Mt. Combatant Expedition
Expedition Summaryby Conrad Anker
Jimmy Chin and I were only a month back from a 275-mile walk across the Tibetan plateau when he called and mentioned the idea of a quick climbing trip in the Waddington Range of British Columbia's Coast Mountains. The trip would be quite simple, meet up with Peter Croft and Brady Robinson in Squamish, travel north on Vancouver Island to the town of Campbell River. From this staging point we would use the ultimate form of aid, a helicopter to reach the base of Mt. Combatant, our climbing objective.
Brady, Jimmy and I had spent the month of June 2001 in the Karakoram Himalaya trying to climb K7. The mountain was bigger and badder, and the weather was heavy with monsoon moisture. Alas we had fun, but no summit to show for our efforts. Peter and I had been to the same valley with Galen Rowell. The trip with Galen was a great experience - low key, relaxed and a fine introduction to the magic of the Cherakusa Valley. Jimmy and I had just shared seven weeks with Galen in Tibet. The day before we left our homes we received news that Galen and his wife Barbara had perished in a small plane accident. With a quick phone call to each other we decided the best way to honor and celebrate the couple would be to "go climbing."
Once in Campbell River we met up with Reto, the calmest heli pilot I have ever encountered. With a huge pile of gear and food sitting on the tarmac, we had doubts the kit would fit into the tiny helicopter. Anticipating a quick mandatory lightening of the load, we were worried we would not have the requisite gear needed for the adventure we planned. Reto glanced at the pile, commented how it was lighter than many he has flown, began fueling the heli and smiled as if this was no big deal.
A scant 40 minutes after we departed Campbell River we were dropped of on the Combatant Col, at an altitude of 12,000 feet. From the warmth of a sea level town, with plenty of oxygen we were transported to a frozen glacier with a crisp northerly breeze. The heli departed as quick as it arrived and there we were still and silent.
We began by pitching out tents and organizing the equipment for the coming days. Peter, who we suspect is from another planet, was chomping at the bit for a bit of climbing. He mentioned he would take a look at the "approach" to the easterly spur of Mt Combatant. Three hours later he strolled back into camp with that peculiar grin that is unique Peter. Having seen this grin at breakfast in Toulumne after soloing six routes, I realized Peter had done something more than look at the approach. He had climbed an entire route Kyshatra and then down climbed it to save carrying his crampons up the route.
With our small fort established we slipped into the comfortable routine of expedition life. A chance to read, converse, dine and relax in a setting with a spectacular view. We began the following day with a climb on the lower buttress of Skywalk, a sweeping 2000-foot stretch of granite to the west summit of Combatant.
The climbing in the range was a bit more difficult than we imagined, as the approaches and descents required crampons on what was often blue ice. The fact that we needed crampons to get going on these climbs made a great impression on all of us. This was real alpine climbing. Fun!
In the evening Peter filled us in on the various climbs he had done in the region. The traverse of the range he had done many years ago was ahead of its time and a real indication of his all-around abilities. Perhaps our little expedition was successful in that we climbed a few new pitches of granite, viewed the coast range from an airy perch and renewed our friendship with each other. The simple things in life are most often the most wonderful.
Upon returning to Vancouver Island we stopped in for visit with Peter's parents and shared pizza in the garden where Peter grew up. Peter's parents were amongst the kindest, gentlest people I have ever met. In fact, Brady, Jimmy and I thought they very much resembled Mr. & Mrs. Kent (Clark's parents). Makes one think. Is this where Peter gets his amazing powers?
Expedition Gear List