Here's the description of Slab Alley from Jim Baldwin's A Climber's Guide to the Squamish Chief Area (1962), given to me by Hamish Mutch.
9. Slab Alley II, 5.4 (1st asc 1961 – T. Cousins, J. Baldwin)
This route is on the SW extreme of the apron of slabs that erupt from the ridge of the South Gully. Proceed 15 ft up slabs and then right along ramp until protection bolt. Climb to another protection bolt (5.4) and then traverse left along crack (5.3) using 2 aid pins at steep section of crack. Climb straight up from tree at this point in groove system. At the end of groove climb to bolt ladder. Traverse right over rounded ledge for 12 ft from last bolt. Then move left on a delicate friction traverse reaching groove. Climb groove to tree. Then go up easy slabs working your way slightly left to layback crack on rounded ridge at the top of which there is a detached boulder. Ascend to Broadway then to an exfoliation flake. This is the beginning of the Boomstick Crack pitch (1st asc 1961 – J. Sinclair, P. Neilson, J. Baldwin) and also the Granville Street variation (see below). Go along the top of exfoliation flake and proceed up to jam crack to large tree area ending the climb. Time: 2 hrs.
I understand that Jim and Tony took several attempts before finishing the route, and may have started in 1960. This description builds on an earlier handwritten description from 1961.
For those wondering, a boomstick is one of the (usually) four main logs surrounding a log boom, holding all the rest in place. Log booms can of course often be seen from Boomstick Crack. I've often thought it would be fun to have routes or pitches at Squamish named to commemorate other parts of its heritage - Chatterbox (a nice cafe at Britannia), Whistle Punk, Steam Donkey, and so on.
This is a worthwhile project!
Pascal Simard, Andy Durie, and I put up Frankenstein Tradster a few years back, don't think it gets too much traffic.
The route topo is here (http://www.quickdrawpublications.com/Frankenstein.pdf) but I think you already have a copy. The location I drew for SA original start I believe came from McLane's guide. The two bolts on P3 of Tradster were added to protect the traverse from Frankenstein over to Slab Alley. I believe the bolts were placed off-route of both Slab Alley and Mobius, hopefully I am correct in this assumption though on the old runout routes it can be hard to tell! I felt that Mobius probably went straight up to the right of the two bolts along a TCU seam, then to the right end of the ledge on Slab Alley just after its crux.
The two bolt anchor below Frankenstein P2 anchor is an old one, and I assumed it was from one of the early Slab Alley ascents.
I thought of Frankenstein as a good alternate start to Slab Alley. As noted by the poster above, the second pitch of Frankenstein is probably much harder than the 10a noted on the topo, but its very well protected with bolts and gear.
Route was called "Frankenstein" because it was such a strange mix of sport and trad (Pitch 2 was bolted rappel style while Pitch 1 and 3 were bolted on the lead with a hand drill) and because we hoped to breath some life into the undead (Slab Alley!).
Good luck with this project! Brian Pegg
I only know of two ascents of Mobius Variation, although there must have been more. Carl's, of course, when he first did it in 1975/1976, and then one other in 1976. (People liked slab climbing in those days, and didn't much mind it being poorly protected. Long before TCUs, of course, and no pins used.) I believe that it went up the 'scoop', and curved left to the Slab Alley bolt ladder - so Frankenstein Tradster joins it somewhere. Probably several variations possible. Apparently MV was first tried sometime in the early 1970s, which was when the "third" bolt was placed - the one that's off-route for Slab Alley, and is now a double bolt. I guess it was something of a directional/hail Mary bolt. The climber took a fairly long fall - I don't know if he'd gotten high enough to place what became the only real protection bolt on that pitch, 12 - 15 m higher. Pretty sure that Carl put that one in.
The off-route bolt/bolts for MV has probably led more than a few on SA astray, particularly given that Tony and Jim's original second bolt - the stud - was never replaced. No problem for the leader, but a downclimb for the follower - which helps explain the dearth of ascents.
I hope this weekend to get some more thoughts from climbers with some perspective on this. What I'm thinking right now:
1. Check the first SA bolt (at the stepup), replace it if needed.
2. Remove the second SA bolt (the stud), and replace and possibly re-site it. (TBA: Should this be a double bolt, for those who want to belay there? Means a medium-length first pitch, a short second pitch - instead of a short second pitch, and a medium-length zig-zag second.)
3. Remove the double bolt, replace with a single bolt somewhat higher, still useful for MV, but out of temptation distance for SA.
4. Re-place the first bolt on the SA traverse (about 2 m left of the previous one - the stud), in as useful a spot as possible in terms of protecting leader and second.
5. Remove the second bolt on the SA traverse (the rusty/aluminum one in the picture), and possibly replace it, but a bit farther back on the traverse.
More thinking needed as to what to do below and above this pitch, e.g. should the bolt ladder be re-sited, or any bolts added elsewhere?
The third-pitch bolt ladder increasingly seems out of place - we tried several alternatives. He was taken with the fourth pitch elephant steps - we agreed that it's "beyond category". Although it's actually possible to gaston there. (I saw Gaston Rebuffat speak once - very suave and debonair.) We did a trivial new variant on the fifth pitch, across and then up into Banana Peel. We did find the original travese from Slab Alley to Banana Peel. It's across a smooth dirty slab, about a pitch below Broadway. The old bolt is still there - if you're at the belay below the triangular block on BP, look down and to the south. So I'll have to try that bit, but looking from above a more direct finish seems workable, and wouldn't end at an awkward spot on Broadway.
FT and the first pitch of MV do intersect - I was able to remember where MV went (checked old guidebook), and see the bolts.
A plus, I ran into Big Jim at the coffee shop and had a good chat about the route. He confirms that the traverse pitch was to some extent aided on the first few ascents, as was the bolt ladder. The first free ascent may have been by Bob Woodsworth in 1962 or 1963. I suspect that repeated piton placement in the traverse crack cleaned it out fairly nicely. Now near that state again - all the little foot nicks are exposed and useable. Being that the crack is incut, it provides nice holds for toes, fingers, and shrubs. There were certainly 7, probably 8, and possibly nine bolts placed on the FA. Two added on the traverse in 1974 make 11 total, plus the off-route/Mobius Variation one.
I'm hoping to get up there with a few experienced climbers in October, or the spring, to consider the options in terms of route (pitch 3, upper pitches), and replacement/re-siting/additional (??) bolts.
Warning: The lower pitches of Slab Alley (1 - 4) are likely to have a lot of loose grit for the next while, until it's cleaned away by wind and rain. In the end it will be cleaner, but as quite a lot of the route is fairly low-angle, stuff tends to sit there until disturbed. So probably not a good route choice for the time being.
Note the nice toe nicks/handholds along the crack, formerly occupied by shrubs, then pitons, then toes, then tiny shrubs, and now clean again. (Some aid was used here on the first few ascents, until the crack was a bit cleaner.) The crack gets better as you climb toward the camera. The first bolt (as you ascend) is beyond and below the end of the crack, where the rock steepens. The second (old stud) is perhaps a m above the line of the crack, and two m past its end. The third (a pair of very closely-spaced off-route bolts) is 2 - 3 m above and a bit to the side of the end of the crack. There's one bolt at the first decent foothold on the traverse, and a second (old) at the steepening.
It may make sense to:
1. Check/re-place and re-site (as needed) the first bolt.
2. Replace the second bolt/stud, perhaps with a slightly different location, and double it for those wanting to belay there - there's a small stance.
3. Remove the third 'bolt' (off-route station) entirely, but put something higher up, for those doing MV. Close enough to be of use, high enough not to tempt those on SA.
4. Re-site the fourth (first traverse) bolt, so it can be clipped as soon as practicable after stepping across the crack, and is in as advantageous a spot as possible.
5. Remove the fifth (second traverse bolt), consider re-siting it back from where it is, essentially before one can get decent stuff in the crack.
Memo to self: Next time, leave quickdraws on the existing bolts, for illustrative purposes.
And here's the bolt ladder area, on the third pitch, again post-cleaning.
There is a white line extending directly down from the bottom of the big groove. That's more or less where the natural line goes. The three-bolt ladder is 1 - 2 m to its right, and is a bit harder. Jim and Tony used aid there, and my guess is that they came up the easy slab, and simply took the most direct line to the end of the ledge. Either way, when you get to the top of the bolts, the first few moves going right are a bit balancy, and the 'directional' fourth bolt is a high reach. Not comfortable.
Anyway, I also cleaned up the right-hand line, which goes up and right to the belay. It seems a bit easier than the existing left-hand options - it may be doable with two bolts, and cozy with three. You can see there's a scoop to follow, with some reasonable holds - the hardest bit is manteling up into the scoop. So it may be that establishing that as a leadable option would moderate the route a bit, and then it's a question as to what if anything to do with the bolt ladder.
Yes, the first free ascent may well have been by Bob Woodsworth, probably 1962. He was one of the best of the slab climbers of the day, probably the boldest. Also about this time he did the 5.10d (?) variation above the 3-bolt ladder/bulge (and placed the bolt on this, high above the 3 bolts). Was this the first 5.10 at Squamish?[Anders Ourom wrote] A plus, I ran into Big Jim at the coffee shop and had a good chat about the route. He confirms that the traverse pitch was to some extent aided on the first few ascents, as was the bolt ladder. The first free ascent may have been by Bob Woodsworth in 1962 or 1963. I suspect that repeated piton placement in the traverse crack cleaned it out fairly nicely. Now near that state again - all the little foot nicks are exposed and useable. Being that the crack is incut, it provides nice holds for toes, fingers, and shrubs. There were certainly 7, probably 8, and possibly nine bolts placed on the FA. Two added on the traverse in 1974 make 11 total, plus the off-route/Mobius Variation one.
The first ascent placed 8 and probably 9 bolts. Can't think of where the 9th was at the moment, but I'm pretty sure that there were 9.
Finally did some more work on this project yesterday, on what will be the fifth (of six) pitches. Mostly digging out a groove and crack, and brushing. The pitch leads to a fir in a pothole, about 20 m right of and a bit below the triangular block near the top of Banana Peel. At that point, Slab Alley originally traversed into what is now BP, and so to Broadway. There's one poor bolt halfway across the traverse - although Jim and Tony may have approached it directly from below, rather than by traversing. Anyway, the pitch is now about 80% done, and I had a look at the sixth pitch, which will be new - where it might go and end. As with the fifth pitch, there are a few places where one may traverse off onto easy ground. But a reasonably direct line is possible, about 5.8 or 5.9, leading to a belay at Broadway that won't block the path.
The cleaning to be done is on the first pitch (which will be last - gravity and all), and the fifth and sixth pitches, with bits elsewhere.
A sociable afternoon, as climbers went by on Banana Peel.
Overall, Slab Alley is now about 1/2 cleaned, and I hope to finish the cleaning, and replacing existing bolts that undoubtedly should be where they are, within the next month or so. The idea is then to get some experienced climbers up there to do the route talk about what it would be appropriate to do in terms of moving or perhaps adding bolts, given the history of the route, and the hope of making it more accessible. Glenn Woodsworth may come, and perhaps others who climbed in the 1960s and 1970s.
[Someone has added a bolt to the Granville Street traverse - where you do the mantle onto the Boomstick Crack flake, then go right to the tree line bisecting the upper Apron. Anyone know about that?]
Sure, I'd love to do it again. But someone willl have to lend me rock shoes - I don't think my full-shank mountaineering boots will do the job.The idea is then to get some experienced climbers up there to do the route talk about what it would be appropriate to do in terms of moving or perhaps adding bolts, given the history of the route, and the hope of making it more accessible. Glenn Woodsworth may come, and perhaps others who climbed in the 1960s and 1970s.
Here is, I hope, a photo from just below the end of the fourth pitch, at the top of the big solution groove.
And a shot looking down from the same spot.
It took a bit of thought to work out the most practicable route for the middle and upper part of the fifth pitch, which you see here.
(The white stick is the handle of a brush sticking out of a flake.)
Essentially staying close to the line of the original route, if not on it, and a bit to the side of the mossy damp area below the bottom of the groove above.
Leading into the base of the groove, a conundrum, a pancake flake apparently just sitting on the slab.
There's also a block 4 - 5 m to the side lower down, in the middle of the big groove.
And, of course, the block at the top of Banana Peel. Things to think about.
So here we are looking down from the jammed brush handle.
And looking up from just a touch higher, after cleaning. You can see the line.
I tried to stick to the route as I remember it and can reconstruct it, essentially following something of a weakness, although once cleaned, you could go almost anywhere, and there are three or four places where you could easily traverse off to the right or left. Yes, it's overly cleaned - but the idea is to make it something that will spread usage.
The belay at the end of the fifth pitch, assuming a 60 m rope reaches, which I think it does.
A lonely fir in a pothole. If the distances work, the belay may be from bolts or a touch higher or both, to reduce wear and tear on it.
The upper part of the fifth pitch:
The pitch will be mostly class 5, with two sections of 5.7 - 5.8. One place to consider adding bolts.
From the fir, the original line traversed a line of weakness left and a bit up, intersecting what is now Banana Peel just below the block. I want to clean it also, for those wanting historical verisimilitude.
There's a bolt about 2/3 of the way across, or at least there used to be.
Placed by Baldwin and Cousins in 1961, now removed. Not exactly confidence inspiring.
And here's the upper part of the fifth and the sixth pitches, taken from the slabs descent last Thursday, just before an awkward rainstorm.
Looking down on the first half of the sixth pitch.
It's low angle to start, then there's about a 10 m steeper bit, which may be 5.8 or so. (I believe it has been climbed, pretty much unprotected.) There are a few places where you can get decent gear in, but this is another place where a bolt or two may make sense.
The same area, from below.
And the last bit, mostly moderate, to Broadway.
Still not sure about the last few m - one can go straight left into the very last bit of Banana Peel, it looks like there's an option straight up under some interesting moss, and then there's a right hand move.
So what's now remaining is to clean the original traverse at the start of the sixth pitch, and replace that bolt. Then work downward doing any tidying that's needed - hopefully a few days of rain, and some sunny, windy afternoons, will clean up the dust. The remaining cleaning is mostly on the first and second pitches, plus a bit of trail work, and of course checking and re-placing the existing/accepted bolts, and placing a bolt belay at the end of the fifth pitch. Perhaps two person-days work. Slab Alley will then be ready for action - cleaner than it's ever been, all existing bolts sound and where they were. The only questions will be whether to add or move any bolts, e.g.:
1. A new belay at a stance at the end of the first pitch, below the 'step'.
2. Shifting the three bolt ladder on the third pitch left, so it's in the natural line, but still aidable for those needing it.
3. Adding a variation on the third pitch, to the right. (Now cleaned.)
4. A bolt somewhere in the traverse into the big solution grooves, or part way up them.
5. (Possible.) Protection bolts on the fifth and sixth pitches.
There are good natural belays at the end of the second and fourth pitches, so I would leave those as they are.
I'm hoping to finish work by early May, and then get some experienced climbers on the route, and have some discussion on whether it's appropriate to add any fixed anchors at all, and if so, where.
It seems likely that the bottom pitches are for the time being rather dirty - a good place to avoid. Gravity doing its thing.
It is kind of fun working on the upper parts, with the constant flow of traffic (on nice days) up Banana Peel and down the slabs. Socializing and such. My "Tom Sawyer" act isn't working so well, though - no one seems to want to help me whitewash my fence.
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