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Mount Colonel Foster:
First Ascent of the East Face September 1972

From the Canadian Alpine Journal Volume 56, 1973.
By Dick Culbert

The East Face of Mt. Colonel Foster

Mt. Colonel Foster is a big, jagged, complex massif, and the east face may well be the largest wall on Vancouver Island. Fred Douglas, Paul Starr and I packed into "Landslide Lake" at its base on the Saturday of Labour Day weekend with the notion of getting some of it behind us that afternoon. The beast proved to be as big as had been rumoured (about 3200 feet) but under the glasses a lot of it looked so downright feasible that we allowed natural slackness to dominate, and didn't start till Sunday dawn.

The weather was perfect. Our objective was the main buttress leading to the highest summit, but there was some speculation as to where to start. To a major extent this was determined by where we were able to cross the moat - substantially to the left of our buttress. A free moderate leads up and right along cracks and ledges here introduced us to the local metavolcanic rock. Fairly nice climbing, and firm, but protection was damn scarce. Anon we entered the gully which separated us from our buttress. In spring, this would likely be a snap; this time, however, it was a set of discontinuous ice sections. Climbing a waterfall under on of these called for the only aid pin on the route. Paul took a nasty lead out of the gut, and by noon we were on a snow ledge; not very high in altitude or spirits.

Two leads of nice climbing on the ridge crest followed, then it was left to avoid an overhang. After this there was a long stretch of class 4 up a face to an abrupt wall, where a sidewalk put us back on the crest. Not for long. Next we were forced off to the right and it began to look like a blind alley, but at the end there was a nice chimney back onto the ridge crest, and the late afternoon sun. Two hundred feet higher we bivouacked - only 500 feet from the top and feeling pretty good.

Four leads, just hard enough to work the cold out of our joints in the morning, put us on top at 10 a.m. Very good, now how do you get off this thing? Well, it was first climbed by a cat called Mike Walsh - solo yet, with no rope - so it can't be that bad. My it does look a little scratchy down there though! Three hours and several rappels later we were three peaks to the north, and beginning to think that our East Ridge might be the easiest way down this thing. Shattered ridges dropped off in all directions for one helluvadistance. The particular gully we had expected to escape by plunged away below us like a vertical bowling alley. Incidentally, it was the wrong gully. Reluctantly we dropped back into the last gorge we had crossed, and began to rappel and climb down this to the west. It went better than we had feared - no hanging rappel station - but by the time we got out and around the massif's north end it was late enough to ensure that we would be a day late getting out. Climbing back under the impressive northern tower was a good point to reflect that our route was moderate as walls go but Colonel Foster was a bastard as mountains go. As for Mike Walsh - well, it is nice to see that a fine spirit of insanity has survived somewhere amid the march of climbing technology.

F.A. Dick Culbert, Fred Douglas and Paul Starr, September 2-5, 1972.




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