Thursday, 6 September 2012

And So It Ends....

So ends my 2012 climbing adventures.  Shortly after climbing with Leif I suffered a significant hand injury while climbing in the gym.  It was weeks until I was able to start climbing easy stuff again.  Climbing can have a noticable negative impact on my work when stuff like that happens.  Something to think about.  At any rate, I won't be climbing again until 2013.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Area 44 Goes International

Today I headed back up to Area 44 again with a Couchsurfer that I had been corresponding with.  Leif seemed a good fellow, and I was looking forward to showing a Swedish climber a little bit of our world-famous Squamish rock. 

In conversing with him on the drive I got the impression that he was a very, very experienced gym climber, but that he had limited outdoor experience.  Should be fun. We decided to warm up with some 5.9's in Preview, and see where we would go from there.

I hit one of my favourites first, that beautiful arrete that is 'Blue du Jour' and had a glorious sunrise climb.  Leif followed on top rope, and when he got to the top he had to yell down for instructions that got me rather ...concerned....  Leif arrived safely on terra firma, however, and we moved over to a 5.8 to get a little more practice before continuing on to some harder stuff.

I lead up a rather routine climb, it's a nice warmup, but I've done it so many times this year!  Leif followed on top rope, and was cleaning the station when the unthinkable happened.  He unsecured himself from the anchor without asking me to take out all the slack that he had pulled though!

Never in my life have I been so terrified, never have I been so happy that I didn't unrig my belay device once he was secured.  I had been concerned enough about his experience that I was keeping a pretty close eye on him, but when he let go, he just fell.  With a tonne of slack in the rope he just started dropping.  I reefed in a monster armload of rope and leaned back to take more slack out too.  After about 5M he stopped, just above a vicious outcropping of rock.

After a few seconds, I called up asking if he was ok.  He replied in the affirmative, and I lowered him back to ground.  Shaken, but not stirred, we had a post-incident conference, during which I learned that he had never climbed outdoors at all, and that all of his knowledge came from YouTube videos. 

Terrifying.  Utterly terrifying.  We covered some important issues, such as the importance of clear vocal communication.  Undaunted, he wanted to keep going.  I led off another 5.9 that I had done a couple times before, and I was quite happy that I was able to notice significant improvement in the areas that had caused me grief before.  Excellent.

We elected next to head down to the 'Outta Sight Wall' to try out Area 44's offering for multi-pitch sport.  A 5.9 called 'Square Dance' following into 'Allemagne Right' sounded like a well-regarded route, so we set up.

I didn't like Square Dance.  Not at all.  It had a couple fun laybacks, but the rock was pretty dirty and the route was short and excessively crenellated for my liking.  Oh well.  After Leif joined me at the belay station on a MASSIVE, comfy ledge, we discovered that we couldn't see any evidence of 'Allemagne Right'  The Square Dance anchor allegedly was the base of three climbs, one to the left, one straight up, and one to the right.  Looking at the bolts we could see we decided that we only saw two routes.  The book was down at the base of the climb, so I decided to explore farther right to see what I could find.

I travelled down a generous ledge, pretty much unprotected, wondering how far off track I must be, when all of a sudden I found a belay anchor and saw two clear bolt lines up the rock.  Awesome.  I guess I found it.  Leif joined me and it was 'go' time.  Knowing that the route I wanted was on the right I started up.  Pretty much immediately it was a big, bulging, overhanging crack.  It was a really intimidating sequence to work over the crack, so far up, with minimal protection below (1 bolt) I was nervous.  That was the most beautiful sequence of the day, and once I got past it things got simple. 

Before I knew it though, the climb started changing character on me.  It was getting really, really run out, and much slabbier than I was expecting.  I finally spotted a bolt ahead, after waiting way, way too long.  One more bolt and I arrived at the anchor and set up belay.  Leif was struggling away, obviously working at ascending the crack, when another climber popped over the crest beside me.

Uh-oh...  What doing, climber?  Why here?  We had a quick talk, and decided that I was most certainly in the wrong place.  Crap. Luckily buddy is patient, because Leif really isn't getting anywhere on this route.  After about ten minutes he concedes defeat, and I retrive my rope and walk off so new guy can finish his route.

I track down another anchor and rappel down to where Leif is waiting for me, but I sadly failed to retrieve one of my quick draws.  Balls.  We re-traced our path to the base of Square Dance, where I discovered that the second pitch was actually called 'Special Ed' and was rated at 5.10a.  I also was pretty confidant that I missed the last bolt of this climb and ended up at the anchor for 'Climb in Peace' 

Oh well, another adventure for the logbook.  Really a fun day though.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Top 100 Time

After a mixed morning's effort at Shannon Falls Mert and I headed up the road to Area 44 to try some more vertically-inclined climbing.  Area 44 is always a popular destination, and this beautiful day is no different.  There are over a dozen cars parked here already, and fitting one more in looks pretty questionable.  Oh well, I'm not going to miss out on climbing more because of parking issues.

Down we trek, all the way to the end, with the goal being to try a 'Top 100" 5.10a hiding at the end of the area called 'Rocky Horror'  It will be the highest difficulty climb that I have tried outdoors on lead.  I'm stoked, and the idea of climbing something that highly regarded is quite attractive.  Only concern is whether or not we will actually find it free.

Luckily there isn't a single other soul in that area when we arrive, so we set up to hit it.  It's an awkward approach and setup there.  The gulley is very steep, and like all of Area 44 it is quite unstable ground, there really is not much space to stand and move around.  We decide that Mert gets first crack, he feels the need to redeem himself after a rather tough morning at Shannon Falls.

Unfortunately for Mert, a good chunk of the middle of the climb follows a beautiful overhanging crack.  Mert readily admits that he has pretty much zero crack experience, and doesn't much care for it.  He moves confidently up towards the half way point before he starts to struggle.  After trying to work out the moves at the fifth draw for quite some time, he concedes defeat and lowers off. 

Whoa.  My turn already?  I had hoped to observe the whole route before trying my luck.  I guess this will pretty much be a legit 'on sight' attempt.  And, away I go.  The moves are nice, the holds are comfortable.  Before I know it I have passed the point that Mert made it to and am continuing up.  As I'm trying to find the correct placement for attaching my next draw I slip!  I had been trying to get comfortable to place a draw, but Mert thought I was clipping and had let out a healthy length of rope when I came dropping off the rock like I had just let go!  Before I even realized I had fallen I was dangling 20 feet below the rock, spinning like a top.  Ooops...

Bounced my way back up none the worse for the experience and continued my ascent.  The move that I wasn't even trying to make when I fell was easy-peasy.  The crux for me was two bolts down from the top, I ended up with one leg flagged straight out while making a big pull on my left arm.  It was pretty intense, and there was a whole lot of nice holds after that.  What an awesome feeling once I got to the top.

After I lowered off we decided to try the 5.9 beside Rocky.  Mert started first again, but it's just not his day.  I certainly didn't find this one to be as fun as the 5.10a, but it was a pretty good climb.  Really edgy, and the sun was off the route, which made me rather sad, but it was a fun.

What an awesome day of climbing!

Shannon Falls--A New Adventure

After the awesome excitement from succeeding at my first multi-pitch climb, I sought out more in the book and came to the distressing realization that sport multipitch really doesn't exist in the Squamish area.  Except in one place.  Shannon Falls A.M.O. (Advanced Mountaineering Operations) Wall.  There are at least a dozen routes spidering all over the face of the slab to the left of the falls.  What a cool place to climb!

The easiest route of the three accessible from the base is 'The Relish Route' which is a 3-pitch, 72 metre 5.8 adventure which goes all the way up, and offers a lot of options after completing the third pitch.  We find the start, probably, and set up to climb.  A lot of the fun about new climbing areas is the quest to figure out where the hell you even are.  It's a challenge sometimes, but it looks like we got it right today.  Mert isn't feeling up to leading today, so I lace 'em up and get going.

The first 7M was delightful climbing, but quite tricky until you're out of sight to your belayer, but no big deal.  Upon reaching the stump, I paused on a great foothold and got a look at the rest of the route.  Whoa.  Seriously, there's NOTHING here.  It's a massive, low angle slab with almost no feature to it.  Just a flat granite ramp.  How do you climb something like this?  I don't know but should probably start figuring it out. 

Away I go, slowly creeping up the face.  Now I know how spiders feel.  All I can think is that my shoes are too old for this kind of adventure, because they're the only thing keeping me moving.  Every once in a while there's a bit of a depression in the rock, which excites me way more than it should, because it's an opportunity to gain a little bit of friction with a hand.  Slowly I inch upwards, until it starts to get steeper.  Now I have a problem.  When I move a foot up, it just slips right back down the second I put any weight on it.  Hmmm...  Need more friction.

I try bending my ankle even farther, to try to get more shoe on the wall.  Hurts, doesn't help.
I start trying to turn around, and put my ass on the wall so I can get the whole surface of my shoe on the wall.  I'm currently above all my protection and my belayer can't hear me yell.  So I think this would be a poor idea too.
I need another foot.  My hands are doing nothing to help here.  Now the light goes on.  I take my right hand, rotate it over so fingers point down and palm is towards the rock, and lodge my elbow into my ribcage.  Now I have 3 feet, and one hand to manage the quickdraws and such.  I try again, and am able to make progress.  Another 10M or so of this and I'm at the end of the first pitch.  Thank God.  That was pretty hairy.

Mert follows up, and he's just hating this.  He can't implement my 3 foot method, and nothing that he seems to find is helping him advance.  He eventually makes it up to me and I set up to lead off the second pitch.  It looks like there's a lot more here, and there is.  Still completely dependant on friction most of the time, but a little bit more texture to the rock.  It's cool, I arrive at the second belay station and I can see the cars on the highway, and all the way out to Howe Sound.

Once Mert gains the ledge I set off on pitch 3, which has a lot more vertical breaking up the slab crawl.  It's really sweet climbing, and at one point I find a rusty old piton hammered into a crack that looks like it would still hold up if used for a draw.  Pretty cool stuff!  The view from the top was totally worth the challenge, and since we're up here I intend to try another climb or so.

A 5.7 called 'The Beaten Zone' brings you up right beside the falls.  Sounds awesome, so we head on over and check it out.  Pretty similar in character to the rest of the climbing today, I start on up with my 3-foot technique.  As I approach the top, the roar of the falls is intense, and I'm getting cool, damp air blowing ove my body from time to time, which is actually quite welcome on this hot morning.  What a rewarding climb!

We rappel off, and decide that since it's so early, and Mert wasn't loving the climbing, that we should head a short distance up the road and climb some routes at Area 44.

Sounds like awesome.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

A Pilgrimage To Sport Climbing's Mecca

A new destination to explore.  Cheakamous Canyon, the home of the biggest concentration of high quality bolted climbs in the area.  There's also a camping area here to investigate for future use.  Starting up from the highway, things are looking good, despite the description indicating that 4 wheel drive vehicles are recommended.  The GTI is all over this.  Then the road starts to get STEEP.  I keep trucking, however, picking up speed as I try to get up the hill before losing traction.  Happily, the GTI prevails and we arrive at the parking area.  There are a bunch of tents in a quaint ravine, a few outhouses, and a lot of high granite walls.

Good morning world, we have arrived!  I'm very excited today, both because we're discovering something new and also because we're going to climb our first multi-pitch climb today.  Now we're going to get high!  Some new skills to practise and put in the tool kit.  Emil and the Detectives, a 5.8 two-pitch climb, which is rated as a 'can't miss' climb in the guidebook.  7AM and it's already getting hot, it's going to be a beauty.

The first pitch was reachy, not a lot to work with, but not excessively taxing.  I was really sweating trying to pass the crux, and was really happy once I managed to get onto something a little more substantial.  At the anchor, I set up to belay from top, and Heather followed me up.  The second pitch was shorter, and a lot easier, and after we got up to the top, the view was AMAZING.

Rappel off, and high fives all around.  There's another multi-pitch climb right beside this one that we wanted to try, but unfortunately there was somebody already on the climb.  The decision was made to head just down the path to the 'Foundation Wall' to get in a good group.

We hit 'Flaming Arete,' 5.7  'Awake in a Ditch With a Horse Licking Your Face,' 5.8, and then moved on to a 5.9 graded climb called 'Mystery.'  I started working my way up the start of the climb.  Really, really thin climbing.  Not much to work with at all.  I got up two bolts and was starting to get into some significant difficulty.  Heather was discussing my climb with Mert, trying to come up with some suggestions, when they arrived at the conclusion that I was not climbing the 5.9 at all, but the 5.11a beside it. 

Ooops...  what now?  Logical answer, I guess, would be start again.  Wade's answer, of course, is somewhat less logical...  Try to move over to the correct route and continue up.  Stubborn bastard...  It wasn't easy, but I did it, which was a nice start to a very pleasant climb.  A great way to finish an exciting day.

Multipitch on!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Rappeling Class. So much to learn.

Another camping trip, another day of climbing the hills above the quarry.  Mert is going to teach rapelling class today, so we decided to head up Huckleberry Lane with its easy to access top for a good quality demo.

So many safety points to remember, but the one that I cling to is the simple one.  Check everything, then check it again.  And one more time before you un-secure yourself.  I figure that as long as I don't screw that one up, nothing too, too bad can happen to me. 

Overall, rappelling is pretty simple though, and I really like it because I can go down REALLY fast.  Also, I think it will probably prolong the life of the rope too, which I appreciate, because this stuff isn't excessively cheap.

We take the opportunity to climb a few fairly forgettable routes up on Shelf Road, and I think that's about as much time as I'll spend up there until I'm pushing up on 5.11.

The camping cooler.  Epic.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Area 44... What's around the corner?

Today I learned that it only takes one bad climb to sour a whole day of climbing...

Another gorgeous morning, it's time to go back to the wonderful, and mostly unexplored, playground that is Area 44.  A great start off with some of the nicer easy climbs on Preview, good to warm up and start the day.  The 6AM start is still the most wonderful thing in the world.  Preview has been getting so busy, but there's nobody here until about 10 or so.

After a solid warm up we decide to go down around the lower end of the area, and check out the 'Marbles Wall'  There are several attractive-sounding routes down here, so the logical approach of working from left to right shall be invoked. 

Leftmost:  I Climb in Peace, a 5.8.  Mistake.  Big mistake.  Pretty basic climb, but not much awesome to be found here.  Rambling and confusing, I was never confident that I was on route, or going to end up where I was going.  You know there's a problem when you have to ask your belayer to read the description from the book and check the topo to see if you're on the right track.

Eventually made the top, and belayed Heather up in her turn, but didn't really feel like continuing on after that stinker.  Oh well, the crag isn't going anywhere, but I sure am.  The pub and then the lake!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Cal Cheak, The Next Batch

It's just too easy to access this place after camping at Cal Cheak.  Time to explore a new crag.  Shelf Road has some shorter climbs for some quick hits on a hot summer day. 

The first climb on the plan for today is a 5.7 called 'A Piece of Cake' which is anything but.  I struggled mightily trying to get something going.  Wow, this has never happened before.  I really couldn't find the solution to this puzzle.  Finally, after clinging to the face for what seemed like forever, I was able to get some upward momentum.  I'll have to evaluate this as a pretty lacklustre climb.  I had to repeat it to get back the gear, too, as it was too reachy for Heather to follow.  Went easier the second time, at least, when my stubborn brain said that I must lead it again.

Moving on to a slightly higher face climb called Crazy Eights, which is listed as a 5.9...  Ok.  This was much more betterer.  Actually quite a fun climb, but it was getting quite annoying to exist in this area because 'Shelf Road' is actually a path used to access the top of 'Huckleberry Lane' which was experiencing heavy traffic from a youth group up for a day of climbing action.  Enough of this, time to grab some beer and hit the lake.

Cal Cheak is awesome, it's like having a crag in your back yard.  Wade approves.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

More Area 44

This cool new spot has way too many awesome climbs to walk away from so quickly.  I can see a lot of time spent here.  There are a LOT of low/moderate grade climbs to start gaining experience outside.

Heather and I decided to bring our friend Koshey out for some quality climbing today.  Another early start, another deserted crag to climb.  Down to Preview, another new climb to try.  A 5.8 that we didn't try last time, 'I'm not against it' is first up.

It was a pretty excellent climb, the crux was a big, bulging crack sequence that was utterly delightful.  Great start to the day.  Heather made the follow look routine, and Koshey was pretty quick going up.  Unfortunately, she had some issues when cleaning the station. 

A challenging looking 5.9/10a called 'I might possibly consider that' beckons.  The start was a NIGHTMARE.  I know that I made up my own start, which was dirty and challenging, but I couldn't see anything better that wouldn't get me killed.  After the start, things started to get interesting.  I had to string together some pretty challenging sequences on some very interesting rock.  I am quite liking this Area 44 business, it's a pretty cool place.

Heather made the follow look graceful as usual, that girl can really climb!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Area 44

The new guidebook has illuminated a wondrous new world of climbing destinations.  The old book had a lot of things that aren't in this new book, but there's way more stuff in this new book.  We are going today to try to climb at a newly developed climbing area called 'Area 44'

Looking at the book, the climbs here are much higher than most of the other sport routes in the Squamish corridor, so that's going to be right awesome.  Also, it's much closer than Cal-Cheak, and much bigger than Sulley's Hangout.  Honestly, I'm not excessively worried about it being busy, because I intend to use my 'super early riser' powers to get this show on the road in a prompt fashion, despite the fact that it's a Sunday.

We meet up with Mert and set forth at the ungodly hour of 6AM.  I can't see how this could be a bad idea.  It's going to be great.  Not hot yet, and there's no way that it will be busy.  I utilised the marvellous tool of Google maps to spy out the parking areas and try to find the trailhead via satellite, so I have a pretty great idea of where we're going to be heading.

The parking area is deserted, an excellent sign.  We begin the hike in and happily discover that in addition to being a very new and exciting area, this is also a VERY impressively maintained and set up space.  There are attractive signs and information boards all the way down the well made and clearly marked trail.  This is a totally different animal than anything that I have seen yet.  Exciting.

We make it down to the crag that we selected to start climbing at, called 'Preview'and start getting ready.  Everybody wants to take a crack at leading on these high new walls, but the pro is going to take first shot.  Then, at the last moment, Heather declares her desire to lead the first climb of the day, and her first climb of....  ever.

Up first a towering 26M of 5.6 grade climb called Nuts and bolts.  It's a pretty basic ascent, but it goes a LONG way up.  Mert belays Heather as she successfully and effortlessly ascends the wall.  A sweet little climb, we all take a turn before it's my turn to lead the 5.7 next door.  Another pretty simple task, it goes smoothly.

The next challenge is going to be Mert's lead of a beautiful-looking 5.9 called 'Blue du Jour'  A climb up a big, exposed arete, it looks really exciting.  Totally different than anything that we have tried before, I can't wait for my turn.  He starts working his way up, and makes it to the 3rd bolt before something goes wrong.  I can't begin to speculate, but that's the end of the climb for Mert.  He thinks, and feels, and looks, and rests, but he can't seem to work through this spot.  He lowers off, and now it's my turn to try it.

The first two bolts come easily, this is so exhilarating!  I reach the spot that stumped the Turkish Terror, and find a way to continue on, starting to work my way around the back side.  Now I'm getting really high, and I can no longer see the bolts and have to keep trying to crane my neck around to see the placements for the quickdraws.  Higher and higher I climb until I reach the crux.  Last piece of protection lower than my feet, nothing super impressive to reach for, and not much in the way of attractive foot placements.  I guess it's friction time.  I think sticky thoughts and reach as high up as I can before lifting a foot up to a higher spot.  No slippage.  And repeat. 

Miraculously, there's a decent ridge in the rock that is now within reach.  Hallelujah!  Other than the massive ant's nest near the anchor, the rest of the climb is easy going.  I have to say, the view from up here is magnificent, and the feeling from being the first one up something that the master couldn't deal with is pretty awesome.

Heather follows, with no serious problems.  What an awesome achievement.  I think it's time for a well-deserved beer, and a swim in the lake.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Sulley's Hangout--Lead Class

Finally a stretch of nice weather, and it's time to remove one of the last obstacles to independant climbing.  We need to lead.  Heather and I take Mert back up to Sulley's Hangout, for a chance to learn some lead skills.  I'm pretty sure that I know what I'm doing, but knowing is different than doing, so here goes nothing.

It's a busy evening on this popular little crag.  People love to head up there after work while the days are long, and today is no different.  The only route we find unoccupied is a 5.9 called 'Your Other Left' 

It looks pretty easy, but I'm going to be climbing it on lead.  I'm ready for it, and we take one last conference on safety responsibilities before we start climbing.  I start climbing on a beautiful evening in North Van, and make my way handily to the top.  Set up the station, belay off, and it's Heather's turn.

Lead belaying is a bit more stressful than climbing, IMHO.  You have a significant responsibility to another person to keep them safe.  They're depending solely on your ability to manage the rope while they're exposed.  It's old hat for Heather.  She shoots up that rock like a kitty cat shot out of a cannon.  Beautiful to watch.

Sadly, this is the only climb that we got to do that evening, there were just too many people up there, so we headed back down the hill.  What a beautiful end to a day.

Lead certified and ready to go, what adventures are next?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Canada Day at Cal Cheak

Most of June was rainy.  Very rainy.  Sadly, there was not enough sunshine to allow any opportunities for getting outside onto the rock.  Long weekend camping trip to Cal Cheak didn't look any more likely for a break in the weather, but ever the optimists, the climbing equipment came along for the weekend.

We had a great set up, it's a campsite I know very well, and my tarps cover almost the whole site, even the fire pit.  We spent the whole Saturday under the tarp, drinking beer and playing Yahtzee while all the rain in the whole world fell on us.  It was quite delightful, in truth. 

That evening Mert's lady friend came up for the evening and potential climbing on a Sunday that was supposed to clear up, and it was a great night around the campfire.  The next morning dawned blue and beautiful, but still absolutely saturated.  To the Wildwood for breakfast!!!

It was decided over breakfast that we should head up to Whistler village for the Canada Day parade, and let the rock try to dry.  The day was warming up and looking quite nice.  Spirits were high, and the parade was pretty fun times.  Afterwards the decision was made to head up to the crags and see how the rock was looking.

We arrived at Monkey and Weasel, and the cliff was mostly dry, with very few areas that appeared to have wet rock.  We decided that since discretion is the better part of valour, we would set up for some good old top rope climbing.

We set up for 'Reefer Madness' which is a 5.8 if you use the boulder pile to boost your start, or a 5.9 if you hit it direct, and you can really see why.  The move didn't look insane, but with it being right at the start, it was rather unnerving.  Mert went first, and took quite a few shots to achieve the direct start.  It looked pretty fun, so when it was my turn I tackled the same start.  Hit it hard and clean the first time.  It was a decent climb, to be sure.  After completing that climb I set up the station for the climb next to it,

On to 'Boozy the Clown' a short 5.10b.  Raising the bar for difficulty, but not much.  I don't love this top-roping outdoors much.  Beats up the rope too much, and is a lot less exciting.  This was a tough climb, but reasonable.  Lots of wet spots, but we enjoyed.

One more route, a 5.9 with a 5.10c variation.  I tried to break off to finish on the 10c, but I couldn't move too far up that direction, as the anchor we were using was too far off to the right.  It was another great day, but it sure was nice to get back to the beer and fire.

This is the life.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cal Cheak, Ver 2.0

Fully breakfasted and with actual knowledge of where we are going, Heather, Mert, and I arrive back at the Monkey and Weasel crag at Cal Cheak.  This should be awesome.

Target #1 is a 20M 5.7 called 'It's been swell'  As per my previous post, it really looks like we are the first people to climb here in a few years.  Everything is super-overgrown.  The moss is ankle deep, and there's a blackberry bush that could probably kill a man at the likely starting area of this climb.

The 'expert' is getting cold feet looking up that the first bolt.  I don't really understand his hesitation, it looks like an easy stroll up the rock to get clipped in, but he's the one who has to lead it...  He's off trying to find top access, while Heather and I are starting to move some branches and scrape some moss off the starting area.  This is cool, simple as that. 

We're at the cliff base, after scrambling over a massive field of scattered boulders.  It's a beautiful summer day, and we're pondering the ascent of a gorgeous piece of granite.  There's hummingbirds in the flowers, and these cute little rodent-guys jumping in and out of the rock, chirping in distress.

Mert gives up on his top anchor quest, and reluctantly decides to lead the climb.  I get my lead-belay 'course' and away we go.  Mert cautiously picks his way up the route, sets the anchor and returns safely to earth.  Another briefing on how to clean a route, and it's my turn.  To be honest, it was cool, but not super.  Didn't really give me any tough moments, but it sure was cool to be so far up.  The crag is located quite high, and once I got to the top the view was positively breathtaking.

Once we were down to the bottom, we debated our next climb.  Mert didn't want to lead any more of the climbs on Monkey and Weasel that day, the high bolts and overgrown conditions made him nervous about the safety of the area.  Fair enough, that's what experts are for.  A couple more routes at Huckleberry Lane, and it was off to the cooler for some beer.

I could really get used to this...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cal Cheak First Blood

This is it.  The day to test out our very own gear, and climb again.

After some dilligent research, and grabbing a more up to date climbing guide from the VPL, I had discovered that the forestry campground that Heather and I had camped at all summer the year previous had a massive collection of high-quality climbs hidden in the hills just up the road.

Well.  Who would have thought?  Now we have more, awesome info, it's time to get down to it.

We got a big posse together to share this adventure, and set forth from our campsite.  Heather, Mert, and I drove slowly up the forestry road while Eric followed, evaluating the terrain for any sign of the promised trail or parking area.  We made it all the way to the end of the road without being confident that we had arrived at our destination.


Turn around and try again, maybe a little bit more open minded this time.  We arrive at a likely candidate for the 'parking area' an old quarry that has a gate across the road now.  I guess this is one reason that a 10 year old climbing guide can be something of an obstacle to a successful outing...  Ok, we'll park at the side of the road, just down from the gate and start looking for a trail.

That part actually went well.  We found the trail much faster than expected.  I guess we must just walk really fast, because that was no twenty minutes walking...  Trail is on the correct side of the road, and we quickly find some man-made stairs up towards some obvious rock.  This is really getting exciting!

Shortly after we come to the top of the stairs a clear rock face comes into view.  We approach the base of the crag and look up.  Quickly everybody starts spotting bolts and chains.  AWESOME!!!  We did it, we found the 'Monkey and Weasel'  the first crag in this zone.

We quickly come to the conclusion that we are NOT where we thought we were.  The cliff doesn't look vaguely like the picture, the number of routes seems to be wrong, and the trail map doesn't seem to show the route that we travelled at ALL. 

Well then...  This looks totally like something that we can climb though.  There seems to be a reasonable amount of hold-appeariing structures for us, and the hardware looks good from the ground.  We consult the expert, and he advises that the safest approach here, if we want to climb this unknown crag, would be to attempt to access the anchors from the top, and set up a top rope anchor to climb from.

I, however, really would like to find the crag that we were hunting for, because we know for sure that the climbs there are within our range, and it's always nice to know what the heck you're trying to do, I think.  So, we decide to split up.  Mert takes the gear and heads off to set up a top rope anchor while Heather, Eric, and I follow the suggestion of a path through the forest to search for the crags that are in the guidebook that we have.

We come to the realization rather quickly that NOBODY comes climbing up here.  The forest floor looks almost completely undisturbed, everything is nice and overgrown.  We come up with some plans for locating ourselves, and then imagination runs wild.  Every overgrown piece of rock that we see becomes one of the pictures in the book.  See?  That could totally be the tree in the book...  It's just a lot bigger and fallen down... 

After a solid hour of bushwhacking through some pretty exciting terrain, back and forth, we decide that we have, indeed, found the crag known as 'Monkey and Weasel'  about a half hour ago.  Great.  Now we know where we are.  Too bad we still have no idea where Mert is.  But we know that the crag that he set up our rope on is absolutely NOT in this guidebook that we are working with.

We head back to where we abandoned our comrade to the tender mercies of the local mosquito population, and have another conference.  It is determined that we probably should climb where we are.  Mert thinks it is totally climbable, Eric is tired of walking, and Heather and I just want to get some routes in.  So we start climbing the unknown route.

It's been two whole weeks of anticipation, and it pays off.  We climb the first route with ease, and Mert sets up an anchor at the station right next to the first climb for us to work.  It's great to be climbing again.  I could really get used to this.  These climbs seem very, very easy, but that's probably a good thing.  All I can think about while I'm climbing is 'What's next' and all I do while waiting is evaluate the next route, trying to plan my moves.

It's obvious that there is a lot more to this than there is to gym climbing.  I know a certain Turkish person that I will be hitting up for lead-climbing lessons in the weeks to come, because I'm really not on board with depending on others to get us going, and the amount of time it takes to walk up to the top and set up to top rope seems utterly pointless.

We got in 4 climbs that day, but more importantly we were the recipients of lots of more useful knowledge:

1--4 people and 1 rope makes for a SLOW day.
2--a more up-to date climbing guide exists, which some latecomers were kind enough to allow us to take a look at.  We were climbing at a crag called 'Huckleberry Lane' and the routes we climbed were graded from 5.5 to 5.9
3--the book that the other climbers had is already out of print, but a newer, better book will be released any day now.
4--Eric is lazy, and doesn't want to climb tomorrow.  Ok.  Got it.

Tomorrow, the Monkey and Weasel will fall beneath my feet.  This is awesome.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Gear Shopping!!!

After such a wonderful first experience, it's time to take the next step in this hobby that I am determined to explore further.  First step is gear.  The way I see it, there is a pretty small, but rather important list of equipment that one must acquire to persue outdoor climbing effectively.


1 rope
8-10 quickdraws
random selection of carabiners and slings
guide book

Ok.  Now that this is established, a trip to MEC is in order. 

Did you know that climbing gear is somewhat expensive?  And without everything on the list, any one thing on the list is remarkably less useful?  Hmmmm... 

Oh well, make it to spend it, right?  Sounds good.

Luckily, my super-genious came to the rescue...  I was at the till paying for some carrier packs for my bicycle, and Heather excitedly came over.  'You HAVE to come see this!!!'

Ok.  Can do.

'This' turns out to be an ad on the MEC bulletin board that had been placed by someone looking to unload ALL of their 'gently used' gear for two hundred bucks.  Now, for those who are not up to date on the subject, this is a pretty smoking deal for everything that was listed on that ad.  Two hundred dollars out the door and onto the rock, all ready to go.  Talk about too good to be true.

'Think we should call?'

''It's probably gone, but sure, why not?'

Turns out it was, in fact, not gone.  The gentleman who placed the ad wasn't even back home from posting it, and Heather was the first call.  All right then.  Lets make this happen.

Straight to the bank, then downtown to claim our prize.  The gear was every bit as advertised.  Beautiful, clean, looking like it was hardly ever used.  Happily we paid, and hurried off to the car with our new toy, excited with our amazing luck. 

This calls for a celebration.  Off to the Teahouse for a great, relaxing dinner, looking forward to our first climbing adventure with our awesome new stuff.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A humble start to a soon-to-be storied career.

Starting from the little crag nestled quietly in the far reaches of North Vancouver's Lynn Headwaters Regional Park known locally as 'Sulley's Hangout' to what unimagined heights?  Only time may tell!

A date that will be indelibly carved in my memory for the rest of my life, this day started out like so many others...  Coffee, cereal, orange juice, and off to the car to meet up with Mert and Ursula for a day of outdoor climbing.

Heather and I were excited, that much is certain, and a little apprehensive too.  We met our mentors at the Safeway and set forth.  Armed with just enough information to get us by and a vague description of how to find our objective, we were optimistic on that beautiful morning.

Once parked in the lot at the trailhead, I realized that I had already made big mistake #1...  Don't hike in flip flops.  Rookie.  Like I don't already know this one, and now I'll have to live with my error.  We start the trip in, and spot the turnoff into the trees as was described on the interwebs.  Then my poor footwear really starts to be a pain when the going gets steep.

Eventually, we reach the bottom of the crag, there's a fair number of people there already, but we manage to select a free climb that is within the range of difficulty that we feel comfortable a big, bad 5.7 that was a whopping 18M tall, appropriately named 'Beginner's Luck'.

Looking up at that modest granite slab, listening attentively to the safety instructions that I was receiving from the more experienced climbers, all I can remember thinking was, "This is why I started climbing again!  I can't wait to do this"

Do that I did.  The first day there was no leading, not even cleaning.  The advantage of having a pair of experienced companions with only one set of gear.  The first route was a piece of cake, I was already pushing 10d in the gym, after all.  Great holds, low angle, a wonderful opportunity to see what climbing was really meant to be.  Second climb was disposed of with casual disregard as well.  When confronted with the third climb, we were running out of selection for routes, so we took a 10a.  Nothing beyond anyone in the party that day.

27M in height, '3M' was a new animal to discover.  Fairly vertical, especially over the crux, not much in the way of obvious jug-type holds either, that didn't give me a moment's pause.  10a.  That's all the info I need.  I will eat this thing for lunch.  Went up quick and smooth...  until about 20M or so above the ground, when I was coming out of the shade of the trees.  The sun blasting directly in my eyes, toes carefully pressed inwards on a crack in the granite, and my left hand resting on a lump of rock, I couldn't see anything for my right hand to go to!  What's this business?  Where's the piece of tape inviting my hand to grab a well-placed piece of plastic? 


Now I understand.  Now I see how it's different.  Now I'm almost nervous.  Breathe.  Just breathe.  On top rope.  Nothing bad can happen.  Beautiful day, doing something I love in a beautiful place.  Ok.  Eyes adjusting to bright light, and there, not much of a hold, but I think it will help steady me.  Good.  Moving on...

The last 7M went by smoothly, my moment of anxiety left behind, I am slowly lowered back to terra firma, successful yet again.

That's about enough for one day.  I learned one thing more important than any other this day:  I really, really like this, and am pretty sure that I will be great at it.  All I need is a little bit of knowledge, and some gear.

Looks like fun times ahead!