I’ve driven by Yak Peak on the Coquihalla highway many times in my life. It wasn’t until I discovered rock climbing that I had the urge to climb it. Yak Peak is an unmistakable landmark; the immense slab of granite resembles an oceanic wave that stretches 2,039 metres into the sky.
I’ve mostly kept to single pitch sport climbing in my rock climbing career (pretty much all there in is the Okanagan) and never really had the urge to alpine climb until recently. This was a good introduction to to it. I had my trusty climbing partner Ben to guide me in losing my alpine virginity. We had perfect weather conditions, so we decided to climb light with only one 70m rope, which meant we would be committed to climbing to the summit once we started. The route we decided to climb was “Yak Check”, graded at 5.9/10 with 10-14 pitches. The number of pitches vary, depending whether or not you link some of the pitches. Many of the pitches are 45-60m long.
We depart Penticton at 5:15 am, and start to hike to the base of the climb around 8:30am. After a stepping into a muddy puddle and getting my left foot soaked, we head up a steep wooded forest trail, and negotiate through a talus of granite boulders. Sweat falls off my body as I reign in my heavy breath. It sure looks much larger when you’re right close to it.
Everything goes smoothly until pitch 6. We accidentally get off route and end up connecting onto “Yak Crack”, a neighbouring route. Luckily we find a way to bail off “Yak Crack” and back onto “Yak Check.” We find some gear, suggesting that we were not the first ones to make this mistake of going off route. To bail, we sling a horn of granite as the main rappel point, and back it up with slings that another party had left on a smaller horn, and another girth hitched to a flake. Route-finding is a very important aspect of alpine climbing, I’ve discovered— I definitely learned to be more vigilant with it on this trip. We summit the the route at 7:00pm and enjoyed the sights it held for us. From there you could see the a 360 view of all the surrounding mountains and the Coquihalla hwy… all the cars looked like ants marching in a little line. We figured we should get back to our own little ant lives and started to descend the burley trail down, stopping to drink at small water fall that sheds off the mountains skirt. One could say we drank strait from the Yaks tit. The crux of this epic day was staying awake for the drive home! Not only did Ben do all the driving, he lead all the pitches! Thanks Ben! I rolled into bed around 12:30am, chuffed.