The end of June (2017) brought a very very hot weekend with it and we were hatching a plan to get out in the mountains to avoid the heat. It was a pleasant surprise that it was my boulder crusher boyfriend Honza who was the main instigator of our adventure up Yak Peak; proclaiming “I want to climb that cool looking rock slab that you drive past on the Coquihalla so that every time I go past it I can say I have done it”. This was perfectly fine by me as I love a good adventure in the mountains, I love spending time with Honza and I had also wanted to do Yak Peak for a while.
To make a weekend out of it we decided to go and explore some of the more ‘off the beaten track’ boulders in Hope on the Saturday and camp over in the van nearby so that we could sleep in a little bit before Yak in lieu of the 1.5hr drive it would be from Vancouver. We were both pretty stoked on our plan.
The boulders we sampled in the Grid area of Hunter creek were really fun and the developers did a great job of making the area’s access pretty straight-forward. We easily found some fun warm up boulders and then Honza and I both found a really classic line each to work on in our respective projecting grades. I was stoked on a really cool looking fin shaped boulder that was host to a steep V4 called the Beast of Burden. It had a good landing but I still couldn’t commit fully to the top moves, especially with my ankle still not feeling fully recovered from it’s sprain back in early spring.
Honza got some serious stoke for a proud line on a tall boulder called the Sea of Simulation. The V10/V11 problem called New Moon starts standing and goes up a very cool looking tufa to an easier but airy top out.
We were pleased to check out what the Grid had to offer but unfortunately we didn’t last too long in the 30 degree heat with the army of mosquitoes that were playing out in the forest too. We opted to head to Dairy Queen for a blizzard and then went to find a lake to swim in. Silver Lake; south of Hope was a great place to cool down and afterwards we parked the van on the approach road and set up our Coleman and camping table to make dinner and settle in for the night.
As Honza did the dishes I started to organize our gear for an early start the next day. “Hey Honza, should I clip this Prusik cord to your harness for you” I asked as I casually sorted the kit. “Oh shit!!” replied Honza, looking pensive as he realised how he’d forgotten to take his harness out of the gear closet back in our flat in Vancouver. We giggled at the absurdity of our situation. The last time we came to Hope to boulder and then climb Yak Peak we had set the mini van up for dinner and camping on an FSR and then realised we had forgotten gas for the Coleman stove once we had already chopped all the ingredients for dinner and then when we pulled up in the parking lot to go climb Yak the next day we realised that I had forgotten the rope!
Ignoring all the signs we sent a few facebook requests out to see if anyone we knew had a spare harness we could borrow in Chilliwack and when the responses didn’t come in time we decided to drive back to Vancouver to go and get Honza’s harness.
All our attempts to negate an alpine start were moot now that we were driving back to Vancouver to pick up the harness. Thankfully we agreed that leaving the house by 6.30am would be sufficient and we were back in Hope within an hour and pulling up at the trail head by approx 7.30am. Having done the research for a previous trip we knew the approach beta pretty well, we pulled off at Junction 217 (The Zopkios rest area) and coming from Vancouver we needed to go left under the tunnel to get to the other side of the highway. We parked up on the east side of the big parking area there (east of the washrooms) at the edge of the trees as we knew we were headed up along the on ramp to toward the east anyway.
I put on my harness and half the rack at the car and back-packed one half rope, Honza carried the other rope and half the rack in my Arcteryx Alpha 30L which I’d begrudgingly agreed to climb with (I prefer not to carry a pack where possible!) We walked beyond the concrete barrier alongside the on ramp on the highway for maybe about 5-10 minutes (approx 1km from parking) looking out on the North for a path down to the swamp/creek. It was pretty easy to find the path through the grass but I remember it wasn’t quite as worn as I expected.
We crossed some obvious logs at the swamp to keep our feet dry and headed steeply up the very easy to follow trail for about 40mins. I’d been mostly cragging in Squamish all summer up until this point where a 10 minute approach would be considered long so although this was incredibly accessible by most alpine standards, the approach was still a bit of a shock to the system!
We reached the scree quickly and followed cairns until they petered out and we were deposited at the bottom of some low angle slabs. Here the beta seems to be a little loose and since we could see where we were aiming for roughly (the crack systems up to lunch ledge forming the lower pitches of the climb) we decided this was the point at which we needed to choose our own adventure. We solo’d up some easy slabs and across to reach a corner system which I recognised to be the start of the route in this picture on Mountain Project. The large flake/corner that I started up got a little wider at this point and I felt uncomfortable climbing it un-roped in approach shoes so I stopped here and made a belay and we started our roped climbing from this point (approximately where the red line starts in the photo).
My first pitch got us to the bolted belay which I believe is actually described as the starting point of the route in the latest Mountain Project pitch by pitch description – Honza had to do a couple of metres of simul-climbing to allow me to get far enough along the traverse to get to the anchor though.
From this anchor the pitch by pitch description now made sense and we were able to follow it successfully for the most part. I’ve added it below with some of our pictures and a few notes that may help to make it even easier to follow:
P1 (HK) – make 5.7ish moves left from the belay up a flake to gain the hand crack on the front face of the flake (small pro). Climb 5.6 crack to a belay out right at a slung pinnacle on the arete. ~55m
P2 (JL) – Climb crack to a slung block in a chimney. 5.6 60m rope stretcher. Can split this pitch in two at a slung tree half way up. We did the rope stretcher – another bit of simuling for Honzi – albeit short.
P3 (HK) – Climb crack to top of pinnacle (Lunch Ledge), belay 10 feet higher at bolts. 25m 5.6. Straight forward and obvious.
P4 (JL) – Climb sometimes crumbly rock left at first, then up and right (some pro behind flakes and a fixed piton) to a bolted stance. 35 m 5.7. (Can link 3& 4 with 60m rope and long slings on gear to avoid rope zigzags). We didn’t link because of expected drag and to keep it simpler but should be easy to do.
P5 (HK) – An obvious vertical wall can be climbed via a corner on the left side (5.8) or a series of face holds to a vague hairline crack on the right (5.8+) then follow cracks and ramps up and right to a two-piton belay (back up with cams) 5.8/5.8+ 50m. Hard to see the crack at first but head up to the face holds pictured below and trust that it is coming.
P6 (JL) – Move right from belay and climb a left facing 5.8 corner for about 10m then step right around arete at big hold (can also step right of corner at bottom but you miss out on the cool layback). Climb up flakes, pass tree, up to two overlaps at a roofy feature. place gear then move thru overlaps into crumbly, easy groove, climb to bolt belay. 55m 5.8+ (junction of Yak Crack and Reality Check) This sounds complicated but it was easy to follow, the initial lay-back was fun and one of the few sections of sustained solid climbing on the route.
P3 (HK)- You are now leaving Yak Crack for Reality Check. Climb up 5m from the belay on rock resembling oatmeal, then move left on a solid horizontal dyke until you encounter many flakes. undercling left, then up at end of first flake, climb more flakes to highest undercling at roof. Move left (5.9) awkward under roof, to corner “Cave”. There is a possible belay here under roof on a fixed nut and piton. HOWEVER, despite topos, it is best to go right here onto the arete of the cave and climb up about 10m (5.9 face) to a big ledge with bolted belay on the right. This avoids the spelunking tunnel through the flake done on the FA which is awkward with a pack on, and avoids belaying on sketchy fixed pin and nut tied off with a single webbing chunk. 50m 5.9 We avoided the spelunking and like many of these pitches it sounded more complicated than it was. Climb some improbable looking terrain (easier than it looks) following the ‘faint’ Dyke before reaching good flakes that are hard to spot from the belay. Head up to undercling the obvious roof – this is probably some of the most sustained and fun climbing on the root and well protected. Some fun moves pulling out on the face of the block that forms the cave on the right lead you to a bolted ledge on the right.
P8 (JL) – Traverse the ledge (top of through-flake) to a bolt belay on left. 30m 3rd class. This is a real short, easy and cool pitch where you walk left across the top edge of the block that makes up the tunnel, it feels exposed and precarious but you reach the belay below the corner of the next pitch in no time (I’m pretty sure you can actually see it from the previous belay).
P9 (HK) – Climb flake and ramp up and right for a pitch ~40m 5.8 After Honza got to just above where the woman in the photo below is he was unsure where to go as unlike the descriptions for the other pitches, this one was much less detailed and alludes to the pitch being both short and obvious, its neither. You head right at the top of this initial dirty lay back but at first there seems to be a lack of pro on very dirty rock – it looks improbable but it is the way to go. The cleanliness of the rock and the pro improve once you commit to this direction. You head up the shallow corner above the undercling pictured for a while before stepping left and finding a bolted belay (Check out Steph Abegg’s photo of corner pitch 11 (our pitch 9)
P10 (JL) – Supposedly one of the two 10a pitches. Face climb up 3m to a bolt, move up and right 3m to another bolt, then back left and up 5m to a corner (bolt on left arete) Climb right of the corner up the face on dishes and flakes then move up and right on a nebulous line past more bolts and gear under flakes to a bolted belay on a small right facing corner/ramp (cant see belay until 5m below it). ~45m, easy 5.9 face, total of 5 bolts on the pitch plus gear. Can easily get into 5.10a terrain with lackluster route finding as the most direct line is not the easiest one. I found this pitch to easier to route find than expected and good edges, crimps and dishes just kept coming so I followed those. The line wasn’t always the most direct as the description suggests, follow the holds and not the bolts and this pitch goes fine. I actually had quite a lot of fun!
P11 (HK)- climb up flake above belay and either climb directly where it goes right, or move left and up good cracks on the face, to a ledge. Above this is a low angle slab with 3 bolts. Originally graded 9/10a by the FA party, subsequent ascents have cleaned holds on the slab of lichen making it more secure – now feels like an 5.8/9. Belay at bolted stance on ledge above. ~40m 5.8/9 this is where you would rap from if you planned on rappelling. I can’t remember for definite but I think Honza went left for the good cracks on the face. I remember this pitch being fun too and the climbing didn’t feel too challenging apart from the last slab moves moving up to the belay ledge which feel quite thin and a little run out. I was pleased Honza lead this!
P12 (JL) – 4th class up low angle slab (no pro) for full pitch to trees above. 45m 4th class. Can escape into trees lower down if you want to. I totally underestimated this pitch. Its low angle but it is a friction slab without many holds and with NO PRO for a whole rope pitch I didn’t want to take my chances of a foot popping on some pine needles or crumbly rock, I got wigged out after about 20m and escaped left into the bushes. This was still pretty sketchy as the rock was loose and the brush thick but I managed to make it to a tree big enough to belay off and bring Honza up. Thankfully he was able to get us to the top via another rope length on loose scrambly terrain, I wouldn’t have wanted to be unroped for this so would say there is at least 2pitches of climbing after the last belay at the top of the 5.9pitch.
From here, hike and scramble up towards the top, pass the sub-summit on the right side on a good ledge (exposed).
From here we were able to take off our climbing shoes and pack up the ropes. We were very pleased to be off the climb and not needing to put our feet into black rubber fireballs anymore. It had been the hottest day of the year up until that point at a sizzling 33 degrees and we had spent 8 hours of it climbing a south facing slab. Our feet were on fire and we both tried hard to stop the spirits from dropping lower than they were. We had both really been struggling with our feet in the heat and this slowed us down considerably as we tried to rest them out of our shoes at each belay, which just strung out the suffering even more as we spent more time baking on the wall.
Pleased to be back in the comfort of approach shoes and socks we headed for the way down, I was a little nervous of what this might hold since it was early in the season and we had had a heavy snow year.
We headed up and right until we were at the shoulder between the descent and the sub-summit. From here we had a good view and although there seemed to be a decent amount of snow we could spot a way down and footprints gave us a good idea of previous travel.
After descending the snow we could clearly see the well defined dirt path and we headed for that. While there was still patches of snow sticking around on the path we could mostly avoid it and stick to the well worn dirt path.
While descending we passed some pretty fat looking marmots and made it quickly to the base of the route again where we had started that day. There was still a tonne of snow as we skirted back to the talus but the going was pretty fast as we could glissade most of it and it wasn’t very steep.
The sun wasn’t long off setting once we got back to the road and we were super glad to see the car. It had been a long day. Feeling tired, smelly, a little sun burned but ultimately successful we dragged our sorry asses to the Yellow Deli in Chilliwack for a wholesome feast before returning to Vancouver. Over an artisan sandwich we recalled the day. Honza seemed a little frustrated that he still didn’t quite see the same fun factor in this sort of stuff that I seemed too, I tried to reassure him that whilst the adventure part was still really enjoyable for me, Yak Chek hadn’t been quite the quality route that I usually love. If you’re in the vicinity its an absolute must do and certainly a worthwhile outing, but I have certainly climbed lots of other moderate classics with more solid rock, cleaner pitches and more varied climbing. All these things surmount into helping to make the moderate grade feel more serious. Heed the advice if yo are not comfortable running out 5.7 – 5.9 slab this route will be even less fun.
Its September now and both Honza and I look back on the day we climbed Yak much more fondly than when we were chugging acai smoothies in Yellow Deli that night. Having an absence of memory for all the negative things is a great way to stay motivated for alpine climbing. It seems likely now that I can convince Honza to be my partner in crime again on some more adventure style long routes, but perhaps next time i’ll use a less crumbly route on a cooler day as my bait.