Trip Date: Feb. 24th 2023
Trip Participants: Ethan Somji, James Maltman, Kaylie Robinson
This fall and winter, James Maltman and myself and have spent a lot of time wandering about Chek Canyon. On one day that we were there we saw some ice climbs forming during a cold snap. We vowed to come back during the next cold snap with ice climbing gear and see what we could find.
Kaylie and myself had plans to go to Bishop for some sunny climbing over reading break but were bamboozled by 15+cms of forecasted snow so had returned to Vancouver early. With cold temps and sun in the forecast, James’ stoke was satiated by the promise of ice and Kaylie’s was by the promise of sun. We set off from Vancouver at 8am with the intention of being behind whistler traffic but quickly realized it was Friday and instead got stuck in downtown traffic. Upon arrival to Chek we parked as for electric avenue and started getting ready to go. Not having any clue what shenanigans we were about to get ourselves into we packed all the short screws we had, a single rack of cams, nuts, hexes, pins, beaks, and turf hooks and hiked up to electric avenue.
We were somewhat uncertain about how much ice we would find given that there was zero snow on the ground but were pleasantly surprised to find a nice WI2- flow heading up into the trees on the south side of electric avenue
It was surprisingly nice climbing albeit with a fair amount of bushwhacking to be done between sections of ice. We were able to follow pretty continuous ice to the top of the first buttress that Frontside 180 climbs where we ended up back on the walk off trail. We wandered about for a bit trying to find a good next bit of ice to continue up on. There was a thin and spicy looking mixed slab pitch but we instead opted for a mellower looking gully with a short ice boulder that went to the same place.
After that the ice started to turn into more of moss like material that some may just call moss. However, James spent some time climbing in Scotland so we called it turf and decided it was still quite good fun. A few rambly sections of turf with intermittent ice split up by hiking along the walk off trail took us up past Rock of Ages and all the way to the top of Mt. Chek! Upon reaching the top we finally admitted we ran out of ice and started walking down.
James and I had scoped a cool looking mixed corner earlier in the winter and decided we could rap into on the way down to investigate. We found it to be much thicker than the last time we saw but also entirely delaminating from the wall. The stoke was high though so we TR heroed it once each before continuing down. By some miracle it even stayed on despite visibly moving when pulling tools out of it.
We eventually ended up back at Electric Avenue and investigated a little gully we had seen on the west side of the valley coming out of the south side of Electric Avenue. It was not very notable but allowed us to wander around the power lines and further south to find a walk off. This turned to be an very lucky move as we popped out in view of the best ice pitch we had seen all day. It was thin and pretty but based on the events of the day we presumed it to be delaminating as well so James walked around to set up a top rope on it while Kaylie and I unsuccessfully tested whether turf hooks and beaks can be used to aid thin ice.
Our suspicions were confirmed that the upper thick section of ice was delaminating and we felt glad to have the top rope once again. The climbing was spectacularly fun though especially given the surprise circumstances that led us to finding it! It was great day out exploring an area with no real idea what we would find and finding a lot more than expected. We mostly explored around the walls that house Frontside 180 and most things we found could be easily top roped with many solid trees available for anchors. The day had a strong “why does it feel like spring but we have ice tools” vibe that may be improved with some snow coverage for a more ‘alpiney’ forest vibe. In the end despite bringing a plethora of rack we only placed a single ice screw for pro and slung trees for everything else, although some rock gear could certainly get used if one desired.
*no summer climbing routes were scratched in the making*