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.

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