Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pine Valley Bouldering Potential

I had planned to head up to the Boulder Gardens on Mount Babcock to do some bouldering this past weekend, and try to get a good sense of how extensive the area was, and how many hard lines there might be. Unfortunately, I found out that of the 150 km between my house and the BG, about half of that is on gravel roads. Not being that keen to drive that much gravel for just a day of bouldering, I instead drove to check out another area I've been curious about - the Pine Creek Canyon north of Dawson Creek.

On Google Maps, it looked like a canyon holding numerous big boulders. This didn't really jive with what I know of the geology of the area - generally the underlying bedrock is a soft sandstone, which doesn't form large blocks. So with Lupin (the dog) in tow, I went off for a day of hiking and exploring (with my shoes and chalk as well, of course).

Parking at the bridge, I walked about 1.5 km down the mostly dry riverbed (with the occasional bushwhack) before I made it to the upper canyon. Here, as shown on the satellite images, there were large boulders scattered along 200 m of canyon. The mystery was solved - the boulders were indeed a soft sandstone, and had calved off the canyon walls, but the force of the flow was insufficient to move them any distance. The resulting boulders are pretty big - as much as 4 m tall - and while somewhat soft, could yield some brilliant problems. The season might be quite short, especially in wet years when the canyon holds lots of water. Also, attempting really hard problems might be dangerous, and small holds might snap off regularly because the sandstone is fairly soft. Still, for 'squeezy-slopey' problems, the area holds a fair amount of potential, especially in the dry autumn. Possibly as many as 200 problems? I did do three problems, although they were all easy (no mat, no spotter, a mile from anywhere, bad ankle...). Two of them were on the 'Anomaly' Boulder - a beautiful block of sandstone with a sculpted top.

I kept walking downstream, hoping to get to the lower canyon which (on the satellite images) held many more boulders (along about 500 m of canyon), but was nearly stopped by an enormous area of slope-failure (looked like it was bombed), and then was stopped by a cliff/waterfall at the head of the lower canyon. I would like to get down there someday, but since its a slog, I doubt it would ever be a worthwhile climbing ares (maybe some ice, though?).

Evaluation? A nice adventure bouldering area, but probably will never be a destination of any kind due to the approach and soft nature of the rock. The lines themselves look brilliant, though! I'll be back there once I'm in better shape!

What's next? The gritstone boulders of the Tumbler Ridge area, including Mount Babcock (the Boulder Gardens). More reports soon!

[1] a view of the lower canyon from above the waterfall
[2] the Anomaly Boulder - there is a brilliant V3ish problem that starts in a 2-handed pod pocket on the right hand arete; the boulder is probably 2 m tall.
[3] the upper canyon
[4] big block in the lower canyon. The desperately sloping lip is probably 2 - 2.5 up. There are four brilliant lines side by side on this boulder, arete squeezing and pockets.



m. said...

Photo four sort of looks like Joe's Valley sandstone.

Good luck in the hunt.

Trent Hoover said...

Some of it looks a little like Joes, but the rock is pretty grainy... fine for hands, but sucks a bit for feet.