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Scottish Success in the Waddington Range

Des Rubens climbing the end of the “link pitch” on the Central Buttress of Mt. Geddes’s (3223m) north face, Waddington Range, British Columbia. Rubens and five other Scots had a busy week in mid-summer, climbing two new routes on this face and making a number of first ascents on surrounding peaks. [Photo] Steve Kennedy

When Simon Richardson reported that British Columbia’s Waddington Range had fantastic climbing and potential for new routes, our group of regulars began planning a visit. Upon further research, we discovered that Mt. Geddes (3223m), ca. 6 miles northwest of Mt. Waddington, had one of the most attractive but neglected faces in the range. The photos we reviewed of the north face seemed to offer potential for new ice and mixed alpine routes in a fantastic setting. We were right, and from July 27 to August 5 our party of six Scots enjoyed quite a successful visit.

We were flown onto the glacier immediately north of Geddes, where we established base camp on July 27. We found excellent snow and ice conditions on the face with good night frosts during a sustained period of good, settled weather.

The Hourglass Face, a wide couloir on the right side of Geddes’s north face, and Bottleneck Couloir, an ice line up a narrow couloir on the left, had been climbed previously, but a number of unclimbed lines–at a surprisingly casual standard–were left ripe for the picking.

On July 30 Des Rubens, Neil McGougan, Dave Ritchie and I climbed Caledonia (D+, 550m) on Geddes’s north face, following a line up its right side to link a beautiful sequence of snow aretes to finish at the main summit. Bob Hamilton, Des and I climbed the same face again on August 4 via the steep Central Buttress (TD-, 400m). We reached the obvious buttress in the center of the face following a prominent narrow ledge system, which provided spectacular and relatively straightforward climbing linking steep ice slopes on the lower left side of the buttress to its upper section. Mixed climbing up grooves and chimneys followed, leading to the summit. Both times we descended via The Hourglass Face by a combination of Abalakov threads and rock belays by seven 60-meter rappels.

Neil and Dave made an unsuccessful attempt on an ice line just left of Bottleneck Couloir. Eventually they traversed into Bottleneck Couloir and made the probable third ascent of that route.

We also explored a number of the surrounding peaks, including Mt. Haworth (2968m), on which Bob established two new routes. The first he climbed with Billy Hood on July 30 directly to the summit: The South Ridge (5.6, 350m). I joined him for the second, Whisky Galore (5.8, 340m), the next day. It followed the prominent corner line on the southwest face on good rock. Bob is almost certainly the only person to have climbed this peak twice!

Then on August 1, Bob, Des and I explored the pinnacled ridge running southeast from Mt. Roovers (3089m) and climbed the prominent tower closest to the eastmost end of the ridge. We named it Sgurr Hamilton (5.6, 250m) after the eldest member of the party. The easy, rounded snow dome at the east end of the ridge we also climbed, naming it Mam Beag (The Small Breast). That same day on the Umbra Ridge, the West Buttress (AD, 5.6, 300m) of the peak marked as Point 2477m on the area map was climbed by Billy, Neil and Dave.

Mt Geddes is the outstanding peak of the Frontier Group within the Waddington Range. The addition of these routes to the north face makes Geddes a very attractive proposition for climbers seeking alpine routes at a reasonable grade without significant objective danger–the face is free of seracs. Best of all: we celebrated the ascents with fine Scottish malt whisky in our choice base camp!