Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This past weekend Mike, Steve Oliver and I headed out to Marble Canyon (on Hwy 99, between Lillooet and Cache Creek) to climb Dreamweaver, a 10-pitch 5.8 trad route, up the mid wall. Dreamweaver starts at the base of the wall and climbs approximately 1100ft to the summit ridge of the cliff.  we spent the weekend out there with the intent of practicing our multi-pitch rock systems in hopes that we will be slightly more efficient during our upcoming week long trip to Kananaskis Country with the Prince George section of the ACC. Marble Canyon is a great place to practice for alpine climbing and climbing in the Rockies due to its undeveloped, adventurous & wild nature. Marble Canyon sees very little traffic so you have to be aware of loose rock and a little more diligent about route-finding and general preparedness than you do when you are climbing somewhere more popular such as Squamish. For example, we always carry extra gear and webbing on big routes in Marble Canyon in case the "s%?t hits the fan" and we need to back off a route part way up.

We spent the weekend camped out at a cool little provincial campground that sits right between Turquoise and Crown lakes. It always amazes me that this great campground and amazing climbing area are never busy; they seem to be just far enough off the beaten path to avoid the crowds. On Saturday morning we got up at 6am for a 7am start at the route.  We were unsure of the route-finding, approach and descent, so we wanted to leave ourselves lots of time.  It turned out that the approach was incredibly simple. It took us about 45 min to get from our camp site to the base of Dreamweaver, including the drive and hike/scramble in. The route finding on the climb turned out to be pretty straight forward as well, but that was largely due to the great topo that we had from Ken Cox of the Prince George Alpine Club. We spent a bit of time the night before thoroughly reading the topo and checking out the route ahead of time with binos, which I think helped out immensely in the long run.

The climbing itself was awesome; it had everything from easy face climbing, chimneys (of doom), crack systems, slabs and a bit of easy scrambling thrown into the mix for good measure.  A majority of the belays were on ledges & in moderately comfortable stances, making the experience all the more enjoyable.  There was one horrendous belay though that was in a cave that was dripping water and leaning right up against some prickly bushes, not so enjoyable! However, if you reach this point, keep in mind that with 60m ropes you can keep climbing to the top of the next pitch and skip this belay all together. All in all it took us about 8 1/2 hours to climb the route, including a lunch break on one of the many ledges.

Once we topped out onto the 3rd class section of the ridge and packed our gear away it was going on 5pm so we opted to skip the summit attempt and look for the descent gully. After about 10-15 min of scrambling around on the ridge we came to a huge gully with soaring limestone walls and a rap station attached to a tree. We headed down into the "Dreamweaver Gully" and began our trek back to the car.  The hike in the gully was surprisingly mellow. There was a lot of loose rock and debris to pick your way through, but it was no where near as steep as we were expecting.  It was also nicely shaded from the hot sun and even has a little stream running through it where you can refill your water bottles and enjoy a refreshing wash after a long climb.  It took us almost 2 hours to get back to the car from the top of the last pitch. All in all, it was a 12 hour trip tent to tent. A long day, but a great accomplishment!

The next day we were all tired from the long day before so we slept in a bit and had a leisurely breakfast before breaking down camp. We then headed up to the Apron (or Lower wall) area of Marble Canyon to climb a few more pitches before heading home. I led the first & second pitch of Sisyphus (linked together), which is a 5.8 mixed route.  It is mostly bolted, but run out on the second pitch, so a few key gear placements were preferable. The first pitch was great since it goes at 5.5 and is well bolted, but the second, 5.8 pitch was a bit of a challenge. 5.8 is basically my on-sight limit for sport climbing, so attempting a 5.8 mixed pitch while wearing a backpack was something else. After a fit of fear, frustration, and anger at the crux I pushed thru to the anchors without falling. I was terrified (and pissed at my partners for making me lead it) at the time, but looking back now, it was a pretty cool accomplishment and a bit of a climbing break-thru for me.  After that Mike lead a horrible traversing 4th/low5th section of Sisyphus up thru some rubbly ledges and to finish off our adventure, Steve found his limit leading the 3rd pitch, a 5.8 sickle on "Brown Sugar"; it was a great on-sight for Steve and an awesome accomplishment to push thru the fear factor and conquer that pitch. After that final pitch we all decided we were beat from the long day before, not to mention the rising temperature, so we rapped to the valley floor and headed out on our homeward journeys.

Overall, it was an awesome weekend of friendship, adventures, learning and testing our boundaries. Looking forward to more adventures in Kananaskis in the week to come!

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  1. So glad I found this post! Beta on Marble Canyon climbs is hard to find so thanks for sharing! We hope to climb this route this weekend. Wondering what footwear to bring for the descent. My big La Sportiva hiking boots or my approach shoes? I'm from Vancouver Island where the approaches are usually harder than the climb so it's going to be quite the treat having a multi-pitch route so close to the road!

  2. We just used approach shoes and had no issues, but it does involve some thrashing down a loose gully. I guess footwear depends how protected you want your ankles to be.