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.