Yak Peak - Yak Crack

British Columbia, Canada

August 2003

Matt Alford, JJ Sill


-written by Matt Alford

Route (not including Matt's bushwhack)

The Nissan pulled off the Coquihalla Highway some 25 miles NE of Hope, British Columbia just as the sun dropped down behind the mountains of the Chillawack and cast night down upon us.

I fired up the Whisperlight and brewed up a fine meal of Campbell’s Chicken Pasta while JJ sorted the rack for the morning.  The food was warm, but not very good and I was beginning to doubt the need for a rack as clouds descended, socking in the surrounding mountains and threatening with rain. 

Dave had recently taken a big step in his life and acquired his first girlfriend, a real life female.  For further details of Dave’s romantic life, check out the Three Fingers Link. Hence, our nights of spooning in the back of the Nissan had suffered greatly in the past months.  While no substitute for Dave, JJ Sill and I had teamed up ascent of the 12 pitch Yak Crack on Yak Peak, and he now became my un-consenting spooning companion in the back of Nissan.   I slept well.  JJ was nervous.

We awoke in the morning and were disappointed to see clouds engulfing Yak Peak and the surrounding mountains.  Optimistic that they would clear we quickly geared up and began the approach.

Yak Peak sits less than Ľ mile from the Coquihalla Highway and enjoys a mere 35-minute, 1000-foot approach.  As a NW Cascade climber, I considered this a mere day at the crags.  To JJ, who spends winters in Ouray and springs in Yosemite perfecting his technical skills, it would qualify as nothing less than a death march.  A bit disappointed that that I wouldn’t have to suffer a bit before enjoying solid climbing on wildly exposed granite, I contrived an evil ploy.  I would deliberately lead JJ astray on the approach as to get a little conditioning, build character, and practice my bushwhacking skills.  Surely this would guarantee us a true sense of accomplishment on the climb.  Honestly, what good is completing a hard rock route without a miserable approach?  I say it’s poor style.

I convinced JJ that I knew where we were going as we dove into the brush and made a small creek crossing.  I eagerly anticipated the misery that was sure to come ahead.

My plan initially backfired as we ascended a steep wooded ridge free of menacing underbrush.  Although at first disappointed in relative ease of the situation, we soon cleared the timber and much to my pleasure were confronted by a wall of slide alder and vine maple. 

I moved with ease over a quarter of mile of this familiar ground while JJ enthusiastically cursed the flora and expressed in no uncertain terms his desire to “fuck Yak Peak” and drive back to Squamish for a second day of carefree cragging.  A deep feeling of satisfaction welled inside of me as I realized how adept I had become at groveling through the jungles of the Northwest. To hike days through miserable brush to climb a half-dozen pitches of mediocre quality rock well beyond my grade:  Oh the feeling of being a Cascade Hardman.

My 15 minutes of glory soon ended as I snapped back to reality at the base of the route.  My god was I actually going to be forced into to technical climbing, certainly not my specialty.   My panic subsided as I heard JJ cussing up the rocks behind me, not a bushwhacking expert but certainly a better rock climber then myself, he would be my ace in the hole.  The second part of my ploy now set into action:  JJ gets all the scary, run-out, and scantly protected 5.10 pitches and I would take all the solid high-quality cracks with good pro.

Matt leading one of the 'high-quality cracks.'

My plot unfolded perfectly as JJ led over loose 5.8 run outs and wide chimneys and I jammed up perfect hands crack, clean corners, and well-protected face climbing.  My scheme was evidently flawed as I soon found myself climbing around a 5.8 ramp with my last descent piece of gear 20 feet below me.   As I rounded the corner I clipped a couple of rusted Ľ inch bolts that creaked and protested under the weight of draw I clipped to them. 

“Hmm, something has gone terribly wrong with my plan”, I thought to myself.  “JJ is the only one who was going to actually risk life and limb on this climb.”  As I climbed up through a rotten 5.8 chimney with 80 feet of rope between me and a mediocre cam below, I made a mental note.  “Take a better look at the topo in the future if trying to screw a partner with the dangerous parts of the climb.”   No doubt I will follow through on that thought, as the later is very likely.

JJ negotiating the a 5.9 bulge.


More face moves by JJ.

Happy to have not fallen halfway back down the mountain, I set an anchor and belayed JJ in.  My plot back in working order, I handed over the rack and JJ set off on lead over the crumbling 5.10 crux aręte.  A misplaced bolt lured JJ off the aręte into what we both agreed to be much harder climbing.  With a few grunts and delicate moves JJ sent the crux and I happily followed on top rope.

JJ on the 5.10 crumbling crux.

The culmination of my evil tactics lay above:  60 meters of perfect 5.9 crack climbing.  I grabbed the rack with a smile and mentioned that I “might” just run the last two pitches together.  Rarely does one encounter the situation where the difficulty of the climbing is matched perfectly with the skill of the climber.  This proved to be one such circumstance as I moved steadily up the crack on flawless small hand and finger jams slotting in gear every 10 to 12 feet.  The fact that I didn’t use my signature rock-climbing move; a 30 foot leader fall, certainly added to the aesthetics of the final pitch.

A short scramble led to the summit and JJ and I sat in the sun for a moment chewing on pepperoni sticks and groveling over the quality of the final pitch.  As if I my evil scheme hadn’t already been enough, I forced JJ to take a candid summit shot which can be viewed on the stinky link for the readers that are not faint of heart. 

Matt finds protection for this crack, however, without underwear the same cannot be said for his crack.

For frequent the readers of AlpineFever, you will notice that JJ Sill is new addition to the cast of characters.  I will be kind enough to spare the murky details of JJ’s climbing bum lifestyle and try to best describe him through the characteristics of Dave and myself.  What one needs to know is that JJ cusses more, climbs harder, binge drinks more often, and is generally a bigger asshole then myself.  In addition, he farts less but is not nearly adept at bushwhacking, spooning, or hooking me up with beautiful women as Dave.  

Satisfied with the day, we descended the climber’s path back the road and the waiting Nissan.  As we drove back towards the border, memories of the loose and unprotected climbing already began to fade as we reminisced about the quality pitches and made plans for future climbs in the land north of the border.

-written August 2003