[Photos] Luka Lindic
Lindic and Leclerc add two more new routes to Rockies 2016 tally
[On April 3, Slovenian Luka Lindic and Canadian Marc-Andre Leclerc completed a major new route on Mt. Tuzo in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in the Canadian Rockies. Since then, they’ve added two more new routes in the Bow Range, one on Mt. Neptuak and one on the wall below the col between Mt. Tuzo and Deltaform Mountain. Lindic picks up the story after Mt. Tuzo–Ed.]
[Photo] Luka Lindic collection
Will we have another bivy without any food or drink? This question was forefront in our minds as we broke trail through deep wet snow to the summit of Mt. Tuzo (3245m) on April 3. We’d had only a sip of water and one energy bar the previous evening–nothing more. A few hours later, we were smiling back at the face we’d just climbed. Not only were we lucky to find a straightforward descent, our line of rappel also looked alluring: steep ice and neve smears over compact rock slabs and corners. A few places appeared thin, but mostly it looked like a good “recovery” climb after Tuzo.
[Photo] Luka Lindic
When we completed our new route on the northeast face of Tuzo, we thought there might be other worthwhile climbing objectives in the upper part of the Valley of Ten Peaks. The layered sedimentary rocks–limestone, dolomite, sandstone and shale–offer the kind of structure that allows abundant ice to form on these sheer walls.
After a few days of refueling in Canmore, we were back. We didn’t want a repeat of our Tuzo diet, so we brought more food than on our previous adventure, including a big wheel of Brie cheese, and we set up a base camp below the north face of Deltaform Mountain (3424m). We planned to climb the line of our descent from Tuzo, take a rest day, and then try the Supercouloir Direct on Deltaform. We also wanted to have a look at climbing possibilities on the north face of Mt. Neptuak (3237m).
[Photo] Luka Lindic
The next morning, we made a rather late alpine start: at sunrise instead of in the dark. On the approach, I started feeling weak, and I doubted that I had enough energy to complete our new route–even though we expected the ascent to be straightforward. After all, we just had to climb some new terrain. We didn’t have to worry about the descent this time; we’d just use the anchors we’d placed only a few days earlier. And conditions looked perfect–plenty of solid ice. What more could we ask for?
We started at the base of the big, dark wall that forms the north sides of both Tuzo and Deltaform, a foreboding place, especially in the static of first light. Our objective was a 100-meter chimney couloir full of gigantic snow mushrooms. We ended up avoiding most of these by delicately tiptoeing around them on our frontpoints.
As we climbed out of the couloir onto a snow ledge, we encountered a few tricky mantels (M5). Ahead rose a series of ice smears on the blocky, friable limestone. Then came a full ropelength of moderate but poorly protected ice, where we could only sink our screws in halfway and tie them off before continuing on. Another steep section appeared, this time with strangely formed alpine ice full of air pockets. Though the climbing was fun, I struggled to stay energized. Marc-Andre kept a steady pace.
We named our route to the col between Mt. Tuzo and Deltaform Mountain after the fox that had raided our food cache on our previous adventure: Fantastic Mr. Fox (M5 WI5, 500m). Undoubtedly, the fox had felt fantastic after eating all our smoked salmon and Gruyere cheese.
Tired, I spent the following day resting at base camp, and Marc-Andre went for a short ski tour to the col on the west side of Mt. Neptuak, where he scouted the descent. Because the upper part of Neptuak’s north face–where our proposed route lay–is in the sun in the morning, we decided to start climbing at midday when it was in shade and safer from falling ice and rock. Around 11 a.m., we made the short approach and aimed toward a promising ice line high on the face.
The first 150 meters of our route ascended perfect neve, which brought us to an offwidth. Marc-Andre led it without showing much effort, and soon we gained the steepest part of the face where we encountered iron-colored quartzite covered in a thin plaster of ice. Here I led my first block: three pitches of hooking in thin cracks; a crux in a steep wall with a few longer moves and delicate footwork on small nubbins to reach the ice.
[Photo] Luka Lindic
Marc-Andre took the next lead. It was of his most memorable in the mountains, he said–a beautiful face of steep, solid rock with features to climb on just where you needed them.
Night caught us 100 meters higher, and we continued on, simulclimbing in the darkness by headlamp over low-angled snow, with a few short rock steps, until we reached what we thought was the final, steep passage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
The last section proved time consuming and hard to protect as Marc-Andre led to the summit ridge and finally to the top of the peak at 3 a.m. on April 11. Soon we began down climbing the west side of the mountain and made one rappel to get back to col and to our skis. Two hours later, after a quick breakfast, we skied out. We named our route Psychological Effect (M7 WI5+, 700m)–because the route was so aesthetic that we’d spontaneously decided to climb it.