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Blackcomb Buttress – A Chamonix-Like Experience In Canada

Friday, 26th June 2015  /  By Dan O'Keefe
Climbing Blackcomb Buttress

I can always count on two things when I guide Blackcomb Buttress; happy guests and me saying, “Man I love my job”! It brings me back to my Cham’ days where I guided for many summers.

Why is it a Chamonix like experience? It’s all about ease of access, quality granite and quality climbing. First off you kill an otherwise grueling approach and knee wrecker descent by taking the Whistler Blackcomb lifts and alpine shuttle bus, something I never take for granted! Next comes a beautiful approach through rolling alpine meadows. The pristine ever clear emerald waters of the little tarn reflect Blackcomb Peak, looming above. A curious Hoary Marmot stands up on it’s rock and whistles the town’s namesake.

One then makes their way up gentle talus slopes, some left over winter snow and across benches to the routes base. I always start on a lower independent rib that provides extra climbing, and sports a perfect crack on equally perfect granite. This leads to the base of the main buttresses, of which there are three to choose from. There’s something for everyone here whether you prefer to easily scramble, climb a few technical moves or go for the more technical central rib.

In this case we chose the central rib. Let’s go through the trip details from the beginning. My lovely guests, Mi and Jonathan booked their trip through Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures. I outfitted my guests the day before with the climbing necessities and we met the next day at the Blackcomb base Wizard Express for 07:30. Finally a mountain that understands the need for having early lifts! I applaud Whistler Blackcomb for their acumen in understanding this necessity. The couple has their three kids participating in the Horseman Glacier ski camp. We then took the shuttle bus to 7th Heaven chair lift, took the chair up and began our short and pleasant approach from there.

The central rib sports technical climbing moves up to 5.8 depending on the route you take. There are options to make it harder or easier. Whichever buttress you climb, you can be assured to have that awesome exposed feeling  while riding the crest of an alpine buttress and of course to enjoy fun climbing on Coastal granite. Until about mid August another bonus is that you can boot ski zooming down snow slopes back to the meadows making for an equally fun and speedy descent.

Mi has had a bit of climbing experience and Jonathan was clearly quite handy at it, so we decided for the more challenging central buttress. This involves some gymnastic yet easy climbing moves on amazing holds. What I love most though is the easier climbing ground. It’s like the climbing God decided to personally carve out what nothing describes better than a stairway to heaven. Seriously, there are these sick natural vertical steps all over the place that feel too good to be true. Everyone has the same reaction “this is too cool!”. After several pitches of superb fun and exposed quality climbing, be rewarded with spectacular views of massive glaciers, serac’s, temperate rain forest, lakes, meadows and the snow capped peaks of the Coast Mountains.

When we summited, the top of the peak was suddenly shrouded in the mists of the mountain realm. We were inside the proverbial “Ping-Pong ball”, a favorite saying among mountain folk when you can’t see anything! Low and behold, the heavens parted and we were again blown away with that stark beauty that is never better enjoyed than from the very tip top of a mountain.

This is one Chamonix like experience not to be missed!

By Eric Dumerac

IFMGA/ACMG  Mountain Guide and the Chief guide of Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures

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