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The Birkenstock Couloir (first ascent)
Timestamp Free: 2021.01.25 - 21:53:11
Ranges: North America Ranges / Pacific Cordillera Range / Coast Mountains / Pacific Ranges
  (2 days)
Participants: Mike Buda; Cam Campbell; Mark Grist; Drew Brayshaw
Difficulty: 5: Snow and ice to 50 degrees plus Class 4 rock.
This article describes the first ascent of the Birkenstock Couloir on a subpeak of Birkenhead Peak in southwest British Columbia.
Birkenhead Peak is actually a group of summits standing east of Birkenhead Lake and west of D'Arcy, completely surrounded by valleys and cut off from other mountains in the area. The highest summit is Birkenhead Mountain (8300 ft. plus). The area is typically accessed by the Birkenhead microwave road, which branches left at 1km up the Birkenhead Park road. This steep road is in good shape but requires low-range 4WD as it climbs a vertical mile in about 12 km (sorry for mixing my scales) to a microwave relay station at 6300 ft.

Immediately behind the microwave station is a 7500 foot summit ("Microwave Ridge") composed of loose red metasedimentary shales. This summit is typically traversed to gain the main Birkenhead summit. On its northwest flank, a prominent couloir holds snow and ice year-round and is easily seen from the new Phelix Creek roads.

As far as we knew, no one had climbed this couloir. So on Sept. 20, 1998, Mike Buda, Cam Campbell, Mark Grist and I set out to climb this route. We drove up from Vancouver and set up camp in the pouring rain at the microwave towers.

The next morning, the rain had turned to scattered showers, and we set off. We followed the ridge south from the towers to the base of "Microwave Ridge"'s north face, and traversed west under it, gradually descending, until we reached the small snowpatch at the base of the couloir.

Donning crampons and drawing axes, we set off up the couloir, climbing under towering walls, on excellent firm neve snow. The only drawbacks were the occasional falling rock, and the melt-out debris on the surface of the snow - at times it seemed that we were climbing coffee grounds and not snow ice.We travelled unroped for speed and to avoid rocks more easily. The slope was only about 30 degrees...

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