If you’re a die hard Trekkie you may get the reference in the title of this post. If not, then don’t worry about it.
A few weeks ago I climbed a multi-pitch route named “Star Chek”, probably named as a play on the name of the popular Sci-Fi show and due to it’s location, above the Cheakamus River, being out of this world.
I’d been mentioning this climb to a friend of mine, Adrian, for a while. Ever since I seen pictures of it from reports online the idea of climbing this exposed Arête of rock while a torrent of white water roared below seemed so tantalizing. I’m not at a skill level yet where I could lead it so I’d need Adrian to go on the sharp end of the rope.
The stars, pun intended, aligned, and he offered to lead it with me. He’d be passing it on his way North to do some camping so it would work out perfectly. It ended up being myself, Adrian and his better half, Sophie.
On the morning of the climb the weather did not seem to be on our side. It was showering and the idea of climbing wet, slick rock was losing it’s appeal. I met up with Adrian and, always the optimist, he said that we should go check it out at least. We got to the parking lot and it was still raining on the windshield of the car. I commented and said that we could do it another time when it was dry if they wanted. Adrian, still being optimistic, wanted to wait.
After about a half hour, the rain didn’t seem to be abating much and Adrian said: “We should go”. I initially thought he meant that he wanted to leave and go away, but when I seen him get out of the vehicle and start getting his stuff I realized he wanted to go do the climb. At the very least he wanted to get to the base of the climb and see what the rock was like up close.
I’ve written about this in the past in my post “Get your nose against it” and how you should always go as far as you can before turning around but on this day, with it raining, I was thinking about breaking my own rule and throwing in the towel at the parking lot. Adrians gusto was infectious though so we grabbed our stuff and began descending into the gorge that would lead us to the base of Star Chek.
After about 10 minutes I noticed something odd. The rock further down in the gorge wasn’t nearly as wet as everything was up top. In fact by the time we got close to the Cheakamus River the rock was mostly dry. It was as if the rain hadn’t made it down here. Wind up top and the wind caused by the rushing water must have been keeping the rock in the gorge dry. The stoke for the climb was now building.
As we reached the bottom of the gorge we began to traverse some heinous scree fields which are, in my opinion, the crux of climbing this route and they are only part of the approach hike. Sharp rocks pasted together with loose sand and dirt with a straight fall into white water rapids if you were to lose your footing. I tried descending directly until realizing this was insane. Someone has wisely bolted some Via ferrata to a rock face on the side of the Arête which you access by staying higher on the traverse on some more compact scree and talus. I ascended back up to access it and then made my way down to the base of the climb.
Adrian geared up quickly and we began to climb. Myself and Sophie climbed together on separate ropes as Adrian belayed us using an ATC in guide mode. The route is bolted for 4 pitches but really it is only 2 pitches long. You’d have to be interrogated by a Cardassian to see 4 pitches (again, don’t worry if you don’t get the reference). Adrian explained that it’s split up this way as the belayer would lose sight of the lead climber at a number of spots if it was only 2 pitches.
Nevertheless, being considerate of some climbers waiting to get on the route after us Adrian did the first 2 pitches in one go. Then myself and Sophie began to climb. The sound of the roaring water did give me some butterflies in my stomach, but once I started to find the holds and climb the sound of it largely slipped away. Climbers will know that feeling. That focus when the only thing you are thinking about is the movement of your body and the details of the rock.
The climb itself is really nice. Loads of bomber holds and nice ledgey foot placements. I only found one move near the top to be a little bit spicy, but I think I made it worse as I tried to stay away from the exposure on the top of the Arête itself. This would definitely be an awesome climb to have as a first multi-pitch lead and I’ll definitely be back to do it again.
A big thank you to Adrian for not only leading, and belaying me but also for taking all the photos of me on the climb, which I’ve processed and cropped. Also to Sophie for climbing second and cleaning the route.
Now, to let the pictures do the talking. Hopefully they will inspire you to check out this climb for yourself.