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“A Step Beyond”: New Developments in BC

Two of three routes established by Craig McGee on Les Cornes, Anderson River Peaks, North Cascades, British Columbia. The Gatekeeper (5.12a or 11d A0, 8 pitches), not shown, is just left of Voodoo Child. The rock on Les Cornes is superior to that of the surrounding area, McGee reports; he finds it “some of the best alpine rock cragging in southwest BC.” [Photo] Craig McGee

With the aid of various partners over the past two summers, Craig McGee established three new multipitch routes on Les Cornes, Anderson River Peaks, British Columbia. His are some of the most difficult lines ever established in that remote region of the North Cascades.

The Anderson River Peaks lie 150 kilometers east of Vancouver and have been one of the province’s alpine-climbing centers since first development began in the mid-1970s. The area offers “some quite big, awe-inspiring lines,” said Alpinist correspondent Don Serl. The range’s reputation for compact rock covered by a decomposed surface, however, has deterred most alpinists from establishing difficult new routes, as cleaning usually is involved and the protection sparse. Its most famous climbs (TD+: 5.9 A2, Flavelle-Howe, 1979 and ED2: 5.10d A0, Edwards-Spagnut, 1994), which ascend the northeast buttress of Mt. Steinbok, are notorious for “runout, poorish pro and sometimes less-than-perfect belays,” Serl said. They have seen only a handful of ascents.

McGee’s new testpieces include: The Gatekeeper (5.12a or 11d A0, 8 pitches), Sprung Cock Erect (5.11, 12 pitches) and Voodoo Child (5.10+, 6 pitches). The latter was established in June of 2006 with Colin Moorehead, and McGee notes that “Pitch 2 is akin to Squamish’s Split Pillar, but a harder size.” The other two routes were established in September, 2007. The Gatekeeper was inaugurated with partners Andre Ike and Brad White and is characterized by a crux first pitch followed by sustained 5.10 and 5.11 climbing for its remainder. With partners Jason Kruk and Brad White, McGee climbed Sprung Cock Erect, which shares some pitches with Les Cornes’s best-known route, Springbok Arete (5.10c). McGee recommends the first three pitches as a variation to Springbok; higher up, the line joins Springbok “where it gets good.”

In summer, the Anderson Peak group can be approached in a couple hours’ time from the main access point thanks to a newly cut approach trail, which avoids old logging roads in disrepair.

Serl noted that McGee’s new routes “show that despite the general blankness of the rock, there are more possibilities than many people thought… Craig may have opened people’s eyes, for compared to other lines on Les Cornes, his efforts are certainly a step beyond.”

Sources: Craig McGee, Don Serl