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2375m 7800ft The Northeast Buttress5.9
BC Coast Mountains Chilliwack
For years the Northeast Buttress on Sleese Mountain has been a challenging test piece for budding alpinists. This is a superb rock climb of moderate difficulty. The buttress etches the sky in a beautiful sweep. It could have indeed served as a template for the first architect that coined the term "Flying Buttress".
Famous Washington climber and legend Fred Beckey first ascended this route in August 1963. Less than twenty years later in 1983, it was soloed by gifted B.C. climber Peter Croft. The line has even been climbed in winter after many unsuccessful attempts. The youthful team of Kit Lewis and Jim Nelson climbed the route in the winter of 1986.
The climb is about 25 pitches long via the Bypass Glacier; add about 3 more rope-lengths for the direct start at the toe. The approach adds a real mountaineering flavour to the climb. The danger of the approach almost supersedes the danger of the climb itself. Only the experienced should venture here. The Bypass Glacier is still active especially later in the day and the area is fraught with crevasses. Also rock fall from the high walls might be a problem as the day warms. This is a serious undertaking.
Once on the route be prepared for lots of great climbing. The route has lots of moderate 5th class interspersed with sections of 3rd and 4th class. The rating is 5.9 for the steeper headwall section; it's only a couple of moves and not particularly sustained. The headwall provides the most exciting position of the climb.
Allow for a very full day. Be sure you are on the climb early. The exit off the summit is problematical if you have not climbed the standard route or are not experienced with alpine route finding. Make sure you have this wired. If the weather fails in this area or on the climb itself it might throw a crimp into your day. Perhaps consider attaining the services of a professional guide.
The only malevolent note about this classic climb was a plane crash that hit the mountain in 1956. A four prop Twin Star similar to a DC-3 collided just below the summit killing all 62 people aboard. A memorial is constructed near the end of the trail below the eastern ramparts of the mountain. If you perchance find any debris about, leave it alone; this entire 500+ hectare area is protected by the BC Heritage Conservation Act. It took over 30 years for the victims families to get this Mt. Sleese Commorative Site established in the spring of 1995.
Travel to Chilliwack via the Trans-Canada Highway and take exit 119. Continue through Chilliwack/Sardis south to the orange bridge crossing the Chilliwack River. Turn left and follow the valley. At 30 km turn right on the Chilliwack South FSR. (Forest Service campsite here). In a kilometre turn right onto the Nesakwatch FSR. Follow this for about 5.6 kilometres total from the turn at the Chilliwack River Valley. Park here.
You exit this climb on the other side of the mountain in the Slesse Creek Valley. There are logistical problems to work through. This climb has it all! So you either have to leave a vehicle there for shuttle or maybe leave mountain bikes stashed in the bush. This only adds to the adventure!
Alpine Select Climbs in SWBC and Washington Kevin McLane Elaho Publishing
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