Words & Photos by: Marc-Andre Leclerc
On April 1, 2016, Luka Lindič and I skied into the East Face of Mount Fay, hoping to establish a direct finish to the original unrepeated line on that face. The next morning was still quite warm and the face avalanched twice, so we turned around and skied back to Moraine lake to check out other options. We arrived at the lake and went to retrieve a cache of extra fuel and food (and my phone), only to find that a fox had ran off with the bag we left it in. We knew for certain that our food was done for, but hoped that we may be able to track the fox by its prints in the snow and find my phone and the fuel canister. We followed the track and crawled through multiple caves but found nothing. Eventually the track merged with a much larger set of footprints clearly left by an enormous cat, a minute later we found a freshly killed porcupine covered in light brush with the set of cougar tracks making a sprint to a cave 30 feet away way it must have been hiding, fresh fur hanging on branches and all!
Needless to say, we avoided the cave and decided to continue into the Valley of Ten Peaks despite low rations to check out other climbing options. As we skied into the valley we could not help but notice the incredible line running up the center of the Northeast Face of Tuzo, linking chimneys and improbable ice features. From the base, the face appeared to be about 700 meters (we later realized it is closer to 1100 meters) and thought we could push it in a day. Luckily, we decided instead to just begin climbing with bivy gear as it was only 12pm.
The first two pitches climbed runout but moderate mixed and ice leading to a marginal hanging belay in very loose rock. Unwilling to risk a fall onto our belay, I made a few moves aiding off of ice tools hammered into loose blocks until I reached a good pin, lowered down, and re-climbed the moves drytooling at around M6. The remainder of the pitch was easier but serious requiring digging through and dislodging huge hanging snow mushrooms while climbing an overhanging chimney of very chossy rock.
Above this pitch, we entered a spectacular chimney couloir where we dug a comfortable platform and bivied for the night. We quickly realized that we would have had no chance at doing the route in a day as the lower pitches had already proven to be serious and time consuming with a lot of cleaning snow mushrooms.
In the morning Luka began the day by tunneling through a series of mushrooms where the couloir narrowed, then we climbed to its top and moved right through a wet offwidth to gain a deep groove in the face hiding in the back a very serious pitch of ice involving an overhanging crux section on 2cm thick white ice. Above this several moderate ice pitches linked with sections of snow led to the obvious headwall crux where Luka took over the lead. He led the steep rock headwall in two pitches, the second being M7plus and requiring us to remove our gloves and climb with numb hands through the final section.
At this point we were losing light, and rather than push on in the night we chopped a small ledge, ate the last of our food, which was not a lot (a Lara bar for me) and used the last of our gas to melt around a litre of water. We spent the night partially sitting, occasionally dozing but getting woken up frequently by spindrift pouring into the bivy sack. It was not hard to get going in the morning.
I led one more pitch of spectacular WI5 up a beautiful and improbable ice pillar to get us to the top of the headwall. There was a possible hard direct finish up more thin ice and mixed for several pitches, but in our state, with no food, hardly any water and no gas it seemed much wiser to get to the top via easier snow and ice to the left. Unfortunately, the snow was horribly unconsolidated and required us to trench for several rope lengths of exhausting climbing to reach the summit ridge at 1pm.
We had initially thought that we would traverse over Mount Allen to reach a couloir that would bring us back to the valley, but from the summit the traverse looked really far given the snow conditions and our lack of provisions. With the weather also deteriorating it could have led us into a serious epic and another bivy with no food or water. Instead we followed our intuition to the col with Deltaform and began downclimbing steep snow to gain the top of some ice where we could make a V-thread. We continued down to find a strip of ice running all the way back to the valley providing a relatively easy descent mostly from v-threads. Amazed by our luck we were back at our skis around 5pm and made the long and hungry ski back to the car by 9:30 pm.
This morning we looked a bit anorexic but are otherwise very stoked to have established the Lindic-Leclerc on the Northeast Face of Tuzo. (1100m, M7plus, WI6plus R) The route could certainly be climbed with a bivy in the middle, but due to our late start the first day we made the two bivies instead. Overall the route is a great quality and serious outing with both difficult ice and mixed climbing on a big alpine face.