Type: Trad, Alpine, 24 pitches, Grade V
FA: Fred Beckey et al 1963
Page Views: 43,178 total · 237/month
Shared By: John Bradford on Feb 19, 2008 · Updates
Admins: Mark Roberts, Mauricio Herrera Cuadra, Kate Lynn, Braden Batsford

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Approach

Park at the new Slesse Memorial trailhead area. Its quite obvious where the road widens for parking and there is a skinny sign post indicating the trail. Follow the easy Slesse Memorial trail to the infamous propeller cairn where most mortals stop to take selfies (~3hrs). Climbers continue north across slabs traversing level across rock slabs then angle downwards along the base of the buttress/ridge separating you from the bypass glacier. Find a short gully to scramble up (3rd/4th) positioning you in a notch that you drop down (4th class, often wet) into the cirque of the bypass glacier. Ascend cool slabs angling straight up for the bypass ledge at the head of the bowl. 

Careful overhead for ice fall hazard. There is a large ledge above (climbers left) as you enter the cirque that holds ice and snow late into the season (you can not see it from below). You do not have much time to react if anything comes down. Move quickly until you are out in the center of the slabs. Normally there is a large remnant piece of glacial ice melting on a ledge at the head of the cirque that provides water to refill your platypus for the climb. Takes ~4hrs to the base of the bypass ledge where you'll put your harness on and rope-up.    

Strategy

This is an absolute classic route, one of North Americas 50 Classics with excellent climbing, exposure, and adventure. It is not to be underestimated though, as it is also very remote and requires a certain amount of detailed planning and luck with the weather. It can be climbed in a day by very fast climbers, but most parties take 2 long days. Day 1: get an alpine start and hike and climb to the bivy ledge at 1/2 height. Day 2: get another alpine start and finish the route then descend and hike back to your car at the trailhead. The bivi ledge can sleep up to 6 climbers and there is a seasonal snow patch that provides water (until late July only) otherwise climb with an extra liter of water for the bivi. Additionally, you can bivi at many places along the route (pitches 6,10,17,20), on the summit, and many places on the descent route to Crossover Pass. 

Be prepared to carry extra water. you can usually refill from melting glacial ice near the bypass ledge start and sometimes melting snow on the bivi ledge (until July). The bivi ledge melt water is short lived and tough to time it right. Its a good idea to climb with an extra liter in reserve. 

Climbers used to be able to access the Slesse Creek FSR on the west side but that FSR is gated and locked by the Canadian Military. The preferred descent is via Crossover Pass and rappelling the Crack Of Noon Club route, returning back to your car at the Slesse Memorial trailhead. Jeremy Frimer created a Crossover Pass Descent PDF that provides a detailed description of the descent. Recently, there was a landslide near the end of the Crossover Pass route but a new climbing route (Crack Of Noon Club 5.7) makes it possible to still use this descent by finding the top of the route from in Crossover Pass (flagging and cairns) and making 10-11 quick single rope rappels (28m) to the talus. See Crack Of Noon Club for a detailed topo. Note: thank you to Vancouver Mountain Guides for supplying all the rappel hardware.

There is an ok topo available on NAClassics.com (edit note: this site is no longer active, here's an alternate provided by J.Roatch: lamountaineers.org/NAC/brow…), and Kevin McLane's Alpine Select covers all of the bases. I will provide only a brief description of the climbing here, along with access information.

Description

The Bypass Ledge accessed from the pocket glacier cirque avoids the first 6 pitches of the NE Buttress Direct (5.10C). 

With a 70m rope you can make it across the bypass ledges in 2 pitches and climb the whole route in 24 pitches. A 70m also makes the rappels fewer, faster and safer on the descent. 

At the end of the Bypass Ledge there is a clump of trees you can belay in. From here, backtrack 10-15ft and go up through 4th/5th class, bush climbing upward (pitches 3-4). The climb stays on the left side of the crest until you encounter a prominent gendarme. Gear belay on the upper left side of the gendarme then make an ascending leftward traverse across easy, broken terrain toward a small, steeper 5.7 corner/lay-back feature. Climb this to a ledge, moving right to a tree belay. Straight up from here into a 5.8 corner to another tree belay. This is a common section for climbers to go off route too far left.

Above this, the climbing is easy and crosses over to the right side of the ridge. Run-out the rope for a full pitch. The climbing gets harder as you ascend (5.7) leading to a gear belay on an obvious ledge. The direct variation goes straight up from here (10a). Otherwise, move the belay directly right 20m to another obvious ledge and small perfectly rectangular bivi spot. From here ascend upward - angling slightly rightward toward the right side of some small roofs overhead. Climb a sea of 5.7 cracks and face features for 2 full pitches. Look left from the right side of the small roofs and you'll see a left angling draw - climb this for a long pitch back to the top of the ridge crest (5.6) to an obvious gear belay and small ledge. Step right 2m then left up a steep corner (5.9) for 20m before easing to 5.7 and to the midway bivi spot (pitch 12).   

The climbing above the bivi begins as 4th class then becomes 5.6 midway through the first pitch (pitch 13). Two more long pitches (14-15) on the right side of the ridge crest lead to another perfectly rectangular bivi pad and obvious gear belay. From here. move the belay 30m right to the steep headwall and left up an obvious grassy gully leading to another gear belay on the crest at the base of the second 5.9 crux pitch (pitch 17). 

The last 7 pitches on the headwall above are very enjoyable climbing with major exposure! The third 5.9 pitch (pitch 19) above is super fun with crazy perched flakes, great protection and a fixed pin at the crux. There are several nice ledges to bivi on the upper part of the climb. If the summit looks in sight but the climbers are loosing might, you can bail left on a ledge into 4th class terrain leading to the summit ridge. Look left around the buttress at the alcove near the top of pitch 20. A small ledge leads into a shallow basin on the east face with all 4th class scrambling to the summit ridge. 

Strong climbers can simul-climb most of this route to the headwall pitches. Route finding seems to be the biggest crux of this route. The climbing might max out at 5.9 but the route finding is 5.11. Much of the way you can not tell which way climbers before you have gone, many options will present themselves and choosing the correct direction is the key to a successful ascent.  

Pitch 1: Angle up right on the bypass ledge for a full rope length. Climb steep tree roots just before a clump of trees belaying off a tree (4th, 60m).
Pitch 2: Tunnel through the trees then drop down a steep step (exposed 4th/easy 5th) and continue rightward along the ledge toward trees and the forest at the far end of the ledges. Belay off trees (4th, 60m).
Pitch 3: Backtrack 10-20ft and head straight up, bush climbing 4th/5th. Run the rope out to a tree belay on the right (60m).
Pitch 4: At this point, gain the ridge crest on the right on clean granite slabs heading towards the obvious gendarme. Pass the gendarme on its left side and gear belay on the upper left side (5.6, 60m).
Pitch 5: Move up leftward across ill-defined broken, easy, terrain toward a small, steeper 5.7 corner/layback feature. Up this to a ledge then right to a tree belay (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 6: Climb straight up from behind the tree. Follow signs of where other climbers have gone. Ascend into a steep 5.8 corner to a ledge and move right to a tree belay (5.8, 50m). Note: should be slightly right and above your belayer below. Common area for route finding mistakes. 

Note: you cross to the right side of the crest in this area.

Pitch 7: Easy climbing leads straight up a long way. The climbing is very easy then steepens to 5.7. Run the rope out to a gear belay on a small ledge (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 8: Move the belay right (4th) across grass ledges 15-20m to an obvious rectangular ledge and possible bivi spot. Gear belay.
Pitch 9: Landmark some small roofs (~2 pitches above) up and slightly right. Climb ill-defiined cracks and face up trending right toward the right side of those small roofs. Gear belay (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 10: Climb another long pitch to the right side of the small roofs landmarked below. Small belay ledges exist at the base of a left trending gully/corner (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 11: Climb a long, easy pitch up the gully/corner leftward back to the crest. Belay on a small ledge on the crest (5.6). Good gear belay in cracks at the base of a steep black wall (5.6, 65m).
Pitch 12: Step right 2m into a steep black corner. Climb straight up for 20m (5.9). The climbing eases to 5.7 as you ascend to the large, grassy bivi ledge on route. Belay at 2 large boulders in the grass.

Note: Bivi Ledge has room for up to 6 climbers. A nearby snow patch for possible water lingers into July only.

Pitch 13: Climb obvious broken 4th class terrain upward above the bivi. Stay on the right side of the crest. Gets steeper and harder as you climb higher. Gear belay (5.6, 60m).
Pitch 14: Continue upward and right toward the crest. At one point you can look over the crest (major exposure). Continue rightward on the right side of the crest to a small belay ledge with a gear belay (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 15: Continue diagonal up rightward below the right side of the crest following the easiest path. A full rope length leads to a small rectangular ledge (possible bivi) and gear belay (you should be ~20m below the crest at this belay spot) (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 16: Move the belay right, very easy walking, then up left (up a grass filled gully) to the a gear belay near the crest (3rd). You should be at the base of the headwall and start of a steep 5.9 pitch.
Pitch 17: Climb up onto small rock pedestal/pillars traversing right 10-15m as you ascend toward a crack/layback feature. Encounter the crux here (5.9). Climbing eases to 5.7 above this as you enter a right facing corner. Exit the corner left and face climb straight up the face to a large ledge and gear belay (5.9, 50m).
Pitch 18: Climb straight up cracks and face for a long pitch to a nice ledge at the base of a steep wall. You are at the base of the third 5.9 crux pitch. Good gear to belay (5.7, 60m).
Pitch 19: Step 2m right then straight up trending left through massive perched flakes (solid but don't test them) into a right facing corner/crack. Up this to a small roof. Right 2m under the roof to a crack through the roof with an angle pin at the crux. Continue ~10m further up to a small foot ledge and semi-hanging stance. Gear belay in a crack (5.9, 50m).
Pitch 20: Staying on the right side of the crest, climb cracks and face heading toward an alcove near the ridge crest on the left. Can belay in this alcove or continue steeply straight up through to a better stance 5m above. Gear belay (5.7, 60m).

Note: at the alcove on pitch 20 you can escape left on a 4th class ledge system. Scramble across the ledge into a shallow 4th class basin above the east face and zig-zag up to the summit ridge (4th, several pitches).

Pitch 21: Climb straight up through a small steep roof to the Sheraton Slesse Bivi Ledge. Wild exposure down both sides of the ridge crest (5.8, 20m)
Pitch 22: Stay on the right side of the crest for ~20m before slipping left across the crest into a short steep corner. Up the corner with a crack working rightward under a small roof, follow the crack back right over the crest. Continue up the crack/face on the right side of the crest to a gear belay (5.8, 50m).
Pitch 23: Climb up to an easy left angling slab. Head left to the top of the slab then right on the crest to a belay at some large boulders (5.6, 50m).
Pitch 24: Move up the ridge crest toward the obvious summit just above. A short wall (10-15m) with several options guards the final short section. You can climb a 5.6 crack straight up (15m) to the summit and sit down to belay (5.6, 40m).

Descent

You are only half way finished on the summit (maybe less even). The descent for Slesse is the crux. Do not underestimate the time and energy it takes to get back to your car. Plenty of pretty bivi sights exist through the alpine zone as you navigate back to your car. Plan an extra day and if you get tired call it a day and snooze in the alpine.

  • Directly from the summit scramble down a 4th class corner 5-10m to talus and slabs on the east side of the summit ridge. 
  • Hike south on the east side of the summit ridge (~200m) to where you can scramble up over the ridge (cairns) and down (skiers right then left) on the west side, 3rd class terrain zig zags down on a vague climbers path for a pitch or so (follow cairns). 
  • Traverse south above the top of a scree basin (do not go down here) to a wall on your left. 
  • Climb up 5-10m of 4th class on this wall then traverse south over/around a little ridge. You'll see a large block with rap slings south, below, 10m in the scree basin (follow cairns).
  • Down climb 10m 4th class to the block with rap slings.
  • Make one 35m rap from the block to the scree below. Note: a single 60m rope will require some low 5th down climbing off the end of the rope. 
  • Follow the climbers trail skiers left, down, then right to a short 4th class step, down climb.
  • Important route finding here! You'll be above 2 large gullies here. Go down the skiers right gully (NOT left) following the climbers path zig-zaging down. 
  • Down climb two small steps in the gully. The last 4th class step can be approached from above, zig zag skiers right then left and down climb the wall on skiers left.
  • Head skiers right, down to a tombstone-shaped rock wrapped in old rap slings. This is key route finding. Climb low 5th out of the gully, skiers right, on the wall to a ledge system on the west face. You'll see another obvious block with slings before another short low 5th step (20m). 
  • Rappel or down climb the step to the climbers trail on a large scree ledge system across the west face. Start hiking across.
  • Follow the vague climbers trail across the large ledge system to a gully. Go around the head of the gully. Look for rap slings across the gully and rap down 35m. An intermediate station exists if required.
  • Continue hiking across the ledge system toward another gully. The trail should lead you straight to more rap slings. You can rap 15m diagonally north here or down climb 4th class. It's very exposed but easy climbing. 
  • Traverse into the major gully filled with scree/talus and go down. One 4th/5th class step exists (7m). Sometimes you can tunnel under a chockstone skiers right or downclimb.
  • Pick up the westside trail at the bottom and continue as per the Crossover descent beta.

Once on the west side hiking trail follow Jeremy Frimers Crossover Pass PDF beta just until Crossover Pass (not all the way). Recently a landslide wiped out part of the descent trail below a rock face known as "Stumpy" after Crossover Pass. A new descent has been created from in the pass where you rappel a route called Crack Of Noon Club. Once in Crossover Pass follow obvious flagging and cairns leading southward out and down from the pass to the front of a buttress where you'll find the first rap anchor skiers left on a rock face. 11 raps with a single 60m or 10 raps with a single 70m rope land you on the talus. The raps are all bolted with big ledges and easy to find with flagging. From the bottom, follow cairns and flagging traversing down across the talus into the forest meeting the original descent trail. Once in the talus its 6.5km, ~2hours left to the trailhead (hopefully you stashed some cold beer, flip flops, and a clean t-shirt). 

You'll encounter snow slopes on the Crossover Descent. Savvy alpinists commonly plunge step and traverse these slopes with no other aids. However, if you are in doubt or new to these environments, bring an ice axe and micro-spikes.

Note: thank you to Vancouver Mountain Guides for donating hardware on the Crack Of Noon Club.

Water: there are opportunities to refill water at melting snowpatches along the Crossover Pass descent depending on the conditions each year. Once finished the rappels you cross full alpine streams with good flow. 

Note: you can bail from the route by rappelling but be prepared to leave gear and slings. The route is void of tat with the exception of a few anchors down low. Climbers have self-rescued in bad weather but they all have the same story of leaving half their rack. 

Location

The Chilliwack River Valley is 2 hours east of Vancouver on Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway). Take exit 119 onto Vedder Rd. and go through Sardis/Chilliwack. After about 4.5kms the road comes to a roundabout. Go 1/4 way around the roundabout exiting right for Chilliwack River Rd. Drive 30kms down this road (paved) to the Nesakwatch Creek Forest Service Rd. (gravel) on your right. The turn is just past Riverside Campground (signed) and has signs for the Slesse Memorial Trail. Turn right on the Nesakwatch FSR, cross 2 bridges a short ways in to a t-intersection. Turn right here and continue 7kms up the Nesakwatch FSR to the Mt Slesse Memorial Trailhead Parking. The Nesakwatch FSR condition varies from year-to-year from rough high clearance 4x4 to easy 4x4 or all-wheel drive. Check posts on the South Coast Alpine Facebook page for up-to-date conditions each year.

The Slesse Memorial Trail provides access to climbing routes on the east side of the mountain and leads you directly to the propeller cairn. Its an easy trail to follow with a new'ish bridge over the Nesakwatch river and follows an old logging road for about 1/2 the distance. You'll pass the junction with the Crossover Pass descent trail and then shortly after (~200m) arrive at the Slesse Memorial plaque with excellent views of the route. The hike takes approximately 3 hours from the trailhead to the propeller cairn then up to another 1 hour to reach the start of the bypass ledge.  

Continue across easy rock slabs, northward, aiming for a wooded ridge separating you from the bypass glacier cirque. You'll drop down the slabs a short ways as you come up against the wooded ridge. Sticky approach shoes are recommended as the slabs become 3rd to 4th class depending on route finding. Find the fairly obvious gully accessing a notch in the ridge. Once at the top you'll clearly see the route ahead to the start of the bypass ledge. 

Note: Steph Abegg's website has a plethora of information detailing this climb. 

Protection

Depending on your technical climbing ability and your comfort level (5.13 vs 5.10) you might be fine with a single rack to 3" (plus a few doubles) and a single skinny 60m rope. Alternatively, take 60m 1/2 ropes or twins and carry a double rack to 3". Pepper your rack with 3-4 quickdraws and 3-4 alpine draws and you are ready. The preferred footwear is sticky approach shoes to handle the technical scrambling and slabs but go with your experience. If the route and descent is mostly dry you can get away with very little else except maybe lightweight bivi gear. If your investigations report snow patches that are of concern then you might want microspikes or aluminum crampons and an axe (nut tool can double in a pinch). 

Note: you can get cell service from the summit and from sections along the Crossover Pass descent (depending on your provider) for emergencies and updating social media. 

Photos