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Waterfall ice climbing: The Theft

This is a photo-essay about a significant first ascent done at the beginning of March 1996 by "rec.climbers" Kevin Normoyle and Tuan Luong, with the participation of other "net personalities".

The picture shows one view of the Bridge River area, near Lilloet. The line on the left is The Gift, one of the harder additions to the area, first climbed during Christmas 95. The line on the right, even more obvious and dramatic (but clearly not as fat) was revealed to me by Eric Hirst through e-mail.

This line has two parts quite distinct in character: the first includes a pitch whose base looked very sketchy from the road, and the chimney, of which the inside was not visible. The second is the partially free-standing huge column, which is visibly very steep, sustained, and complex. The first pitch (thin ice crux, WI5+ R) was one of the scariest I have ever climbed. Althought it at first didn't appear to be possible because the main pillar was unstable, it went on the thin ribbon on the right.

My partners of this first attempt: Lee Purvis and Adrian Burke. Lee was going to lead successfully the chimney, using one Camalot and one piton to clear a chockstone by an aid move. One major uncertainty was therefore over, and after an easier third pitch, I started on the headwall [L]. But we ran out of daylight, and decided to retreat.

One month later, despite degrading conditions (compare to the other picture of the first pitch, the column does not touch anymore) Kevin Normoyle efficiently led the first two mixed pitches. He can be seen at the crux move, oblique, overhanging, and thin. Higher, the fourth pitch ends up with an airy traverse which leads to a good cave belay.

Kevin looked with some perplexity at the fifth pitch that I started next [K]. This vertical and chandeliered pitch involved a traverse between free-standing columns to find a way around rotten mushrooms. Having finished this crux pitch, It is now dark, but I feel very excited of being only one pitch away from completing the project [K].

The route had apparently stirred the interest of a number of locals, but no one had had the nerve and persistence to make a serious attempt. On the second attempt, the route appeared even less "in", in contrast with the nearby Gift , still fat with ice. This was the last opportunity of the season. Starting to climb at 8am, we had managed to snatch the route from the gods who guard improbable ascents. Like thieves, we had finished under cover of darkness. But as if those gods had summoned the police, a witness mistakenly thought we were in trouble, and Mounties arrived on the scene at the end of an almost 24 hour day of effort. The new route, put up by a pair of transplanted Californians, is called The Theft, V 6R.

For more details, see:

Photos by Tuan, Lee [L], Kevin [K].

All photos and text Copyright © QT Luong