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.

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