The Mammut Pro Team athlete Caro North and her climbing partner Brette Harrington have opened a new route on the “Chinese Puzzle Wall” in the Cascade Mountains in Canada.
Text: Caro North
After a three-week trip to Alaska with Brette Harrington in June, I decided to leave my haul bag and equipment in Vancouver and travel back without it. I left behind my crampons, ice axe, mountaineering boots, and other items with the intention of fulfilling my commitments in Europe and then returning in a month’s time.
"The wall loomed up steeply ahead of us. Large boulders suspended between cracks and ridges created a very rugged look."
And so, in early August, after a few photo shoots, guiding days and a quick trip to the “Petit Clocher du Portalet” to climb “Etat de Choc” onsight, I found myself getting off the plane back in Canada. Brette and I made our way to Squamish and that same day we were scrambling over the granite slabs on the “Chief” in the evening sun. It was unbelievably beautiful. We spent a few days climbing demanding tours and hoping that the weather in Alaska would be better. However, in view of the constant rain there, we decided to drive to the Fraser Valley, home to Marc-André Leclerc and Brette for the last few years.
Together, they had rediscovered the “Chinese Puzzle Wall” and in 2016 placed the first tour over the wall: with demanding clean cracks and ridges. Our aim now was to attempt a different line and we began assembling our gear. It was time, once again, to weigh up and assess: did we need the portaledge? How many bolts? Should we take just the hand drill or the power drill as well? Naturally, we wanted to climb as cleanly as possible, but we were also aware that we would probably need a few bolts.
We were joined by Chris Kalman, a friend I knew from Cochamo. We set out early to make the most of the cool morning hours. The first section took us over a logging road, then onto a mountain track and finally through undergrowth with no paths or trails. The wall loomed up steeply ahead of us. Large boulders suspended between cracks and ridges created a very rugged look. There were a few old, high trees here, in an area home to bears, pumas and more. We decided on a very inspiring and aesthetic line that Brette had already spotted previously. The cracks were dirty and often overgrown with plants, which made them demanding. On the first day, we completed a first ascent of two pitches and secured our fixed ropes. We bivouacked at the foot of the wall. The steep and uneven terrain meant that we had to dig first.
The next morning, we started out again and progressed another two pitches with our route and fixed ropes. After two days of hard work in overwhelming heat, we climbed down as Chris needed to go back home. Brette and I treated ourselves to two days of rest before setting off again to spend another three days on the south face. It was even hotter and we were suffering under the high temperatures. Nevertheless, we cleaned and climbed another three pitches. We reached the point where our line met up with the existing one to climb the last three pitches of “Hidden Dragon”.
We had reached our goal, now all that remained was to climb our tour. To do this, we returned with Chris and our friend and photographer Kieran Brownie. In the meantime, forest fires in the area had obscured any sign of blue skies, engulfing everything in clouds of smoke. It was frightening.
We really enjoyed climbing our tour over amazing cracks and ridges. Unfortunately, I was so wiped out on the day that I didn’t manage to complete the tour. Brette, however, was fully focused and climbed strongly to complete all pitches. Fantastic! And I now have a reason and lots of motivation to go back.
Photos: Kieran Brownie