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.