Cerberus and my first night on a portaledge

As one of the final adventures in Squamish, I wanted to sleep up on the Chief on a porta-ledge.  Austin Siadak was kind enough to let Jimmy and I borrow his ledge for our trip to the Valley.  With several sessions of practicing the setup and teardown process for the ledge, it was time to test it out with a bit more air under my feat.  A new friend from Squamish, Katrina Caley, who is in the midst of her own multi-month climbing trip, was kind enough to join me for the adventure.   With the goal of practicing the ledge setup process high on the wall, doing a bit of climbing, and enjoying a great few of Howe Sound, we picked out a route and made it happen.

Katrina halfway through setting up the ledge. Getting the right pole in always seems to be the hardest part. Look for a post on an improved process for this.
Katrina halfway through setting up the ledge. Getting the right pole in always seems to be the hardest part, but practice makes perfect, hence our decision to try to bring a ledge up the Grand Wall.

Picking a route…

It took a little while for us to settle on Cerberus as the best route to hang a ledge.  Some of our considerations were:

a) limiting the amount of aiding or jugging that Katrina or I would have to do.  She didn’t have a ton of jugging experience, or in hauling/lowering out a bag + ledge.  We also wanted to keep the outing relatively short.

b) since we wanted to free-climb as much as possible, we wanted a route that looked dry

c) finding an ideal place to hang a ledge.  This was probably one of the harder items, given that most of the routes that meet (b), fail to also provide easy hauling, or to provide a flat stretch of wall that would allow a ledge, bag, and two people to hang pleasantly.

In the end, we considered sleeping:

  • at the top of Moving to Montana (top pitch has a slabby top out, bottom pitches looked wet)
  • on Milk Road, somewhere just above or below Tantalus ledge (the wall wasn’t particularly even, lots of corners, blocks, ledges, etc)
  • at the top of the 3rd pitch (traverse) on Daily Planet (this was a second best option)
  • at the top of the Bulletheads, likely by approaching via Liquid Gold (rumored/read that this would be wet, also thought the wall might be less than ideal)
  • on any of the Cerberus anchors

We decided on the last option, and specifically to rap into Cerberus from above, where we would unfold the ledge at the top of the second 11d pitch (1 rope length from the top). This approach would enable us to skip any hauling on day 1, and require only 1 pitch of hauling on day 2.  While we originally planned on doing some climbing on day 1 after setting up “camp”, finding the top of Cerberus took a lot more time than expected (see below).

Our final ledge setup, where the haul bag is positioned so we can stand up and reach in easily when needed.
Our final ledge setup, at the top of P2 on Cerberus., where the wall is nice and flat 10 ft down from the anchor.

This is what our two days ended up looking like:

Day 1:

Hike to top of the Tantalus Wall (see notes on approach below).  Lower in to the bottom of the last pitch on Cerberus.  Setup ledge.  Drink some wine, eat some cheese, watch the sunset, go to sleep, hope you don’t have to “use the facilities” in the middle of the night.

Day 2:

Wake up.  Drink some coffee (breakfast included), then rap to the base of Cerberus, which starts at Tantalus ledge.

Approach:

 

Starting up the Chief trail at the campground. This photo shows how Katrina and I decided to carry the ledge up. We inserted it through the haul bag haul straps, and tightened those with a carabiner.
Starting up the Chief trail at the campground. This photo shows how Katrina and I decided to carry the ledge up. We inserted it through the haul bag haul straps, and tightened those with a carabiner.

We had trouble finding the top of Cerberus, so I’ll give some detailed instructions here…

Getting to the top of Cerberus required reversing the Grand Wall descent, until you cut left for the Freeway and Tantalus wall area.  Do this about 100m after walking across the slabs that are beyond the fix line.  There is a rooted, steep descent that is the turn off. Continue to take the forks left, until you end up at the skiers’ right most end of the long sidewalk-like ledge (this is Tantalus ledge).

Now, when standing on this ledge, given the steepness of the wall, it is hard to identify the climbs that lie below you.  About 50m from the (lookers) rightmost end, where the trail pops you out, seems to be the top of the Tantalus Wall route. Continue down the side-walk like ramp, until some bushes/trees force you to hug a short wall that is 5m back from the edge. Drop down, walk along this wall, until you reach a clearing and you are forced back out near the edge.  You should see white granite that stands out, and the faint remnants of a dike on the ground. Stepping within 1 m of the edge, there is an anchor down and to the right (3m from the edge).

We fixed a 60m rope from the trees to the top of P2 (10-15m to spare), then rappelled the rest of the route with a 70m rope (necessary to rappel P2).  *It seems* like you could rappel from the anchors at the top of P3 to the top of P2 with a 70m, but we didn’t try this.   Rappelling from the bottom of P2 to Tantalus ledge required two more raps (so four total to rappel the route).

Apart from showing me try to shoulder a haul bag with the ledge on top, this photo shows the hard to find top out of Cerberus.
Apart from showing me try to shoulder a haul bag with the ledge on top, this photo shows the hard to find top out of Cerberus.

Kit + comments:

-70m Mammut 9.8 – 70m absolutely necessary for rappelling down Cerberus from the top of P2.  Tie your ends.

-60 meter static line – Fixed to the trees, a 60M rope allows you to rap from the trees to the top of P2 of Cerberus, with 10-15m to spare.

-16 draws/slings + single rack tips -> #2 – I don’t remember ever placing the finger sizes (i.e. .3 -> .5).  Next time I would bring a BD Red X4, a Yellow Metoilius (.3),  BD C4 .75 and #1 (or their equivalents).

-BD Cabanna two-person ledge

-70L Metolius haul bag + 1 foam pad to line the inside of the bag

-Two sleeping bags

-5L of water

-Cheese, crackers, wine + some veggies to combine with macaroni for dinner.

-A bar each for breakfast, coffee and my favorite coffee mug.  A real wall adventure would call for instant coffee, for which Alpine Start is my favorite choice.  Given that we had some room to spare in the haul bag, I brought the aero-press for a bit of luxury.

Route:

After waking up and rapping to the bottom of Cerberus on day two, we were blown away by the route.  It offers 3 pitches of fantastic, albeit hard climbing to get back to the top of the wall.

Amazing dike traverse on pitch 1 of Cerberus.
Amazing dike traverse on pitch 1 of Cerberus.

Pitch 1: The first 11a pitch contains crux moves after climbing up through the trees and roots off of Tantalus ledge, and just before you begin traversing left along the dike.  The dike feature is protected by small gear (Red X4 and Yellow Metolius) and bolts, and it quite remarkable, solid, fun climbing.

Pitch 2: Climbs up through techy granite movement, interrupted by a roof and some steeper sporty moves.  After the third (?) bolt, I moved left towards a tree coming up under the roof, then under-clinged the roof back right (Red C4).  This amazing movement seems to be a variation to the line, and allows you to avoid a slight runout on the bolts. The flakes above are quite manageable, but still slightly worrisome given their sound and flex.

Katrina surfing the various flakes on the upper section of Pitch 2 of Cerberus.
Katrina surfing the various flakes on the upper section of Pitch 2 of Cerberus.

 

Taken from the the top of P2, showing where we hung the bag and our ledge.
Similar angle to the photo above, taken from the the top of P2, showing where we hung the bag and our ledge.

Pitch 3:  An amazing boulder problem awaits you after the second bolt, with some bizarre movement and a mantle to finish it off.  Above the harder, traverse left remains some eclectic movement through broken terrain, protected by .75 -1.5 ” cams.


Overall, the ledge experience with Katrina, overlooking Howe Sound at night was quite amazing.  Combined with a **** route, it was a well spent two days.  It offered the opportunity to feel a bit more comfortable with setting up a ledge on the wall, which was nice to have under my belt when headed up the Captain in Yosemite.  If you can find a ledge to borrow, even if you don’t have Valley plans, go do it!

Howe Sound at sunset from the ledge
Howe Sound at sunset from the ledge

 

 

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