holds, just a balancy move around a bulge where you are using sidepulls rather than just pulling down on buckets. Above this, looser rock and heather lead to the summit ridge. We disdained the lower north summit and beelined along the ridge direct to the south summit. Total time up, including numerous water and lunch breaks, was bang on six hours. We took another half hour on the summit, battling a cloud of flying ants that was swarming around the summit cairn. You could just make out the conga line snaking up and down the standard route on Golden Ears when you looked over there.
Al starts up the chockstone chimney with some wide bridging
Doug moving left around the chockstone
Traversing the summit ridge towards the south summit from the north
The boys on the summit
Al gave us two options: go back down the White Dyke, shorter and harder, or go over to the Golden Ears trail and down that, longer but easier. We chose the latter option, which in hindsight was the wrong choice. But hey.
We went back down the chockstone chimney (one at a time, lots of trundling to do) and then deked around the east side of a bump in the ridge, north of where the WD route joins the ridgeline. On the north face of this bump, a steep-walled gully with chockstones is where apparently a lot of people have to rappel. Al has a ropeless bypass which involves a 20 foot traverse across an exposed vertical wall on large foot holds and reaches between good bucket handholds. However, he got a little mixed up at first, and was at one point directing Doug to launch out on a vertical-to-overhanging wall of tiny crimps that looked like an 11c sport route. I was silently marvelling “wow! This guy is a super rad climber!” until Dug protested that this was NOT the way forward! Sure enough we regrouped a little higher on the next ledge up and found the correct traverse.
Doug just about to turn around as Al urges him onwards
From the top of this gully, you gain the ridge, walk a little bit, and then avoid another rappel or two via krummholz thrashing on the West flank of the ridge. If in doubt at any point here, just tuck into the bushes underneath and cliff that blocks your way. You will get down eventually, bloodied but never needing to haul out a rope. Ropes are aid after all
From the col where this ridge meets the low saddle southeast of Golden Ears, we made an easy traverse across scree and heather, first to a marginal tarn where we filtered several liters of water, then on to the GE trail, just above the emergency shelter.
Looking back at Edge from the col.
Now for some facts. I had never been on the GE trail or Panorama Ridge before. I was shocked.
*20-odd people camping in and around the shelter at the time we were there, plus another 30 to 40 heading up to spend the night that we passed on the way down;
*NO PORTA-POTTY OR TEMPORARY OUTHOUSE THIS YEAR. Which means ~ 60 people pooping around the shelter, every weekend evening, all summer long. GROSS
Very little water. One trickling stream. Aforementioned spread of feces and feces-laden TP. BRING YOUR FILTER UNLESS YOU LIKE DYSENTERY.
*Garbage of various sorts scattered around. Empty bottles, used TP, used Kleenex, half-burned wood in fire rings, socks, a pair of hiking boots, other junk. More than a single person with a large and completely empty pack (and some hazmat gloves) could hope to pick up and carry out by themselves.
*Lots of trail braiding. And every braided sidetrail flagged with gobs of tape.
*Trail that is super heavily eroded, rooty, rocky, shortcutted and generally beat up. Alhike and his volunteer corps have done a lot of work on this trail, but from what I can see it’s a losing proposition like putting lipstick on a pig. This trail is a bomb zone and it needs a full-on makeover of the sort the Chief trail got when it got Provincial Park status in the 90s. The shelter needs a full-time custodian and there needs to be regular toilet fly-outs like there are in the Bugaboos. Or else this will degrade to an open sewer that can never be fixed up. At the moment this trail is a sad embarrassment and also a stinging condemnation of what the combination of mass popularity and cuts to BC Parks’ budget are doing to the environment. I don’t see anything other than a sustained input of cash from the province that can remedy this situation.
All of which is to say, go back down the Dyke and avoid the mess of the GE trail down Panorama Ridge. So anyway, we slogged down the GE trail from Panorama Ridge to Alder Flats and then out to the cars. 5.5 hours from Edge summit back down to the cars, including water filtering and the like.
At the cars, Al split (I would have too if I lived 10 minutes away ) and Dug and I went full Spectrum in the parking lot with a bag of chips, lawn chairs and a growler full of Old Yale IPA. I can appreciate this tradition and I will definitely do it again.
Despite my pessimistic comments above, this was a great day on in the Golden Ears peaks with good people. The White Dyke is a classy route and worth doing. It was a five star day. Thanks Al and Doug for inviting me along!