Friday, July 12, 2013

Into the Mystic on Colonel Foster

Boarding the plane from Anchorage to Vancouver my mind was racing around about Mt Colonel Fosters 1000m east face, the complexity of the wall, descent and which route to climb. It was either the Original route(Culbert Route) 1000m 5.8 or Into the Mystic 1200m 5.9. It didn't leave my mind for the entire flight.

Foster from Landslide Lake.

After I got on the sky-train I called my partner for the trip, Bill Phipps, and asked him what he was thinking. He answered quickly with, "Into the Mystic". I was pretty excited and also a bit nervous. Colonel Foster hasn't been climbed to much (around 160 people) and only 4 parties have climbed Into the Mystic. Vancouver Island alpine is generally run-out climbing on moderate rock.

Bill approaching Berg/Foster Lake climber camp.
Mt Colonel Foster was first climbed in 1968 by Mike Walsh up a series of low 5th class gulleys and snow slopes. The east face was first climbed Dick Culbert, Fred Douglas and Paul Starr in 1972. In 1979 Joe Bajan (Canadian/BC climbing legend) and Ross Nichol climbed Directtissima AI5 which was the first winter ascent of the east face and has only seen one other ascent.

Fosters East Face!

On July 8th at 11:30pm I arrived in Nanaimo and promptly organized my gear to head to Campbell River to meet up with Bill the next morning. At 1:30pm we started walking in. We got to Berg/Foster Lake at around 5:30pm... it is about 13km. We set up camp, scoped the rope, organized gear, ate dinner and went to bed early so or 4am wake-up wouldn't came to soon.

Camp and gear sorting
Our gear: 1 sleeping bag, 1 pair of crampons, 2 foam pads, wind jacket, puffy jacket, first aid kit, 2L  of water each, 1 axe each, pocket rocket, 1 fuel canister, 1 650ml pot, 8 alien cams, .5-3 BD cams, 00,1-3 metolius cams, 2 sets of wires, 2 knife blades, 2 lost arrows and meters and meters of cord and webbing. For food we carried 8 bars, 250g of cheese, 250g of salami, an avocado, dense pumpernickel beard and 500g trail mix. This was for the climb, dinner and breakfast.
Me doing something important... probably not. Into the Mystic is up the buttress to the right of the obvious Y in the middle of the face. Photo Bill Phipps
We brewed some tea in the dark while staying warm in our sleeping bags.  At 5am we left our tent and remaining things and started up the moraine then to snow to the base of the wall. We touched the rock at 6am and soloed 4th to 5.6 terrain for about 150m before getting to a big ledge that you traverse on left for about 75m to the base of Into the Mystic. We started up steep sparsely protected terrain weaving through roofs and over laps on our half ropes. Each pitch was 50m-60m with at most 5-6 pieces of protection and half of those pieces were good at best. After 10-12 pitches of 5.7-5.9 climbing we had finished the technical crux. As we continued we found fun climbing from 4th class to 5.7/5.8 to summit ridge. Around 27 pitches of climbing.
We topped out on the ridge at 6pm summitted at 8pm.

Me soloing up easy terrain. Photo Bill Phipps
Bill soloing up easy terrain, wondering what Colonel's mystic has to offer.

Looking up the first pitch and more.

Find the gear.... Bill climbing the first pitch of Into the Mystic. Probably the crux.
 Bill climbing some steep moves on the lower pitches.
Again look for the gear. Photo Bill Phipps

Steep terrain high on the wall.

Looking north just below the summit.
We bivied on the NW summit that night. It was cool and windy while we ate and melted water. As the sun set over the mountain of clouds we finished eating and crawled into our sleeping bag, tired and inspired by what we just did. It wasn't long before I fell asleep and then woke to drizzle. We did some NW summit caving to escape the rain and wind. The only comfort found in the caving was shelter from wind rain and pointy rocks. Morning came slowly with a fair amount of shivering until we had melted water and ate our left over bars. We started descending at 6am.

Bill warming up in the morning after our bivy.

Rappelling into no where.

The rain turned to dry snow and veri-glass built up on the rocks as we down climbed off the NW summit to a series of rappels to the NE summit-NW summit col. We rapped and then climbed low 5th class terrain to below the NE summit and traversed around the left to a series of rappels down onto the west flanks and then traversed below the west face and up to the North Tower and back to camp. This took us 10 hrs.

Neither of us had been on the Main Summit before so we had planned to descend the NE ridge to Evacuation Gulley. That didn't turn out as you read above, which probably added 3-4hrs onto our descent. All went well regardless and we made it back to the truck by 8:15pm to Chocolate Cheese Cake and water which we enjoyed thoroughly.

We enjoyed burgers, beers, and salads in Campbell River around 10pm that night.

Our trip started on July 9th around 1:30pm and ended around 8:15pm July 11th. We climbed Into the Mystic in 12hrs, took 2 hrs to go up to the summit and back to our bivy on the NW summit and then took 10hrs to descend and 4hrs, of walk time, to hike out. So our adventure climbed & descended 1800m of terrain (1200m being Into the Mystic and 400m the hike) over roughly 30km.   

We where the 5th party to climb this route since it was first climbed by Chris Lawerance, Phil Stone and Corrie Wright in 1989.

Thanks Bill for another awesome adventure! The Vancouver Island Alps are a full value experience!!... there isn't anything easy about climbing here. These mountains have turned me around more then any other range I have been in.

For more info on climbing on Vancouver Island check out

NE summit starting to show itself.

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