British alpinist Tom Livingstone is currently in the Cascade Mountains of British Columbia, Canada climbing with Canadian hotshot Marc-Andre Leclerc. As a 'warm-up' for a new line on Mount Slesse that they're aiming for, the pair made the first winter ascent of a classic summer route, Navigator Wall, on the mountain.
Tom told UKC: 'The main aim is a new route on Mt. Slesse, which is a huge alpine wall perfect for a winter ascent. We are waiting for the good weather so we can go for the 'Mega Proj.' In the meantime we checked out the mountain and did Navigator Wall as a warm up.'
With good weather and relatively warm temperatures, the team skied up to the Mt Slesse area and camped, before attempting the line the next day. Tom described the climb as follows:
'It's given 6b and is all on trad gear. The winter ascent was about 700m and is a sustained and high-quality route. The climbing was steep, on predominantly good rock, and was either dry-tooling, mixed or ice. There were some steep corners, icy slabs, rocky overhangs and everything in between. We climbed some parts in crampons but with bare hands. The wall was in the sunshine for about an hour in the morning, but then went into the shade. This made the bare-hands climbing quite problematic at times!'
There was some variation to the summer line at the top - the pair missed out the two final headwall pitches. 'It was dark, we only wanted a warm-up experience, and it would be more logical to follow the scrambly terrain up and left. So we did,' Tom explained.
Regarding the difficulty of the route as a whole, Tom isn't sure how to grade it. 'The crux was somewhere in the region of three pitches of Scottish tech 8 or 9. The rock was at times sub-optimal (and I've climbed on the Lleyn and in the Canadian Rockies a bit) and there were some quite serious run-outs too. There were also a bunch of Scottish tech 7, a few hundred metres of easier climbing, and a hundred metres of snow climbing at the start.'
Now their sights are set on the 'Mega Proj': the new line on Mt. Slesse. Tom commented: 'This was a fun warm-up and hopefully we'll get some better weather soon, to go for the Mega Proj. The weather looks mixed for the next week so we'll go ice climbing and skiing. It's a super fun area with lots of potential and a small but psyched scene.'
Watch this space...