Alexis and I were looking for a low-commitment alpine rock route not too far of a drive away. I wanted to take things easy with only a week left until the Squamish 50k. I suggested the Widowmaker Arête on Crown. A classic scrambling peak visible from downtown Vancouver, Crown is densely forested on its south west side but has a long rock buttress on the east side rising out of Hanes Valley.
The climbing on the arête is slabby 4th class ridge rambling punctuated by three steep mid 5th class head walls. We opted to approach from Lynn Valley Park rather than climbing the Grouse Grind. Three hours of fast hiking found us racking up at the base of the route, the first head wall. The hike in was uneventful with ample creeks to fill up on water rather than carry from the car.
I led out on the first pitch through a section of near vertical rock with great featured holds but little protection and covered in lichen. Through a low angle slab and over a roof, I belayed Alexis up to a nice ledge.
Alexis was looking forward to do some leading on an alpine route so he took off up easy slabs and steps. We switched to simul-climbing to move quicker and as I was moving over one of the rock steps I heard a crash from above. I ran for the nearest rock overhang while Alexis’ shouts were drowned out by crashing rock. Ducking under, I saw hunks of rock fly past and shatter on the slabs below.
We thought for a second we had escaped unscathed but our rope was not so lucky. The sheath was torn through right at the middle (though the core looked undamaged). We cut the bad section out of the rope and tied into the longer strand. We debated pulling the plug on the climbing but having climbed the route previously, I figured (hoped) we could make it up on only a thirty meter strand.
We continued to simul-climb to the base of the second headwall where we went back to belayed pitches. With rope length a factor, we had several awkward belays, unable to reach the big ledges dotting the route.
At the final head wall, we opted for a left leaning ledge that took the line of least resistance to a huge ledge at the base of the Camel. From there, a (deceptively difficult) final pitch to the top of the Camel and then two rappels into the neck and back to the huge ledge. The final scramble up to Crown went quickly and we took a few minutes to relax and name peaks visible from Baker and the Twin Sisters to Garibaldi and Tantalus. The hike back to Grouse was undoubtedly the worst part of the day – two hours of oppressive heat and mosquitos. We arrived back at the bustling tourist centre around the top of the Grouse Skyride – a bit of a jolt having seen no one all day – and picked up cokes and download tickets.
We climbed the route in eight 30m pitches with two sections of simul-climbing in between. There seem to be endless variations on this possible. We intended to climb with a lightweight 60m single rope but ended up using a 30m rope and then tying them together for the rappel off of the Camel which worked fine. We carried a big rack from .3 to 3 BD cams with doubles of .5 to 2 and a handful of nuts. Certainly a bit overkill with such short pitches. Lots of water available on the hike into the valley. None between the bottom of the climb and Grouse.