The Wapiti Valley

Dale Earnhardt Dome

Wapiti Mainline

pitch1.jpg

From the ledge at the top of the approach slab (described in the approaches page), scramble up to a ledge about a foot wide and head right (west) for around 40 feet or so. You'll see the first bolt on mainline around 30 feet up the slab. Start from right of the bolt at the intersection of two ledges. There is no belay station here, but a fall from before the first bolt is unlikely. If you feel uncomfortable with this situation please feel free to snap in a couple of bolts for a station!

At left we see a couple of climbers on pitch 1. The leader is at the belay station.

The start of the climb is surprisingly steep, and I always feel quite intimidated here. Fortunately the rock is rough and the climbing easy. As you go higher the angle slackens until you get to the top of pitch six. Then it steepens again but the comfortable roughness of the bottom of the slab is no longer present.

lookingdown.jpg

There's an interesting phenomenon here - from below looking up the rock looks very dark. But from above, looking down, the rock is shining white, as you can see from the next picture.

From the start, angle up and left along some dykes and sills to the first bolt, then follow the bolts to the belay station. Although I've followed the first seven pitches my memory of the actual individual pitches is, to be honest, rather vague. I seem to recall a bit of trad pro below an overlap on the second pitch. Anyway, the directions are basicly, "follow the bolts"!

At the top of pitch six a sloping ledge leads east to the descent slabs. This makes a handy escape and these six pitches are becoming known as "mainline lite". If you are new to slab climbing the moderate standard of these pitches makes a nice warm up. At this point, you've climbed as much rock as most full routes on the Squamish Apron, but you are not even half way up!

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Pitch seven is steeper. Dave Lepard rated this at 5.7 but it felt more like solid 5.9 to me when I followed it in the summer of 2003! There's a fairly dicey traverse left around half way up - keep low there. At left you can see me trying to control my abject terror as I approach the belay at the top of this pitch! The descent slabs are visible at the bottom right of this picture, and the actual route comes into the picture from the left.

Here's Dave's description of pitch eight:

"The eighth pitch is a pretty darn cool lead. As you approach the upper dome things start to get pretty steep. The pitch works its way up to a three foot overlap at the upper dome proper. From below it looks pretty intimidating. As you start to traverse into the overlap, it all looks so steep and slick that your mind is gibbering - I can't climb that! - relax… it's only the effect of seven pitches of classic cruiser friction slab. You could climb it on friction if you had to, but you don't - good little flakes and edges appear right where you need 'em and nowhere else. (entirely natural, thank you)

If you choose to stuff a cam in under the overlap make sure to put an extended runner on it, unless you enjoy severe rope drag. Pulling up to the lip you get your first view of the Dragon Backs."

Upper Dome

Dave describes the dragon backs as not "... just a solution groove, ... more like water sculpted rock's answer to 'Merci Me'. A four foot wide stripe of knobs and dishes stretches away as far as the eye can see".

"This convoluted stripe of solution grooves and fins and knobs stretches up for two pitches. Unlike the friendly feeling of normal solution grooves, the Dragon Backs are spooky and 'unnatural'. Considering the path and nature of the stream on pitch seven, it's hard to imagine what forces formed this chaotic stretch of rock. If you don't wind up feeling like you're climbing the spine of some giant monster there is something wrong with your imagination. "

At left is a shot of the upper dome taken from the descent slabs. The top part of the route follows the steep clean slabs well left of the big eyebrow overhang, but right of the trees.

Once you reach the top of the Dragonbacks you have four more pitches of slab steep climbing to go, including the crux 5.11 thirteenth. However it is possible to use the bolts as aid and avoid any actual 5.11 climbing, and to be honest that's what most folks seem to do here. Or at least so I'm told - I haven't been past the top of pitch seven personally.

From the top of the climb it's a scramble to the summit of the dome. Descent is by rappel down the steep upper slab to the to the top of pitch eight. From here it's possible to do a single long rappel to a tree at the top of the descent slabs.

Taledega Highbanks

This climb, along with "Full Throttle" starts around a hundred feet West of Mainline. From the bottom of Mainline traverse across an exposed stretch to the next set of bolts. I've never been over there, so the only instructions I can give you are, "follow the bolts"! And be ready for adventure.

Taledega Highbanks

The route goes up some solution grooves to the big eyebrow overhang visible in the next picture. It turns this on the right side and then follows steep slabs to the top. The first ascent was completed this year (2003) by Dave Lepard, Carla Bortoletto, and Ryan Fischer, and involved a chilly bivy high above the overhang!

At the time of writing, this route awaits a second ascent.

Full Throttle

This route branches off from Taledega a few pitches up and heads right to the big crack system visible in the picture. It was pushed a long way in 2003 but Dave and Carla stopped a few pitches from the summit.

Potential

The dome is huge! There is therefore, needless to say, a huge potential for new routes. So if your sense of adventure is only tripped by being on unvisited rock, here's your chance!

Ed Seedhouse
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