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March 14, 2008


Agawa canyon (Ontario, Canada). 8- , 2008

Posted by zvoni00

Here is a photo-report of our first ascent of a new ice route in Agawa canyon:

Team: Anton Karnoup (USA/Russia), Brad Reinke (USA), Heiko Weiner (USA/Germany). Approach and first 3 pitches: Brad (lead on technical ice) + Heiko + Anton. Remaining 4 pitches: Anton (lead on technical ice) + Brad.

Approach: Drive into Lake Superior Provincial Park, and take Frater Rd off Hwy-17 (on the right). After a few miles on Frater Rd, park at Towab trail-head (small parking lot on the left side). Hike (snowshoe) into Agawa canyon on Towab trail until you reach Burnt Rock Pool area (~6 miles? (2 hrs); this part of the hike is on a pretty flat ground). The route should be well seen from that area -- it is a big dihedral in the cliff on the opposite side of Agawa river (south-facing cliff). Hike a bit past Burnt Rock Pool (another 10 minutes or so), and cross Agawa river on ice (ice is usually solid, but be careful anyway; ice conditions change rapidly and they may be hard to detect; use your ski poles as a probe and move carefully). Hike into the bush towards the cliff, and camp on the flat ground before the terrain changes to "uphill". In the morning, hike uphill towards the dihedral in the cliff (start in the creek, then, after 100 yards or so, turn right and uphill; there will be another short flat area before terrain changes to steep uphill; from that point, watch for small ice-flows -- they will be your guide). After ~200 vertical ft through the bush and up the hill (slope angle varies between 50 to 70 degree), come to the beginning of the first technical pitch.

Pitch 1 (~7 m, WI3, 1 screw): Brad led that one.
Pitch 2 (steep snow slope, iced underneeth, ~50 m): Brad led that one.
Pitch 3 (~30 m, WI3+, 3-4 screws): Brad led that one.
Pitch 4 (steep snow slope, ~15-20 m to a big ledge with trees): I (AK) scrambled that one.
Pitch 5 (~35 m, WI3+, 3 screws): I (AK) led this one. Pitch ends at another ledge.
Pitch 6 (~55 m, WI3/4, 6 screws): I (AK) led this one. Pretty exposed here. Great views! Climb up the ice pillar into a wide chimney, where you can stem between ice (left foot) and rock (right foot), then climb out on a WI4 section (on the left side) to an ice cave. Set up belay here.
Pitch 7 (~25 m, WI3, 3 screws): If you feel like a hero, you can climb straight up the vertical ice right above the ice cave (WI4/5 variation); otherwise, go around on the left (WI3). Then traverse to the left and end up at the trees at the top of the cliff.

The whole route rating would be approx.: IV WI3/4.
Total vertical gain from the valley floor (river) to the top is ~900 ft. There is about 700 ft of technical climbing on this route. We (me and Brad) did the same route as a rock route (about 5.7 trad, 5 pitches) in September 2007.

Descent: Rappel off trees on the left side (when facing the cliff) of the climb: 1st- ~20-m rappel, 2nd- ~30-m rappel, 3rd- ~30-m rappel to a small tree on a tiny ledge at ~3/4 of Pitch 5 (left side of it), 4th- rappel to the ledge at the base of Pitch 5, 5th- walk, then rappel down Pitch 4 (snow slope), 6th- rappel ~30 m down Pitch 3, 7th- walk down the snow slope of Pitch 2, 8th- rappel (short) down Pitch 1.

We started from our camp at ~10:30 am, and started climbing 1st technical pitch at ~12 noon. The last two rappels we had to finish in complete darkness. Then we hiked out from our camp site to the parking at Towab trailhead in about 2 hrs (by ~11:30 pm). If you start really early in the morning (~4 am from Towab trail parking lot), you may be able to do the whole thing in a day, without camping overnight.

Unfortunately, the ascent was half-legal, because it is in the park (LSPP), and park rules do not allow for ice/rock climbing there (here is the thing though: camping, hiking and such is allowed in the park; so all of the non-technical sections -- the lower 200 ft or so -- and camping, should be legal, and only the upper ~700 ft is questionable).

I decided to name the route "Anarchy". Alternative name: "Escalera de Olga". Brad will name the summer rock version of it...