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Mt. HABRICH Route: Life on Earth (5.10c, 5p)

Category: British Columbia/Alberta      Trip Report #2xx
Partner: xxx
Rock Type: Granite
Summit Elev: 5,879 ft / 1,792 m

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TRIP REPORT TEMPLATE
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WORDS

Mt. Habrich is an elegant granite horn above and east of the Chief, its Matterhorn-like shape projecting high above the surrounding valleys. One of the more popular and compelling routes is called Life on Earth, which takes a direct line up the great southwest prow of Mt. Habrich. The route is only 5 pitches, but the climbing is sustained at 5.10b to 10c. The granite is clean and featured, and the climbing is mostly exposed face climbing on small holds, protected by bolts. Thee are some cracks as well which require gear placements. The views are spectacular both on route and from the summit, which can be reached by a short scramble from the end of the 5th pitch. 

There are 3 ways to get to Habrich (see approach map to the right):
(1) Pay to ride the Sea to Sea Gondola. The ride to the upper gondola station is 10 minutes and cuts off 900m of elevation gain. From the upper gondola station, it is still a 2 hour hike to Habrich along the Sky Pilot Valley trail (NOT Al's Habrich Ridge trail, which is a much longer way to reach the peak). Note: As of Summer 2016, the cost of a round trip gondola ride is $39.95 CND. The first ride up is the Backcountry Upload at 9:45am. The last ride down is 7pm. Accounting for the hiking between the gondola station and the base of the route, this gives you about 5 hours to get up and down the climb.
(2) Hike the trail from the gondola base. This adds 900m of elevation gain and a few hours of hiking both ways. More time spent hiking up steep trail than climbing.
(3) Drive to near the upper gondola station via a network of forest service roads. The roads are potentially rough and 4wd.

There are 3 ways to get down from the top of Habrich:
(1) Rappel the route back to your shoes at the base (double rope required). 
(2) Rappel Escape Velocity to the West col (single rope sufficient) and hike back to base of route.
(3) Downclimb the regular route to skier's left of Escape Velocity. There are reportedly some fixed lines and optional rappels.

We chose Approach Option #1 and Descent Option #1. Along with 5 pitches of great climbing and a marvelous summit, this made for a fun 10 hour gondola-to-gondola day.


From the upper gondola station take the signed Sky Pilot Valley trail. This trail follows a graded road for about two kilometres, then leaves the road via a left turn onto an old spur road. This junction is marked. If for some reason you reach a bridge crossing Shannon Creek, you have gone too far and missed the left turn onto the spur road. 

The spur road is in excellent condition as of 2014, and the old days of crawling through a tunnel of slide alder are long gone. 

A small clearing on the spur road is reached after about 50-60 minutes of hiking in total from the upper gondola station. Often there is a cairn and/or a fire pit here, and this is a common bivy location, particularly in years past before the opening of the gondola. Mt. Habrich is visible high above the clearing on the left. 

To this point, the approach has been relatively level and has consisted of very easy hiking. That is all about to change. An obvious trail branches left from the clearing and climbs steeply through the forest, gaining about 500 metres in elevation (rough guess - will try to confirm) to a col just below the west face of Mt. Habrich. 

From the upper gondola station, the time of the approach to the west col is about two hours. 

Two routes begin from this col. Mt. Habrich's regular route meanders up a series of ledge systems and is mainly 4th class with a few low fifth class moves. Just left of this is the relatively new route Escape Velocity which has become quite popular. 

See the link below for a topo of Escape Velocity that also shows the regular route. Note that this topo describes the regular route as a "bush thrash", but it seemed quite reasonable to me. 
jeremyfrimer.com/uploads/2/1/2... 

Just below the col, a fairly obvious trail branches climber's right (east) and passes by a clean looking wall with several routes. The trail leads around an arête/buttress to reach the start of the popular route Life On Earth in about 5 minutes. 

Note that the west col of Mt. Habrich can also be reached by following the signed Al's Habrich Ridge trail. As of July 2014, this "trail" was only marked for about half its length. The latter part of the trail consists of scrambling up and down over many sub-summits along the ridge leading towards Mt. Habrich. As an adventurous hike, this is very enjoyable and makes for a nice loop when combined with the regular approach. Keep in mind that this route is much longer than the regular approach. It took us almost 5 hours to reach the west col of Mt. Habrich from the upper gondola station going this way. 

Descent 

There are several possibilities. 

It is possible to down climb the regular route, which is equipped with some fixed lines. A rappel or two may be necessary. Otherwise the route Escape Velocity can be rappelled with a single rope and is equipped with chain anchors. The quickest way to descend to the west col is likely a combination of these two - down climbing the regular route to the top of the second or third pitch of Escape Velocity, and then rappelling that route the rest of the way to the col. 

It is also possible to rappel Life On Earth with two ropes.


Life On Earth is a fantastic 5 pitch route that receives a a fair bit of traffic despite the long approach. The route is very clean with well featured rock, and has great exposure and amazing views along its entire length. The route has some crack climbing but mainly consists of lower angle face climbing on small holds. Cruxes are often protected by bolts, and though there are some runout in general the route is very well protected. 

Note that the route at times feels somewhat contrived, as the climbing line generally climbs along an arête/buttress, protected by bolts, while sometimes easier crack climbing lies just a few metres to the right. Having said that, the route is great fun and is highly recommended. 

All belays are fixed with bolts. Pitch lengths and grades described below are estimates. Feel free to send me a message if corrections are needed. 

See the Mt. Habrich page for details on the approach. 

P1: 40m, 5.10b. From around the right side of the arête, climb easily up a to the top of a pedestal. Clip a bolt, then move right into the left-facing corner. Climb the corner, wide at first, for several metres until a line of bolts lead left and up to the belay. 

I placed a BD#4 in the corner, but this was the only place I used it on the entire route. 

A direct start to pitch 1 begins left of the regular route and climbs directly up the arête at 5.11c. 

P2: 45m, 5.10b. Climb up the left facing corner on somewhat grainy rock through a bulge (10a) for a few metres until reaching bolts on the left face that lead left and up to the belay. 

P3: 50m, 5.10c. A mix of easier cracks and bolted face climbing lead to a belay on the crest of the arête. The crux is near the end, and consists of stepping left from a groove and climbing a bolt protected face. 

P4: 55m, 5.10b. Climb straight up the face. The first bolt is quite high - look for nut placements. Step left of the arête into a groove, then back right to face climbing that leads to a belay on the right side of the arête. 

P5: 55m, 5.10b. Climb left and up to a short crack, then up and right on a lower angled bolt protected face. 

The summit of Mt. Habrich is a short scramble from here. 

Descent 

Rappel the route with two ropes, right back to the packs you left at the base (recommended). 

Alternatively, from the summit make six rappels, up to 30 metres in length, down the route Escape Velocity to reach the col on the west side of Mt. Habrich. The first rappel anchor is just below the summit. All anchors are fixed. 

Alternatively, from the summit downclimb the regular route, skiers left of Escape Velocity. As of July 2014 this was equipped with some fixed lines, though a rappel or two may be necessary as you get near the west col. At this point the regular route is very close to both the second and third pitches of Escape Velocity, and it would be easy to use the rappel anchors on that route if necessary. 

See the link below for a topo of Escape Velocity that also shows the regular route. Note that this topo describes the regular route as a "bush thrash", but it seemed quite reasonable to me. jeremyfrimer.com/uploads/2/1/2...

Gear 

I brought a rack from green Alien to BD#4 along with a set of nuts. I placed the 4 just once, and I don't remember ever placing the 3. There are a lot of bolts, and so just a single rack of cams is sufficient. There are many places where nuts fit great and cams do not. 

Bring at least 10 draws, including some "alpine type" draws. 

Double ropes are needed to retreat or to rappel the route.



    

PITCH-BY-PITCH


Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Sea to sky gondola
a.    
a. xxx
Pitch 
1
5.10b, 40m
1a.    
1a. xxx

Pitch 
2
5.10b, 45m
2a.    
2a. xxx

Pitch 
3
5.10c, 50m
3a.    
3a. xxx

Pitch 
4
5.10b, 55m
4a.    
4a. xxx
Pitch 
5
5.10b, 55m
5a.    
5a. xxx

Scramble to top
3rd, 100+m
a.    
a. xxx

Summit
5,879 ft
a.    
a. xxx

Descent 

Rappel the route, 2 ropes
a.    
 
a. xxx