Elevation Gain: 911m
Total Time: 7 hours 39 minutes
Date: July 29th, 2023
The Camel is a granitic summit located just north of Crown Mountain, so called because it looks like… well.. a camel! There are three distinct features/points on The Camel: The Head, The Neck and The Hump. The true summit lies atop The Hump. By most standards it’s merely a subsummit of Crown Peak, but given the easiest route is still 5.2 (B.C. 4th class) and it’s long history as a climbing destination, it can’t be missed. It wasn’t until quite recently, when my friend Alex climbed a highly recommended route on it, that I was finally enticed enough to make a trip out there. He extolled a route known as “Camel Cracks” a 5.9 splitter that’s apparently a little over hung and sustained. I had happened to have a day free on July 29th before some bigger plans in the Chehalis Range and reached out to the SWBC PeakBagger group to see if anyone was interested. Alice replied and although she’d been up there a number of times before was keen to climb it again. There was the added bonus that she a seasons pass for Grouse Mountain and that meant we could get super cheap tickets on the gondola; cutting down a big part of the approach to the Crown Mountain area.
We met up at 8:15am on Saturday, grabbed a ticket and headed to the top. I had just done Goat Mountain the week or so prior so this approach was quite familiar. At the end of the well-marked alpine trail we made the long descent down to Crown Pass and then the steep rooted ascent up towards the base of the summit. (If you’re looking for more details of the approach see my old report on Crown Mountain). As we neared the summit of Crown, I kept my eyes peeled for a branch on the west side and sure enough spotted a well-trodden path. We contoured around until the trail narrowed and exposure increased. At the end of this path a steep chimney marked the down climb to reach the base of The Camel.
Alice lead first and then I followed. The downclimb was a bit tricky in runners, but all the holds and jams where there when needed. Once that was over we traversed to the base of The Camel where a party was just rappelling after completing the 5.2 route around the back. After they cleared out we swapped into some climbing gear and I got up close to have a look at the route. It was indeed a bit overhung, with a short dihedral that ended abruptly at a small roof. Above the roof a thing crack appeared to open to handjams higher up. To be honest it looked quite intimidating for 5.9 but I was stoked to give it a try so Alice put me on belay and I started up!
I pulled through some flakes at the bottom and stemmed my way up the dihedral until I was at the roof. I fired in a second piece near the roof and looked around at my options. Here a long horizontal crack tempted me out left where I mantled up until I was standing on it between the offwidth route to the left and the hand crack to the right. With the overhang I realized I had made an error as I was know going to have to regain the hand crack with a blind cam placement. I felt around for the best spot and awkwardly squeezed a #2 cam in. That gave me the confidence to lean all the way over on one hand jam until I was directly in line with the crack again.
Back in business, I worked my way up through a short finger crack section to thin hands and finally bomber hand jams to finish off. I pulled myself onto the ledge system that makes up “The Neck”. I thought the anchor would be here but actually it’s a bit further up a head-height step at climbers left. I circled around to a wide hand crack on the step and pulled my way up. There I walked up a meter to the anchor and after a bit of setup belayed Alice up.
Alice was keen to tag The Head and in any event we couldn’t easily climb to The Hump from this anchor so she lead the short pitch up to the top. I seconded up and enjoyed the narrow exposed arete. Shortly after I started to think about how to get the true summit. There’s apparently a continuation of the 5.9 route from just below the step on The Neck, but also a 5.6 chimney variation. I decided Alice should lower me down where I could scope out the route options and build a gear anchor at the most suitable route.
Once I was lowered off the step I looked at the 5.9 continuation and it appeared even steeper than the lower pitch and wider. That didn’t seem like my type of route so I lowered further to the chimney route. One look and I could see it’d go no problem. I built a gear anchor at the base and then Alice rappeled down and pulled the rope. She put me on belay and I started to climb up into the narrowing chimney. Right at the point where the chimney narrowed enough to require some squeeze technique, I happened to be high enough to just reach the lip to the top. So with that, I just pulled myself out, no difficulties required.
I was now landed onto the broad slab that constitutes The Hump. I climbed up and around to the summit in search of a gear anchor spot to bring Alice up. The summit was devoid of any solid cracks, so I down climbed a bit and belayed Alice up from just below the top. We both unroped now and tagged the summit. Then I walked the rope over to a rappel anchor above The Neck and set us up to do one more rappel from anchor we had climbed to originally.
I rappelled first, then Alice and then we setup for the second and final rappel to the base. A pair of climbers had started up Camel Cracks during this time and we didn’t want to get in their way, so I tossed the rope to The Neck only and then lowered to the edge. I double checked that I was good to rappel and started down. We found out later the two climbers were Susanne and Ana from the VOC. Ana was on lead and we grabbed a few cool photos of them climbing before packing up and heading back up the chimney.
Once back around the normal route of Crown Mountain it was just an auto pilot hike down to Crown Pass, back up and then along the alpine trail. When I reached the Grouse Mountain area again I was shocked to find a massive line snaking around the gondola area. Oh well, we weren’t keen to descend the BCMC trail so wait we did. After about 38 minutes the line cleared and we were on our way down to the parking lot.
I have to say, Camel Cracks is one of my favourite pitches to date. It ended up being an Indian Creek style splitter, but in the alpine no less! Everyone should give this one a try as it’s so close to home. There’s a number of other routes on there as well and I may well be back one day to do some “sky cragging”.