Spindle Peak (North Crown)

September 22, 2017


North Shore Mountains, BC

“Spindle Peak” is a name obtained from bivouac.com and it refers to the highest northern peaklet of Crown Mountain. This is not a name associated with any geographical feature nor historical significance but rather randomly assigned, likely by one of the several authors of that site. I’m not a fan of this type of naming process but it does seem like the name “Spindle Peak” has been regularly used on the internet. The north sub-summits of Crown Mountain are very rugged and rarely climbed. The access is not trivial and the climbing is fairly technical even by the easiest route and on top of that, these peaks have hardly any prominence. And furthermore, “Spindle Peak” looks like a mere bump from the summit of Crown Mountain. It only appears somewhat impressive when viewing from the “sides”.

For all of the reasons above this is not a particular peak I was super keen on. I do remember thinking about it but that’s because there’s virtually no information on the internet. You have to dig really hard but even so, the only (sketchy) beta available was from a couple failed attempts by folks on ClubTread. A big part of me is being a peak-bagger (aka. the collector) but another part of me is being an explorer so I did want to resolve the mystery myself and publish the first detailed account of this peak online. Earlier in this day Jeff Han et al. and myself had just done Crown Mountain and then The Camel. A direct traverse to Spindle Peak did not look very scrambler-friendly. However, examining closely we saw at least a couple long fixed ropes all the way down to Crown/Spindle col… What did that mean…

Ascents of Crown Mtn. The Camel and Spindle Peak. GPX DL

The initial 10 minutes down the north ridge of Crown Mountain was trivial but bushy and then there came a pitch of wet mossy slab. This is where the first rope was fixed. This rope is thick and old such that rappelling couldn’t work as it simply wouldn’t slide through my belay device. The alternative method was using the rope as a handline while having a prussik self-belay. The slab was surprisingly easy to descend but then there’s one slippery and down-sloping 4th class stretch towards the end. And that’s the end of this first fixed rope. The second rope continued down the north ridge of Crown Mtn. and the terrain’s only getting harder. Two intermediate crux moves came one after another with the first one being a solid 4th class down-climb with a long reach onto a tree branch, and the second being a sketchy lowering using pure arm strength. I had no idea whether it’d go or not and being on lead it’s a bit stressful to say the least.

Jeff checking out the first fixed rope. Easy peasy at this point…

The Camel looks like a spire from this angle…

This is our objective – Spindle Peak

Lily carefully down-climbing the last few meters of the first fixed rope

Me leading down the second rope. Nothing is “for sure” at this point yet…

And then there came the 3rd fixed rope. This is a traversing pitch but the hardest spot was in between the 2nd and 3rd ropes. Later (on the return) we did find an easier option by pushing through the bush but I did not read the terrain properly on the first shot. The way I went was descending out to the down-climber’s left and that put me onto a down-sloping, exposed traverse with nothing but moss to hold onto. At least two moves felt ultra sketchy even with a prussik belay but then I managed to grab onto the 3rd fixed rope. Down-climbing/traversing using this rope wasn’t easy neither, that by the time all of us got down into Crown/Spindle col it had taken more than an hour.

Jeff traversing the 3rd fixed rope

The south ridge of Spindle Peak is a “walk in the park “comparing to the north ridge of Crown Mountain but despite that I wouldn’t say it’s easy. Right off the bat we had a steep climb out of the col and then about halfway up there came a narrow, exposed knife-edge. The ascent was also longer than appeared and dragged on for quite a while. Numerous false summits had to be overcome. The most inspiring view from the true summit was looking back at the north side of The Camel and Crown Mtn. but other than that it’s pretty averaged..

This is a full view of the N. Ridge of Crown Mtn.

Partway up Spindle’s south ridge now, looking back at Crown and Camel

Jeff down-climbing the knife-edge on Spindle south ridge

Lily and laowei on the south ridge crux.

Higher up we found a cool tarn for some pictures

Summit Panorama from Spindle Peak. Click to view large size.

This is looking at another northern sub-summit of Crown massif.

The typical North Shore Mtns scenery.

Me on the summit of Spindle Peak (Crown North)

There’s not a lot of time to kill so without doing much of lingering we soon focused on the return. Descending the south ridge of Spindle Peak was pretty fast going but then there came the re-ascent of north ridge of Crown Mountain. At least to me myself the upwards climb was just as challenging as the down-climb which seems like the norm on granite. I often feel some long reaches (on granite) are easier to descend than to climb back up as the latter is all about pure arm strength. And to give myself more confidence I used that prussik self-belay for the whole way back up and even “batman up” the ropes at a couple spots – not the most aesthetic tactic, but worked.

laowei climbing back up the knife-edge section on Spindle’s south ridge

Now it’s time to re-ascend the north ridge of Crown Mtn.

This is the transition from 3rd to 2nd fixed rope

Me climbing back up the crux on 2nd fixed rope..

laowei getting ready for the first rope re-climb

Jeff and Lily just finishing the second rope re-ascend…

Now back onto Crown Mtn. we didn’t bother to go back to the actual summit. There’s another party occupying the space and none of us wanted to join the party, so down we went. The descent down into Crown Pass was a tedious process and the re-ascent out of Crown Pass wasn’t much better neither. This section sucked a lot of energy of mine but thankfully the regains were pretty much over. Traversing beside Little Goat and Dam Mtn. did require some extra up-and-downs but nothing major. The highlight was actually watching those two grizzlies. Those are some monsters.. And the final highlight was being able to take that gondola ride down (10$ for just down-loading)..

An obligatory shot of the city of Vancouver

Beauty Peak (West Crown)

Road walk at the end..

Beasty sight as usual…

In the end this trip turned out much more than anticipated. I would not have imagined to pull off Spindle Peak together with Crown and Camel but on this day it did happen. Other than a somewhat long approach these peaks deserve to catch more attention since they are so close to Vancouver, but the lack of information online did surprise me. There are so many bolts and fixed ropes now and yet, nobody talks about them which is really interesting…