Monday, July 31, 2017

Takakkaw Falls (Weekend Double Header - Part II)

So excited about Takakkaw Falls!
Following our amazing day on Achilles Spire, Kyle and I made our way to Field, BC where we found space in the overflow camping at the Monarch Campground. Too exhausted to do anything useful, we milled around and contemplated just sleeping on the ground, until we were basically adopted by a group of older ACC'ers that were camped nearby. They force-fed us beer and smartfood popcorn (with very little resistance on our part) while we tried to figure out what time they were getting up to climb Takakkaw Falls in the morning so we could beat them to it. They even let us share a campsite so we didn't have to sleep on the incredibly uneven tent spot we had chosen in our fatigue. Eventually they caved and told us when they planned on climbing, so we got up and out of the campground an hour before them. A nice sleep in until 5:30 had us at the approach to Takakkaw Falls for 6:40 am. Shockingly, we were the only ones there (not).
Kyle on the traverse pitch to the large corner
The Takakkaw Falls route is a mostly bolted 12 pitch 5.6 that climbs directly to the left of the falls. The start of the route is quite a ways over to the left at the top of the scree slope, but there is a long traverse that brings you right up beside the falls for the upper pitches. The rock quality was nowhere near that of Achilles Spire the day before and the route-finding proved challenging, especially following the traverse. Initially, we unroped after a very short traverse that we thought was the 3rd pitch. We walked out along a ledge to the base of a huge left-facing corner. What we should have done was continue past the bolted station that I thought was the top of the third pitch, and trended up and right to another station above. From that station, it was sparsely bolted but very easy scrambling up and right to a higher ledge that took you across to the same left facing corner, only higher and protected with a belay station. The route we had taken appeared to be the descent route (and was much less terrifying to traverse in reverse). I had a bit of a freak out with the unroped traverse, but was able to get my composure back enough to lead the next pitch once we got back on route.
Happy/stressed out Jenny after completing the traverse and getting ready to lead
When you reach the top of the corner, you are right beside the waterfall! There were 2 pitches up the corner that you may want some gear for (we placed 3 cams the entire route - a #0.75, #1 and #2), but all the gear was pretty well optional if you are comfortable with being run-out on 5.6. The pitch above the corner was really cool as the waterfall was thundering down beside us. Every so often we would get sprayed by mist when the wind picked up.
Pretty spectacular belay stance beside the falls
Kyle on his way up the 8th pitch
Good belay ledges and views of the falls
If it were not for the cool views of the waterfall, I don't think that this route would get climbed very much. It is chossy and run out, but the position makes up for it! One other unique feature of the route is the 100m of cave that you get to crawl through for pitch 11. We left most of our stuff in a pack at the cave entrance and put everything else in my bag to take with us. The cave is a narrow tunnel for which I would highly suggest a headlamp. It was pitch black in there. Maneuvering with the backpack while trying to keep it clean proved a bit challenging, but crawling through the cave itself was really fun. We had brought knee pads on recommendation from others, which made it much nicer. Your only choice is to crawl on hands and knees or army crawl in the tighter spots so if you are claustrophobic, this may not be for you.
Trying to keep the pack clean on our way through the cave
The cave pops you out right at the top of the waterfall. We had brought our ropes with us so we could climb a final pitch and top out on the cliff above. The pitch was cool because you get to climb an arete right above the river. Not as cool was the single bolt that protected the pitch! Good thing it was pretty mellow.
Close to the top out, above the waterfall
We topped out and followed a small trail that led to a belay tree marked by a cairn. Using our 60 m half ropes we were able to do a 50 m rappel back to the cave entrance to pick up our backpack, then continue down the route with 3 more 60 metre rappels that went very smoothly. This took us to the bottom of the large corner and we joined up with the traverse trail we had mistakenly taken earlier in the day. On the way down, we rappelled past our new ACC friends as they were starting up the last few pitches and dropped a few rocks towards them as a friendly gesture. Two more 30 metre rappels had us at the base and it was a quick 20 minute descent down the scree back to the parking lot.
New alpine club friends on their way up the route
We were back at the truck before 1 and high-tailing it to Calgary in no time. Feeling utterly destroyed from a 25 pitch weekend, we chilled out with take-out chinese food and the most recent episode of Game of Thrones before a well deserved early bedtime.

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