The morning came, as predicted. The sky wanted to weep— I could tell by the smell of the rain wafting through my bedroom window. I grudgingly got out of bed and took a peek at the weather radar. I calculated that it was worth the gamble, packed my camera and climbing gear, and kissed my wife and son goodbye. Time to meet up with the boys.
The Aberdeen columns are located near Lumby BC, North Okanagan territory, and a gateway into the Monashee mountains. After traveling from Penticton for two hours north in light rain, we knew the lichen-covered basalt columns were going to be slick, but we were optimistic. The rain eventually stops. A bald eagle flies parallel with our vehicle for half a kilometre as we leave the city limits. On the back roads, we dodge puddled pot holes and hopping rabbits. We arrive at the trailhead and are immediately greeted by giant mosquitoes, who keep us company for the duration of the day. After a muddy ten minute hike in, we approach what we were looking for.
The Columns are polygonal basalt originating from volcanic activity, rising up to about 22 metres from the ground. Quite some time ago, there was a geological collapse leaving these geometric towers standing to watch over the talus— broken basalt that skirts the pillars. It was obvious to me that mother nature carved out these perfect splitter cracks for us to rock climb.
The grades of the routes are from 5.6 - 5.12a and climbed on traditional gear, with bolted anchor stations at the top, courtesy of Lyle Knight, who also did the FA on many of the lines . One could hike around to set up top ropes, if so inclined. You can find Lyles’s free guide here (Thanks Lyle): http://climbkamloops.ca/topos/Aberdeen_Guidebook_November_2016.pdf
After Ben racks up his gear, he looks at me and says with his Argentinian accent, “I’m scared.” Then he begins to climb “All That Glitters” 5.10c, cautiously avoiding the wet spots and hydrated lichen that glisten like radioactive contaminate on the geometrical black rock. Connor eagerly jumps on what he thinks is a 10b, but turns out to be “Ten Digit Dialling” 5.11b… a tricky warm up. They both battle the routes, trying to find friction in their feet, chalking up every chance they get. The cracks were moist as predicted. Shane Jackson and myself are vigilant belaying Ben and Connor, as we know they could slip at any moment. We pray for sun. “It can’t get any worse than this,” we joke. A mutual feeling of contentment abounds; after all, being in nature beats grinding at the office.
With the sketchy start to the day behind us, the sky starts to clear and the rock starts to dry, the friction getting better. It became clear that our gamble with the weather had paid off and we continue to tick off route after route. The most notable climb for me was “The Aberdeen Crack” 5.11c, a perfect splitter crack up the bright yellow lichen, climbed with right hand side pulls. It is unlike anything else I’ve climbed in the Okanagan valley, which is mostly known for face climbing on crimps and jugs.
Considering the unique geological formations and style of climbing, I give this area 4/5 stars. Worth a visit if you’re in the area… especially if you love climbing splitters! Just don’t forget the bug spray.