BD athlete J.P. Ouelet makes first ascent of The Wandering Direct (IV 5.11 R) on South Howser Tower, Canada
Black Diamond athlete and tech rep J.P. Ouelet bagged the first ascent of The Wandering Direct (IV 5.11 R) in Canada's iconic Bugaboos this past July and sent us the following report, photos and video. Nice job on the FA, PeeWee!
Matt McCormick and I spent 2 weeks in the East Creek basecamp in the Bugaboos. We had our sights on the Northwest face of South Howser Tower. We got rained off a couple pitches up on our first attempt. But managed to climb the route on our second try, but not without a few hurdles... We had stashed the ropes at the base of the route after our first attempt and when we retrieved them, we realized pretty soon that the snafflehounds (some kind of a crazy mountain marmot) had chewed thru our dry bag and completely destroyed our 9.2 Nano lead line and also our brand new tagline. Matt kindly volunteered to go get the spare rope at basecamp...
The route went fairly quick as we had already climbed the first pitches. We also had some "excitement" one pitch from the base of the "white headwall" on the Beckey-Chouinard. Not wanting to climb up a chockstone-filled overhanging chimney, I traversed to a house door-sized flake, hoping to traverse it to get to the corner system on the right. What appeared to be a very solid flake turned out to be completely detached from the wall. When I tried to grab it, it shifted... a light push with my foot and the flake flew off the wall. There was no way to traverse right anymore—I had to commit to the overhanging loose chockstone death chimney. I slowly climbed to the chimney and realized there was a seam just right of it. Not big enough for my fingers but big enough for a few small offset micro nuts and a green C3. At least the rope would run outside the chimney and not over the death blocks. Not wanting to get inside, I ended up knee-barring and stemming around. What would have been an easy chimney turned out into a pretty technical 5.11 pitch. Pretty psyched to have climbed that pitch all free, I started to run it out in the easier 5.5 chimney/gully above. 30-35 feet above my last piece, I pulled on a coffee-table flake that shifted and slid down on my knees. I screamed pretty loud since I thought the flake would push me down, but to my surprise I held position in the chimney just long enough to pull slack on the rope and flip it over the flake so it wouldn't be cut. The thing flew off and exploded down on the Northwest Face. Luckily Matt was way left of the explosion.
From there we linked to the base of the "white headwall" on the Beckey-Chouinard and fired the rest of the route to the summit of the South Howser. By the time we simul-climbed the last easy pitches the summit was in the clouds and it was starting to rain lightly. In a total whiteout we couldn't find the new bolted rap anchors, so we decided to rap the ice gully on the east face. On our first rap we realized the rope was core-shot (probably from jugging around trying to find the rap stations). We also realized that the ultra skinny 5.5 tagline was not working very well when wet. So after taping the few core-shot spots on the Nano we resumed doing short rappels to make sure it wouldn't get stuck. A few hours later we touched down on the glacier still in a whiteout. We had a hard time finding the way back to basecamp just as it started to rain hard and the sun went down. Pretty tired but super psyched!