North Nesakwatch Spire
August 21, 2016
Chilliwack / Chilliwack Lake Road, BC
The cluster of peaks nearby Mt. Rexford sandwiched between Center and Nesakwatch Creeks west of Chilliwack Lake offer some enjoyable scrambling and climbing on excellent rock, and there’s no exception for the two towers immediately north of Mt. Rexford, unofficially named Nesakwatch Spires. While the South Spire is arguably the most difficult peak in this area with an infamous 5.8 off-width pitch finishing, the North Spire is a mere Class 3 scramble and well documented in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia.
With the South Spire more-or-less out of my league I decided to combine the North Spire with Mt. Rexford to make a long day-trip. I aimed at the latter first and after a successful, albeit mentally tiring ascent of the W. Ridge of Mt. Rexford I came back down into the bowl beneath these rock towers. The North Spire was right there so I had to press on despite my lack of motivation. Utilizing snow for as much as I could I managed to avoid a small fraction of the boulder hopping, but soon enough I realized that the boulder-hopping was very much unavoidable. And in fact, I had to deal with a healthy amount of it which soon became very mentally tiring and frustrating…
But with good perseverance I managed to drag myself out of the boulder fest, and the next thing I was right beneath the steep wall which I’d have to find a way to ascend in order to hit the North/South col. The scrambling guidebook gave some very detailed and accurate instruction here and a cairn helped me confirming that I was at the right “diagonal ramp” leading from bottom right to top left. The ramp started out easily but soon became a bit exposed. The rock texture was more slabby than on Mt. Rexford and a few moves on the upper ramp felt quite interesting as I friction’d myself up while wearing mountaineering boots.. The next section had two ways to accomplish. I ascended further to the climber’s left following some ribbons and traversed back to the right on a ledge with some krummoltz, and now I was at the crux. It wasn’t particularly exposed here but that corner step involved some technical moves with only a few tiny sloping holds. Previous parties had piled up some rocks underneath to shorten the initial long reach but still, I had to largely trust friction and then use arm strength to pull/push up against gravity…
Terrain tapered off considerably after the crux but still, there’s considerable amount of 3rd class scrambling involved, although with lots of ribbons marking the route I didn’t really have to do much route-finding. After making to the col between the North and South Spires I took a second studying the upper mountain and then immediately turned left. I stayed on the ridge for only a short period before the terrain forced me bailing onto the east side which appeared more broken. Most of the upper mountain was Class 2 scrambling although there were two trickier steps, both created by some big jagged boulders. I might not have found the easiest way as I was mentally tired about looking around. I attacked both steps head-on and then after negotiating more boulders I managed to stand on the summit.
The view looking back towards Mt. Rexford with the pointy South Nesakwatch Spire in front was breathe-taking, but it was very windy on top and I could see some weather was moving in from north (as forecasted), so I didn’t do much lingering. Descending the upper mountain I was again, too lazy to route-find so basically reversed the route I took (which involved that two hard steps), and then I was back at the col, and then all I needed was just following the ribbons down, zig-zagging between ledges. Soon enough I was back at the crux. I did bring rock shoes with me but I thought I should try down-climbing it on mountaineering boots first. Trusting both feet on friction took some mental strength but soon enough I found a good hand placement at my foot level, lowered my center of gravity and then a long/strenuous reach solved the problem. Then I didn’t reverse that krummoltz route and instead I went straight down following a different set of ribbons which worked nonetheless. The last diagonal ramp would be again, much easier had I switched to rock shoes, but I decided against that and used friction while down-climbing.
Descending through that boulder field was very tedious and mentally tiring but I didn’t have a second choice. The weather was moving in and I wanted to be off those boulders before they got slippery. Once making down to near the “bivy rock” I stayed high, side-hilling above the lower boulder field which worked well. I took a long break once joined the Mt. Rexford Trail and before long it started to drizzle. Lower down the rain had stopped and weather was starting to improve, but that trail was steep and monotonous. I took at least 3 long breaks along the way as otherwise my knees would hate me, and partically because I was not in a rush at all. The rest of the hike back to the Jeep was uneventful and my round trip time was exactly 11 hours.
Overall this was a very successful trip bagging Mt. Rexford and North Nesakwatch Spire in one shot. I have to agree that the rock quality is excellent in this group, although the scrambling was nowhere straightforward. Even the North Nesakwatch Spire involves a few hard steps which should be attempted only by the competent scramblers.