Sunday, 25 August 2013

Pilgrimage to the Pillary--Part 1

Several weeks ago a fantastic new area was made known to the world.  Developed by the same fine souls who brought us Area 44, The Pillary currently boasts 37 bolted climbs, graded from 5.7 up, with several projects on the go.

It's going to be another awesome international day, bright and clear with the promise of some significant warmth later on, the team departs bright and early for Squamish.  Representing France are Cecile and Adrien, on behalf of Turkey, we have Mert, and the hometown hero, myself.  Sprits are high, we have been waiting a few weeks for this chance.

Arriving at the parking area, there are already several cars here, and I expect that they are probably all heading for the Pillary, not Area 44 today.  We start our hike in, following the well-marked Area 44 trail until we begin seeing some of the signs of the craftsmanship that I have come to expect here.  New, beautifully-made, signs marking the trail, depicting the crags, and advising of concerns for rock-fall are frequent and easy to see as we travel up the trail.

We come through the trees and see a beautiful vista before us.  We have arrived!  This looks beautiful!  The climbing areas stretch out beneath us, tall and proud, with that same beautiful view out towards the Squamish River Valley.  Again, this is an area with wonderful, tall climbs to challenge us. 

The first climb we come to, the lone climb on 'The Forlorn Horn' has a large sign, indicating that it is closed due to unstable rock...  Remembering how much rock still peels loose at Area 44 makes me very happy to have my helmet, as I expect the rock to be very similar in composition here.

The next area we come to, 'The Berlin Wall" has five climbs currently ready, graded at 5.8-5.11a, so we decide to start dropping our gear and picking our spots.  Likely warm-ups are the 5.8 and the 5.9, and I think the 5.8 sounds utterly delicious. 

The Forlorn Horn--Closed For Now
'Der Weiner Schleisser' has a very, very interesting start.  Stemming your way up a fairly featureless face using a TONNE of pressure off the opposing faces of rock, leading to a deadly sharp arête to the anchor.  Mert starts us off, heading deep into a large crack that has a lot of large, loose rocks in it.  He starts getting a bit unnerved by all the movement, and has a horribly awkward time getting the third bolt in from inside the cavern.  He manages to find a way out, only to start running into some pretty sparse space as he begins the ascent of the arête.  About halfway up and running out of holds, Mert has to descend, rattled from his experience in the crack of loose rock.

Mert In Front Of The Crack Of Doom
As I prepare to make my ascent, I'm trying to see a route that will steer clear of the direction that Mert went, and I formulate a plan of action.  I start off in an awkward sprawl, with my legs at ninety degree angles out from my body, pushing HARD.  I alternate this move up a few times to gain the minor handholds that are available, and start to get in to territory that has some more conventional foot action.  At the second bolt I find a pleasant handhold, and start to really grab it, until I notice that the rock is cracked, and likely ready to tear off the face...

I make it up through the third bolt onto the arête with an awkward balance that lets me reach my left hand around behind.  Now I'm facing the arête, and lacking much in the way of anything useful.  I can see why Mert ran out of steam here.  There area some pretty tentative holds, but sitting astride of this deadly sharp ridge, a slip here would be very... uncomfortable.  There is a bolt there, just out of reach, and getting that clip would make this next move a reasonable option...  Employing every millimetre of my height and reach, I take several swipes at the bolt before getting a draw to catch.  Getting the rope into the other end of the draw is pretty easy, and I make a very uncomfortable move up to the next decent stance. 

Still climbing up the edge of disaster, there really aren't the holds that would be expected on a 5.8, but I persevere.  A lot of searching for small spots to give me some purchase for my feet and a lot of gripping with my left on the ridge continues me to move up.  A few times I toss my left foot in behind the arête and heel hook the stone to steady myself as I advance. 

Nearing the top, I run completely out of apparent feet, but the arête starts running horizontal, so it looks like it's all on the arms.  I start moving hand-over-hand along one of the sharpest rock spines I have ever felt, taking much more weight than I am especially pleased with on my hands.  I'm not finding much for my feet, so I continue my hand-over-hand traverse.  I find a useful broken spot to jam my foot in to relieve the pressure on my hands and secure myself to the anchor chains as I arrive at the end of the climb.

What a rush!  My left hand is cut open in three spots, bleeding pleasantly on my shorts as Mert lowers me back down.  That was way tougher than a 5.8!!

Cecile and Adrian are done with 'Klettern Gehen' the 5.9, and so we swap climbs.

Adrien Belaying On Klettern Gehen
As Mert is starting this one he's already much happier with the climbing.  Much more up his alley, the start is a beauty, with some deadly sharp rock spires directly beneath the start.  Thankful for the low first couple bolts.  As he arrives at the second bolt Mert runs into an issue, and finds a terribly awkward solution.  Faced with a shortage of reasonable holds, he puts his left foot up distressingly high into a very nice pocket, and uses it as leverage to gain the finger crack above!  Wow!

Mert climbs it out and I get my shot.  I'm determined to find something better at that second bolt, because I really don't think my old bones can handle that kind of force being exerted on my hips.  Quickly there, I search for quite a while before arriving at the determination that there is only one solution to this spot.  Gross.

I toss my foot up into the pocket and shift my weight underneath my foot so I'm at least centred while I start levering my way up the wall, and soon I'm getting some better hands coming within reach.  Quite the move, that one!  The next section features a small, tight crack.  Not too much width, but decent depth, with some good edges for your feet, this section is a beauty to work, lots of tough little moves that keep me exerting a lot of force while I stand so off balance.

Moving through the crack and up onto a big outcropping, I pause and work my fingers out for a couple of minutes before launching myself up onto some easy climbing to the finish.

An awesome second route done, we compare notes about the climbs we just completed.  Everybody agrees that the 5.8 must have lost some holds already or something, because nobody sees it as a 5.8.  I must admit, however, that I quite liked it!

We are off to discover another crag, and I am going to break this trip into two posts, because somebody won't get off my back for taking too long to post!  More adventures at the Pillary to come!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Where it all began...

After Friday's nightmare on the buttress it just seems logical that there must be some kind of successful climbing expedition mounted this weekend.  With absolutely zero desire to head back up towards the Squamish music festival grounds and the traffic associated with, we decide to head for Sulley's Hangout in beautiful North Van.

It's not a beautiful day, and looks like the weather might finally cool down for a few days, which probably won't upset too many people, but makes for a  great morning climbing.  After hiking up to the little crag nestled in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park I am pleasantly surprised to discover that the crag is not too crowded, which is always a possibility up here.  I am also reminded that the only topo for this area is horribly out of date.


I'm not going to have too much to say about what was climbed this day, as I'm not sure what it was, and completely disagree with the grading of the climbs, but it was a very nice morning of climbing.  We hit it hard, climbing every route on the north wall.  There are seven climbs bolted there now, although the topo only shows three!

We started out on something really light and easy, and although the climb was over before you knew it, it was nonetheless very pleasant.  Reachy in spots, it didn't seem to concern Heather, as she proceeded to find things to use that only exist in her imagination.

The next climb, I think, was called 'Lefty', a "10a" of questionable difficulty.  The crux is certainly balancy, with not much more than a single finger-crack for stabilization, but would probably be better graded at 5.9.  It was a lot of fun, however, so I can deal with it.

As Heather was dancing her way up we were shaken by some LOUD thunderclaps that really can't have been originating too far away!  Occasional raindrops starting finding their way through the tree cover, bringing a refreshing cooling sensation.  Glorious!

It started raining lightly as we were making our way onto the slabbiest climb of the bunch, and that really complicated matters, which was kinda ok, since we were feeling like we were close to packing it in anyways.  Taking that extra day off to try to get ourselves murdered on StarChek left a fair lot of chores behind at home!

We finished up our last climb and left the birthplace of one of the most wonderful things in my life behind.  What a pleasant morning!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Eighty Five Metres Of Fail

Heather is on vacation this week, and work is slow for me, so I decide I'm not going to work on Friday to free up a golden opportunity to attack the legendary climb on the Galaxy Buttress, Star Chek.

Ringing in at 5.9, ranked in the top 100 by Squamish Select, this climb has been in my head for over a year.  A big three-pitch beast, Star Chek climbs out of the Cheakamous River gorge, up to the side of Highway 99.  It's pretty difficult to imagine a more awe-inspiring backdrop to a climb, and we can't wait to get it on the tick list.

We arrive at the area recommended for parking shortly after 9AM, and start gearing up.  There are two accesses to this climb, a 1.5km hike along the river, or a short walk to the top of the climb, followed by a rappel down into the gorge.  I'm not really interested in a big rope carry, so we're rapping down.  We select minimal gear to keep the weight down, and empty pockets of unnecessary items to prevent losing anything important into the raging river.

We find the path to the top of the climb with no effort, everything matches the photos that I remember from the book quite clearly.  We left the guidebook in the car, as there is only one climb here that we are interested in, and I'm sure it won't be that hard to find, with how popular it is.  As we descend the trail, following the fixed lines, we quickly arrive at the ledge above the river.

What a view!  The torrent below is so loud we have to speak with raised voices, bringing concern about communication while we are working the climb.  We have a short discussion to set up the communication plan, and Heather decides to be the first person down to the secondary rap station.

As she's trying to descend she has a sudden change of heart, and moves herself down to what appears to be a very friendly ramp down to the middle ledge.  As she's descending she starts to spot bolts, a great sign, as it would appear that we will get a chance to scout out the third pitch as we descend.

After joining her on the ledge below, I decide to throw myself over the second ledge first, so I can be the one to find the route to a rappel station somewhere above the river that we just can't see.

As I descend the sheer face of the Galaxy Buttress, I very quickly start to get nervous.  This pitch is supposed to be easy, ranked at a 5.8 if memory serves, and looks like anything but that as I'm descending.  The bolts are a million miles apart, and the holds, when there are any, are miniscule.

Houston, we may have a problem here...  But we're in the right place, so I must just be missing something.  I continue rappelling, very slowly now, as I feel that I should have already arrived at my destination, and am missing something big.  I can't hear anything as I close in on the river below, getting nearer by the second, and I long ago lost visual contact with Heather above.

I never knew just how lonely I could feel, and there is a tiny bit of fear poking around the fringes of my mind now.  I have the end of the rope in site, but there is no second set of bolts or chains anywhere on this face to secure myself to and await Heather.  I am absolutely in the wrong place, there is no question in my mind.  Perhaps I am rappelling down 'Apollo 13' which I know exists on the buttress, but that is not described in any guide that I have.

I stop and think.  I am not going to descend the last 3 metres of rope just to confirm that I have made a mistake, and I can't secure myself and ask Heather to belay me up to her as I try to climb whatever route I find myself on.  I'm left with only one real option, and that is to ascend 27 metres of rope with just my ATC to depend on. 

A daunting task, I begin working my way back up the rope, thanking Mert again for all his work teaching us about awesome, useful things like prussic knots, which are now literally saving my life.  As I slowly and painstakingly make my way upwards, trying whenever possible to take some pressure off with whatever holds I can find, my shoulders start to protest.  Hauling my weight up this rope is going to take everything that I have.  I notice the Rocky Mountaineer passenger train crossing the Cheakamous just downriver from my position, and wonder if anyone notices this poor climber struggling his way up the thin blue line...

An eternity later I finally arrive back at the ledge that Heather is on, and I can finally relay the information that I have to her.  This is bad.  We know we don't know where we are, and that's all.  We are on an ample ledge on the Galaxy Buttress, my right elbow is throbbing, and I can't lift my left arm much past my waist. 

As we look around we spot lots of bolt lines, but nothing that looks promising.  We discuss the possibility of climbing out via the route we came down, which looks pretty reasonable, but has a distressingly high first bolt.  Any other day and this would be the right answer.  Right now, however, I'm hurt and my confidence is shattered.  Heather volunteers to take the lead and get us out, but I just can't let her go.  I'm eyeing up a bolt line above our position that looks much more challenging, but has a first bolt I can almost reach, and I try to convince myself that this would be a good option, but no.

Here we sit on one of the best-travelled routes in the Sea to Sky corridor, and after an hour we haven't seen another living soul.  Any other day and this would be cause for celebration, but not today.  I'm starting to think crazy thoughts, and something is going to have to happen soon.  I'm pretty much married to the idea that down is the only safe direction of travel, and we concoct a plan that might make this happen.

There is an belay position about 2M below and 4M beside us which doesn't seem to have any bolts associated with it, but we agree that there appears to be another pair of chains about half way to the base of the cliff that will allow us to escape the ledge.  The sketchy part will be the 'traverse' to get over to this other line.  The potential for a major swing-fall is significant, to say the least, and Heather and I go through all the possible options thoroughly before deciding to move ahead on this hare-brained scheme.

I set up to rappel again, confident that our reasoning is sound.  There appears to be a solid ledge underneath this belay station, and it extends across most of the face towards a tree 4M below our position.  I'm going to work my way down and over to the tree and try to move across to the belay point from there.

I set out with my back to the goal, and my left side flat against the wall to provide as much friction as possible to fight gravity's desire to swing me back to oblivion.  I slowly let more rope through my ATC as I move diagonally down from our position, seeing the potential for injury increase with every inch.

I have never felt so relived as I did when I got my right foot resting underneath the trunk of this hapless sapling, Quickly rotating my body to face the wall, my left foot slid comfortably into a huge, mossy, crack underneath the overhang that I had been aiming for.  Finally some good luck, I had solid purchase for both my feet, and I used this as a great thoroughfare to move closer to the promised land. 

When I got to the end of the crack I was within striking distance of the prize.  There was decent formation to the rock here, and now I was just one move away from getting my hands on the rappel rings.  Looking over to where I started I felt a jolt through my stomach.  What a huge 'traverse' to screw up.  If I slip, this will be disaster.  Focusing on the goal, I chalked up for the first time today to prepare for my first climbing move of the day.

Left foot way out and up, right hand on a decent knot in the rock, poised and ready, I shot upward from my right foot, aiming a big dyno at the ring.  My left hand easily reached, and my right followed with a mighty death-lock that would have made the hardware cry, I clenched so tight.  I quickly secured myself in and secured the rope to my harness so Heather wouldn't have to worry about the deadly swing.

She handily made the traverse over to our new location, and we abandoned one locking carabiner on the ledge at Star Chek.  Small loss, I couldn't possibly care less.  Ready to be out of here, we set up and I rappelled down to the next station, a mere 6M above the valley floor.  Heather was beside me in moments, and we were down to the rocks in no time.

Upon arriving at the base of the buttress, we saw a fixed line proceeding down to the river, and a suggestion of a trail heading in the other direction.  In no condition to climb, we started upriver, hoping to find a clear path back to the highway, and eventually back to the car.

We passed many routes bolted to the sides of the gorge below the highway, but the temptation to stop and explore simply did not exist as we trudged upriver, our feet throbbing in our tight climbing shoes.

The path become more clear the farther we went, and soon we were back at the side of highway 99, happier than ever before to see asphalt.  Once we recovered our flip-flops and made our way back to the car we looked at the photos in the guide book again.  My heart was crushed.

We had indeed rappelled down the final pitch of Star Chek, but from there had I had likely descended Apollo 13.  The route that we traversed to and rappelled down is an unknown, and somehow we completely missed the bolts for the bottom two pitches of Star Chek, which would have been obvious if we had followed the fixed line down towards the river.

If we had taken the book with us, we probably would have successfully completed our mission and avoided near-tragedy.  We now humbly go in search of beer.  Lots of beer.  What a challenging day!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Long Weekends are Horrible... Right...

The record-setting sunny weather is persisting here in Vancouver, and B.C. Day long weekend is upon us.  Not ones to camp on extended weekends for all, it's nonetheless a great opportunity for some awesome fun.  After biking the city with the daughter, and going for an epic ride to the Deep Cove Kayak centre the following day, Heather and I have organized another solid group to join us for some more outdoor climbing at Area 44.

Dominic, who is visiting from England, has been climbing with us pretty much since his arrival here in Vancouver, and is a very, very strong climber.  He has only climbed outdoors once, however, down in Texas, so today will be his first experience with the Squamish granite.  Jordan is game to round out the posse again, so we should have two setups going full steam.  This will be great.

We decide to start at Preview, as there are some solid 5.10 range climbs to either side once we're good and warmed up.  To open up I lead 'I'm Not Against It', enjoying the cracked flake crux as I start breaking in a new pair of 5.10 Stonelands.  Hoping that they will behave similarly to my old Spires, I trust these shoes to grow enough to make my feet happy about life.

The 5.8 out of the way, Dominic is ready to start his first experience with Squamish stone as Jordan begins scoping out 'Monkey Barrel' a 5.10b offering, to start his day.  He starts it with some beautiful layback moves, and progresses through the centre section handily, making an impressive off-balance move where 'I Might Possibly' moves towards 'Monkey Barrel'

As he moves out of sight above I can hear him discussing some ideas with Dominic about the crux on the route that he's climbing, and upon returning smiling to the earth he's gushing about the opportunity to practice some hand-jamming techniques in the parallel crack at the top of the climb.

As I start out on this climb, I'm finding it difficult to get into a solid groove.  I'm progressing, but it's not exactly coming easily to me on this route.  I would say the start wasn't graceful today, but that's life, I guess.  As I moved into the crux of the route I got myself up too high in behind a huge arête, and ended up having to take a little fall to get back down to where I wanted to be.

Blue Du Jour, 5.9
Trying the fourth-bolt crux sequence for the second time was all I needed to get myself on track, I guess, because it came pretty easily the second time, and the remainder of the climb was a lot of fun.  The sweat was just pouring off, that was a really tough climb!  I'm sure glad we got here so early, because in the heat of the day this might not be awesome!

As I am coming back down, Jordan is preparing to have some fun with 'I'm not Against It' and I'm setting up on an old favourite, 'Blue Du Jour'  This is one of the most enjoyable climbs on Preview, an absolutely beautiful 5.9 that climbs up a giant, exposed arête.

I remember my first ascent like it was yesterday, and just how exhilarating and terrifying it was to succeed on this climb.  I also clearly remember climbing almost half of the climb on the back side of the spire, groping around the front to set the draws.  I have seen three people go up the front today, however, and decide that this will be my route as well.

I really don't see how this climb didn't make it into the top 100.  It's just priceless, really.  As I'm working to find holds that will keep me on the front side of the route, and succeeding, I reflect again on just how much fun there is to be had in climbing, exercising your mind and body in such a beautiful environment.

I complete the climb feeling very pleased with myself, and head down to the Insite Wall, where Jordan is waiting to take a shot at another 10b, Jean-Jean.  This climb starts off a fallen log, which is neat, but leads to some questions about appropriate belay stance.  The start is tricky, too, and I'm ready to act at a moment's notice if Jordan slips this close to the ground.  He finds a crazy little pinch to stabilize a perilous layback to get enough elevation to proceed past the first bolt. 

Jordan on Jean-Jean
The holds through the middle look good, but there's some confusion as he nears the top...  This climb shares it's anchor with 'Tantalizer' beside it, and the correct routing through the final three metres is questionable, as the only remaining bolt that he can see is clearly part of the neighboring climb. 
Wade on Jean-Jean
After he's back down we examine the topo and decide that there may have been some route blending at the top, but who's counting, really?

Up on the log, all tied in, I'm trying to get my aching feet to work with this weird pinch.  It's not comfortable, and if I wasn't tall enough to clip the first bolt in I would probably have walked away from this beast of a move.  Doggedly examining my options, I keep coming back to a decent crimp on the arête, which, coupled with a big, high step, gets me to the second big layback without having to use that teeny little pinch.

Just another example of style options, I'm off and moving.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to deal with jamming my feet into anything, and even putting pressure up on my toes is starting to get very unpleasant.  Stupid new shoes!

Dominic Battling the Arete
After getting about half of the way up, I just can't bear it anymore, and I ask to return to the ground.  I have never ripped shoes off my feet faster in my life.  My feet hurt almost as much now as they did up in Skaha with the Mythos on my feet.  Damn!  End of my day, Jordan climbs Jean-Jean again to retrieve my gear and try the correct finish.  Like a champ, he wants to take a shot at a 5.10c just around the corner, Forty-Six.

It's a thin, pumpy, beast, and he makes a great show of it, fighting hard to advance after the third bolt.  But he's too spent from the last three 10b climbs, and Jordan is unable to top out on his last climb of the day.  We return to find Heather and Dominic comparing war stories from Blue Du Jour, and the consensus of the group decides that it's time to return to the city.  Dominic has work, and the other three of us have a tasty pitcher of R&B Sungod to find.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Foundation Of Fun

It's time to head out again.  A big group today Heather and I meet, Karinya, and Jordan downtown for a bright and early start.  Upon arriving at Cheakamous the decision is made to start with the Foundation wall, and see where the day leads us.

Heather Leading 'Flaming Arete'
Heather is up first.  It's been a while for her, but she steps up to take the lead on 'Flaming Arete'.  She's even bold enough to be the guinea pig for Karinya's lead belay lesson.  These ladies have climbed together a million times, so they understand each other pretty well, and Heather has led this route more than once before, so it shouldn't be a big deal.

Jordan and I stick close through the start, and Heather is moving confidently up the climb, showing no rust for all the time on the shelf.  Once she's past the really fun part with a big step and a wiggle, Jordan and I move off to start up a second rope. 

We drop the tarp at the bottom of 'Mystery', just as the second group of climbers comes up the path from the parking area.  This is a sweetheart of a warm-up, and Jordan starts off on the small, well placed holds through the starting area as Heather is finishing up her climb.  Jordan makes short work of this challenge, he seems to have some pretty excellent technique. 

As I renew acquaintances with an old friend, all I can think about is the first time I climbed Mystery, back in the mists of time, when I accidentally started on the 11a beside it...  Ooops!  Mystery is just a fun climb, gets your gut into it, and your fingers all woken up.  Tall enough to be worth the effort, and the technical section around the third bolt is very pleasant.

The tree isn't in, as much as you want it to be, and I'm soon enjoying the view and anticipating our next climb.  We leave Mystery set up for the ladies to attack, and once they have cleaned off 'Flaming Arete' we grab the gear and set up to attack 'Real TV' a beautiful 5.10a.

This climb is all about the difficult lower-third, with that delicious big step on a right hand pull.  Jordan is seems a touch hesitant because of how low it is, and I remember how long it took me to accept that that was going to be my move the first time I touched that climb too...  Once through there to slightly easier climbing above he maneuvers out from under the roof and on to the big jugs above.

Now we're well and truly warmed up.  The ladies are thrashing away on Mystery, sounds like a ton of fun over there, and most of the routes on the wall have climbers on them.  No surprise that it's a crazy busy day at Cheakamous.  The only free choices now are 5.10d or 11a, so we go after the 10.d

'Polychronopolous' is the 5.10d.  From the ground it looks mighty slopey, which is concerning to me.  I'm still climbing in my old 5.10 Spires, which were wonderful shoes in their glory days.  I replaced them with Sportiva Mythos back before Skaha, and have started going back to them because the Mythos just aren't breaking in how I would have liked.  So I'm climbing on shoes that slip, and slip often... Concerning...

Jordan leads it, and has one of the most awkward moves of the day to get past the fourth bolt, but successfully completes the climb.  I pull the rope and prepare, Heather is going to be belaying my attempt, sporting Jordan's awesome belay specs.  Fashion model! 

The start is pleasant and straightforward, there are lots of those strange undercling pockets that abounded on Real TV, and they are useful.  The climbing starts to get trickier approaching the third bolt, and it becomes clear that I will be very off-balance while trying to get close to the fourth.  It's starting to look pretty smooth up here, and I'm getting concerned about the holding power of my rubber.

Wade All Spread Out On 'Polychronopoulous'
Slowly making my way up farther, I'm just below the fourth bolt when my right foot decides that it has had enough of the wall, as it slips free, sending me zipping back down the wall.  A nice soft catch from Heather, and I'm left hanging, examining the spot I just occupied, while looking for some more impressive seams for my feet.

I try again, keeping my weight more on the left, and my body more vertical, to get a hand on the fourth draw.  Good!  Another trial passed, I continue smearing my way up the slab, until I gain much friendlier holds above.  By this time I'm sweating buckets, it's quite a warm day, and so beautiful.

Karinya is belaying Jordan up 'In Your Face', and we finish up at about the same time.  He's ready for another challenge, so we start evaluating the last remaining route on the wall, 'Mystery TV' a 5.11a.

If I can add this to my tick list it will be my first 5.11a outdoor on lead, which would be a pretty awesome culmination to a great day.  Jordan again leads off, getting two bolts into a reachy climb before starting to have a problem.  It looks like there's almost no feet here, and the hands are tiny, tiny.  I don't envy him, but he's doggedly trying every possibility, to no avail.

After a mighty effort he's down to the ground, and I'm ready to do battle.  The first few moves are fine, but I'm quickly frustrated at the same point as Jordan.  Those two tiny pinches at the farthest reach of my arms really aren't doing much to support progress.  There's a questionable feature that might take some weight if I can get my left foot almost up to my waist without throwing myself completely off balance, but it's a hard, hard move. 

I did get the move started once, only to hear the horrifying sound of rubber sliding across granite as my shoe refused to hold and abandoned ship.  I'm spent, absolutely exhausted, and completely frustrated.  Is this truly my first defeat?  I think that is what we have here. 

With a heavy heart I deposit a quick-link on the wall as a monument to my failure.  Goodbye, perfect record.

Everybody is wrapped up, so it's time to head off to Alice Lake to enjoy some quality cool down time, while I try to forget my shame.  Mystery TV, I'll be back.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Area 44--Renewing Connections

As summer continues in Vancouver this year, we are in the midst of a record-breaking July, and these wonderful, long days just beg a person to get up to the rock after work.  The sun is up until almost 10, and there's more than enough daylight to climb by until well into the evening, with the added bonus of a nice drop in temperature.

Today we find ourselves in Area 44, as it's the closest great climbing area to home for an evening trip.  Mert, Sophie, and myself are excited to get up and at it, and we decide to start with Preview, an old friend.

Mert has no interest in climbing 'Bleu du Jour', which is one of my favorites, so we nominate 'I Might Possibly' as our first climb of the day.  A nice 5.9, it should be a nice introduction to granite for Sophie who, visiting from Switzerland, is used to climbing on featured limestone crags.

I Might Possibly
A tough starter, this climb is a gorgeous finisher, as long as you can stick with it to that point.  Mert declares himself the leader and begins his journey.  He makes the first bolt, which is always a good thing, but starts to hit some issues on the smooth face just above.  A couple slips, and several clever moves later, and he's up and over the first challenge, starting upward through the next two bolts. 

Now he's arrived at the real crux of the route, a really touchy section that relies on a couple of decent finger pockets coupled with wee little edges for your feet.  I know that I always use my right foot stretched waaaaay back to help feel a bit more comfortable through here, but Mert seems hesitant all of a sudden. 

He hangs out and ponders for a bit before asking to come down.  Seems the start just took too much out of him...  I guess that makes it my turn!

I'm Not Against It
I have a rather questionable approach to this climb, which treats me well with these beaten down, old shoes of mine.  I go way wide to the left, and start in some really mossy holds that allow some good positive placement.  With all the sweat on my body, the moss and dirt is just stuck all over me, and I'm mighty dirty by the time I reach the second bolt.

It's pretty smooth sailing from there, negotiating with the little finger-cracks just above the third bolt before passing through to some healthy jugs above.

Now it's time for Sophie's initiation to the granite club.  She heads straight up the face, electing to bypass the deadly swing-fall that going left could subject you to, and is making a very good show of it.  While trying to pass the first big bulge, however, she just doesn't have the upper-body strength to make the big pull over the lip.  After throwing everything, and the kitchen sink (including a unique heel-hook that I would never have thought of) at the climb, she elects to come down.

Mert goes one last time on top-rope, succeeding up through the top section, to clean the route so we can head down to 'I'm not Against it' which tilts the scale at 5.8.

Mert decides to redeem himself by taking the lead again, and he owns this fun little gem, employing some beautiful hand-over-hand shuffle move to pass the crux on the cracked flake.  This climb really is a sweetheart, and Mert's down and smiling in no time.

I'm up next, and it's nothing that hasn't happened before.  There's really not much else to say, that yawning crack is just so easy to secure yourself in with a big knee jam.

Sophie gets after it, and she is able to move very confidently up through the moves of this climb, having a few hiccups through the crux, but nothing remarkable.  She comes down to ground, smiling and happy.  Contentedly declaring, 'I hate crack' to echo Mert's steadfast belief. 

Sadly, our time today is at an end, and we load up for the return trip to the city.  A quick stop at Chevron for some ice cream and slightly discounted gas, make for a marvelous end to a beautiful trip.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Picking Up Where I Left Off...

As Canada Day approached, plans were made for a return to Cal Cheak and some more awesome Squamish climbing.  A rainy week brought back memories of last year's Yahtzee under the tarp marathon, but forecasters were all in agreement--record temperatures coming this weekend.  Pretty tough to believe on Friday night as I sat beside a small fire, listening to the rain pelting my tarp...

Saturday arrived, however, and the clouds were long gone.  Better late than never, and just in time, hopefully the rock will be dry in some areas, at least...  Over Wildwood breakfast Mert indicates his desire to sample the Nordic climbs that I was bragging on a couple weeks back, so we roam northward to the small, quiet area in Whistler.

Wade On 'Groovin' Mice'
Hiking in is wet.  Very wet, in fact.  I recall that there isn't a whole lot of vegetation above the climbing areas, however, so hopefully it won't be too drippy still...  After raving about the climbing on the Swiss Cheese wall, that's our first destination.  There's already somebody climbing the 5.7, so we set up on the 5.9 to warm up for what is promising to be a very, very, warm day.

Mert is as excited with his first look at the rock as I knew he would be, he's beside himself with joy.  He eagerly sets up to lead the first climb of the day, and I am reminded again of just how different some people can climb.  The route that he takes up the face and through the overhang is vastly different than what I had done on my first try here.  He shoots up the climb and is back down before you know it.

I pull the rope and set forth, determined to try and follow his route rather than the one that I remember taking.  I have limited success, and end up with a strange hybrid that is nonetheless very enjoyable.  By the time we're cleaned off the route even more climbers have arrived, and the Swiss Cheese wall is full.  Off to Midway, I guess.

There's nobody home on the Midway wall, so we set up on 'In Tha House' and Mert flies at it again.  He makes a few beautiful reaches through the bottom, and is pushing through the top before long.  A nifty little traverse at the end brings him to the station.  As he's is coming down, Mert giddily exclaims that this is his best day of climbing in Vancouver, ever!  Wow.  I knew he would like it here, but that's some high praise indeed.

'In Tha House'
Taking my turn, I remember just how much I didn't like the reachy, awkward part below the second bolt, but I certainly did a better job of it today.  The top is just pleasant, I love the big reaches and pulls.  It's a quick climb, though, and I'm soon down at the bottom.

We move next to 'Droolin Jugs' which is over at the far right of the wall, next to a very intriguing 5.11a that is just begging for some attention.  Mert moved very well through the start, and worked out a tricky spot on the arête that didn't seem to make him smile too much.  Once it was my turn I thought I had a pretty good plan.  As I started up, however, I quickly discovered that I had my hands mixed up.  Bad.  Hard to recover from.  I expended way too much energy trying to get back to a comfortable position, and couldn't get it out of my head when I continued up...  As I arrived at the arête I just couldn't recall the moves that Mert had taken up, so I started experimenting.

I quickly found myself in a very comfortable position around the back of the rock, with my right leg wedged solidly in a gaping crack, trying valiantly to reach out to get the rope clipped in to the next draw.  It was a million mile reach, and I couldn't get it.  My body fatiguing from the horrible position, all I could see was what a magnificent whipper of a fall I would take if I didn't sort myself out soon.  I had gotten myself into a rather dangerous place, and it didn't feel too good.  I carefully maneuvered my body back to the face of the arête, and using a couple of massive leg-hooks combined with less-than-optimal holds, I managed to get myself back on track.

Mert preparing for 'Finntastic'
The climb went much more smoothly from there, and I was back on the ground in due course, looking for our next adventure.  Logically, after you have climbed 5.9's, you go on to a 10a, and there just happens to be one on a small outcropping above the Midway Wall.  We head there next, and find 'Finntastic' nestled in behind some mossy boulders. 

A very short climb, it is highly rated and looks really interesting, so it's gotta be done.  Mert has some issues on his climb, so when my turn comes I'm ready for whatever this bright green rock has to offer.

As always, my ideas are very different from Mert's, and I find myself quickly stretched to the max, bridged between the main rock and a giant flake that detached from it a few hundred years ago.  It had seemed like a great way to work my way through some thin holds, but now I'm as far up as that technique will take me, painfully overextended, with shoes that are worn out and slipping.  As my legs are about to give up the ghost I gather myself for one lunge at a promising hold.  I just barely manage to get fingers on it, and am lucky enough to get stable and make a solid move up the rest of the way.

Definitely one of the more interesting climbs that I have encountered, it's time to move on.  We drop back down to Midway and reflect on the 5.11a.  It's getting quite warm out, and I don't feel like the shoes that I have are quite ready to tackle an 11a, so we decide to trek off to the Go Gadget wall to check out a 10b.

Go Gadget Shoes, 5.10b
We eventually find the climb, no small feat, perched precariously on a gravelly hill.  Not quite a belay stance to write home about, the climb looks like a beauty.  There seems to be some strangeness with bolt positioning on a big roof near the top of the climb, but it's too far away to see if there's something to be concerned about right now.

Mert gets going on the route, three bolts in and starting to maneuver underneath the roof, he's just loving life.  This climb really tests his versatility, and getting out from under that roof looks quite challenging, but totally within reach.  He vanishes over the top, and I'm admiring the rope dancing around as Mert finishes the climb and returns to the ground.  That looked awesome, I am really looking forward to this one.

I am up to a rather high second bolt almost immediately, and reach up to lock my left hand into a decent crack over my head before trying to make the next sequence of moves when I notice a very significant pain in my left shoulder.  I try making the move a few more times, but the pain is bad once my arm is over my shoulder, and trying to close my fingers is just plain excruciating.  This is not good.

What a lousy spot to be in.  Somebody has to finish this route, but I'm in a lot of pain, and climbing isn't possible with only one arm.  Balls.  I concede defeat, but will still execute my responsibilities.  In a shameful display which I won't even talk much about, I gain the top of the climb and begin what is possibly the hardest route-cleaning ever.  With the big overhang and crazy rope angles, by the time I get down I'm bleeding from even more places than I already was!

My day is done, but Mert isn't ready to stop yet.  He wants to hop over to the 'Zoo' and hit 'Funky Monkey' a tricky 5.10c.  He starts out well enough, but soon discovers that he is too worn and tired for this climb.  He branches over to Bumbly, a 5.9, for the finish of an amazing day.

I have a great feeling of satisfaction as we return to the car, but am more than a little concerned about that pain in my shoulder...  We shall see...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Whistler--Not Just For Drunken Partying Anymore?

Sunday comes, bright and shiny, and we decide to revive a Cal Cheak tradition.  Breakfast at the Wildwood Café in Function Junction.  Good breakfast food, simple and filling, they also have a cranberry sourdough bread that is to die for.  We strike camp and head off in search of nourishment, discussing the plan for the day.
There's a small grouping of crags in Whistler's Nordic subdivision that has been eliciting a lot of curiosity for quite some time now, and since we're already here it just seems logical to give it a look.  The descriptions in the guidebook are very intriguing, the rock isn't granite, but volcanic basalt, and it sounds like a very different animal.
Well fed we head for the short drive up to the crags.  Finding the trailhead is a cinch, but finding parking is a touch concerning.  Whistler has some very different parking regulations, and I can't think of a bigger disaster than coming back after a day on the rock and not having a car to go home with!  After much discussion we decide on a place that seems legit sand we load up for the promised 10 minute trek in.
According to information that I acquired from the Squamish Access Society's website, there has been a recent 'Adopt-A-Crag' day here, dedicated to improving trail access and climb base conditions.  A wonderful idea, I hope to participate in one this year, and need to hurry up and contribute to the sport that I love so much.
The hike up is wonderful, scrambling up the talus to a series of fixed rope traverses, it serves to get the brain focussed on the day, and we're soon arriving at the climbing zone itself.  There are several crags close together at this point, and we have selected 'Swiss Cheese' to be the sampler for the area, with a  number of lower-graded, very highly rated climbs.
I don't know about swiss cheese, to me the rock looks more like old trees that have come under assault from decades of woodpeckers, but to each their own. Either way, it looks like something completely different here.
Logical progression being, well, logical, the obvious starting point is with the 5.7, and we'll see what we say after that.
As I stand at the start of "Cheese Grater" a 15m 5.7, I start caressing the pocketed face, quickly discovering that the pockets that look best don't seem to be ideal.  The ones that are really money are the ones that look insignificant and useless.  As I start on my climb it becomes quickly apparent that these little pockets, although marvelous for fingers, are not quite ideal for my big ol' feet. 
This climb has two decent ledges on the way up, and I'm on the first without much issue.  Nearing the third bolt the holds start to thin out quite a bit, and I notice that they are really, really sharp.  It's no big thing, some of them are worn nicely.  It takes some long reaches, but I have the technology, and I'm up without much trouble. 
That was definitely something different, but a lot of fun for a 5.7.  Not much to say about a view from here, and the constant traffic noise coming up from the highway makes communication a little questionable, but a good start to the day.  Heather shoots up with one small slip at the smooth spot, proving that even her little feet aren't the best friend of these holds.
Feeling good about the rock and my general feeling today, we evaluate the 5.8 off to the right.  Much more vertical, with a tree growing right up beside the route to complicate things.  It's got an almost-overhang up near the top to keep things interesting.  The start is in a bit of a crack, and my body position feels very, very awkward while I'm trying to get to the first bolt.
I make the bolt and throw a big heel hook out into the crack to get enough support to get up behind the tree.  A good little ledge here allows me to evaluate my next moves while using my height advantage to get another quickdraw on the wall.  I seem to keep ending up in very awkward positions on this climb, with my feet having a very hard time staying centred underneath my body, getting involved in a series of push-up type moves to advance through the middle of the climb.  It's a very pleasant sequence, leaving me smiling.
The steep bulge underneath the anchor forces the climber to commit to some pretty small footholds while reaching about as far as I can to get up and over.  With a couple more steps I'm at the top, as the sun breaks through a cloud and lights up the spot where I am building an anchor.  As I'm coming down I take the opportunity to admire the bolts that protect our lives as we climb.  Questionable work, some of them.  I would come down pretty hard on an apprentice for burying a bolt so deep and not cranking some threads back through.  And not even stainless!  That's just not impressive at all!
I digress...  Next up is a four-star 5.9, 'The Cat Came Back' which has an absolutely gorgeous roof section.  Starts in a big crack, and uses a LOT of leverage to move up to even the first bolt.  The hands are secure, and so is the whole body, but there really isn't much for a foot all on its own.  As I come around from inside the crack and move over to the right I quickly find myself tucked up underneath the roof.  I know there's a bolt just above the roof, and those super-handy long arms allow me to search for it to get some security before some big reaches.  I locate it, clip in, and select a pair of massive, comfortable, handholds. I lean WAAAAAAY back, finally getting a clear look at the next section.  Much like the rest of this area the rock has abundant holds, and I start trying to get my feet up above the roof by pretty much using arm power to start off.
The final section of this climb sees me throwing down a series of sweet laybacks to reach the anchor on one of the most amusing climbs that I have played on in quite some time.  Totally worth the four-star rating!
Swiss Cheese is exhausted now, the only other route being traditional, so we walk up to the Midway wall, which has some interesting sounding climbs.
The first effort on this crag will be 'In Tha House' which is another 5.9.  It starts pretty tame, not too much effort to get the first two bolts, which is always nice.  Then things start to get confusing.  The healthy supply of holds seem to tell me to favour left, but the anchors are trending right...  The logical answer, I guess, is to take the right side of left!  I soon found myself somewhat stuck, with a  beautiful undercling down by my waist the only thing keeping me on the wall.  After climbing all morning on big, positive holds this was somewhat refreshing.
I was able to move through that section with a very questionable foot placement which got me enough altitude to get my claws onto some decent outcroppings above.  Now I was ABOVE the height of the anchor chains, and still 2M away to the left.  Oops...  I had to go hand-over-hand to get back to the chains, then cling for dear life while trying to secure myself!  That was almost the biggest effort of the climb.  Another spectacular route, this Nordic area is pretty awesome.
After that climb we decided that we had best head off, as some deadly dark clouds were threatening, and the hot, muggy air was getting unpleasant.  What an awesome day though.  I was eyeing up a 5.11a while on Midway, and I hope to develop a relationship with it soon.

Step OFF!

After being in the city for two whole weeks cabin fever is setting in HARD.  I need out, and I need out now.  The weather is looking pretty good this Father's Day weekend, and it's time to head back out into the forest. 

Cal Cheak has changed over the winter.  It looks like a logging company had a field day.  There's no way that they can justify this kind of destruction as being for safety purposes, but the signs try to pass it off as such.  What a load of bull.  Thankfully the mosquitos haven't gone anywhere, and it is still far away from the horrible, horrible, city.

Saturday dawns, and a very exhausted pair prepare to head to Cheakamous in search of some awesomeness.  It's a little bit of a late start, not feeling a lot of motivation, and we decide to head a little off of the beaten path in order to possibly avoid some traffic. 

We had climbed at The Crest once before, and it was good, so we slogged up the hill and into the trees, quickly locating a likely 5.9 to try and get going on.

'Step Off' was one of the climbs on the lower tier of the crag, so we were ready to go quickly.  An obvious crack is the obvious start, but there really isn't much in the way of foot support available.  My fingers have got some nasty cracks in the joints right now, so this might not be the best way to start the weekend. 

It's good, but it hurts.  I work my shuffle my hands up the crack a few times to gain the first bolt, and am able to reach up and over left to a good hold on a ledge.  Mostly dangling off my left hand, I match hands quickly and throw my left leg up and onto the ledge while reaching my left hand way back on the ledge, hoping to find something to grab...

Luckily, something is actually there, and it is another, much friendlier, crack for my throbbing fingers to stab in to. Safely to the ledge, I make the second quickdraw and begin some very careful work on some little edges, moving slowly up a very smooth bulge, the obvious crux of the route.

The feet were pleasant, and getting over the bulge wasn't excessively taxing, although I wasn't feeling like an all-star at this point, and I found that the obvious crux was not, at least for me, the crux at all.  About 3M below the anchor chains, standing comfortably upon a solid outcropping, I was confronted with a very, very, high step, with pretty much nothing visible to grab above.  The angle on the rock wasn't overly steep, and I could almost believe that a bold lunge would allow me to reach an unseen hold that I was hoping would be there, but the first few exploratory moves didn't fill me with confidence, and the feeling of propelling myself off the rock was not the most comforting thing in the world...

Stymied, I kept working to find something excellent, or at least less tenuous, but it just didn't seem in the cards.  A big left foot up, stemming from the right, and trying to steady myself on the nothingness with my arms spread wide, I found myself slowly grinding my hand up the rock, never really finding anything at all, but reaching the chains all the same.

I hate days like this, when nothing feels excellent.  My hands are on fire, my feet are screaming at me, and all I want to do is sit in the shade and relax.  Bah.

Now Heather's eyeing up the rather tall start, pondering how best to approach it.  After many very creative efforts and a fair bit of blood from some of her more... dynamic...  attempts, we decide to call it a day, neither of us really being in the mood to be there.

You win some, you lose some, I guess...  Oh well, way too beautiful a weekend to get too wound up about this!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

I hate you, Emil!

After working ALL weekend after waiting so long for the sun to grace us with it's presence, I just had to get out and have some fun.  I can't stand looking out the window and seeing a beautiful day while I'm all cooped up inside!

I had been corresponding with a couple of couchsurfers while trying to decide if it was worth it to head up late on a Sunday afternoon, and decided it was a good idea to try.  I hurried and pushed, and was able to get out of work around quarter to three, and quickly made my way home.  The car was still loaded and waiting, so we ripped down Broadway to pick up Sarah.

A nice, friendly young lady from Leeds with no outdoor climbing experience but a lot of enthusiasm, we enjoyed chatting while I drove up to Cheakamous Canyon.  Arriving in a PACKED parking lot, already 5PM, it was pretty obvious that we would be climbing close to the parking area, just from a time standpoint, and with so little to choose from, it was Emil and the Detectives stepping up to the plate.

I don't love this climb, for some reason I find the start of the second pitch to be just nightmarish, but you can't fight city hall, so our path is set.  This first pitch is a snap, and some nice climbing as I listened to the ladies below chatting and giggling.  What a beautiful evening.  I got the station all set up and belayed Sarah up to the anchor, she looked very confidant coming up, moving without much hesitation on her first outdoor pitch.  Heather followed quickly, and then I started trying to convince her that she wanted to lead the second pitch.

Alas, it was not to be, and I was given the duty to lead again.  The second pitch is short and simple, but there's one move just at the start that I just have a very hard time dealing with.  Today was no different.  It's annoying to have that much difficulty with such a simple move.  Oh well, I guess it is what it is.  I'm at the top, belaying again before you know it. 

The view up here is magnificent, which, I think, is probably the reason that Heather selected this climb for our guest to experience for the first climb.  The whole time that I was belaying Heather up Sarah was happily ooh-ing and aah-ing while snapping away with her camera. 

Now for the sticky part:  Sarah hasn't rappelled since a short class she took quite some time ago.  Heather sets herself up to demonstrate and descends without issue.  I help Sarah set up and try to show her how the mechanism is working.  She is nervous, understandably, and proceeds slowly, but she gets it done, and is able to get down to Heather at the mid station without much trouble.

Soon we're all at the bottom, and we realize it's already almost 7 o'clock!  Time sure flies, Sarah needs to be back in the city for eight, so we pack up after a very brief outing.  What a weekend!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Lost In The Well Of Souls

After getting rained out on Saturday, only an idiot would had back out on a Sunday that holds a similar forecast.  At least I accept what I am!

Sunday found Heather, Mert, and I (eventually) heading up to Cheakamous.  I needed to stop for some chili.  Then Heather needed a coffee.  And Mert wanted insurance, for reasons nobody can understand.  I also wanted to make some inquiries about real estate, but it turns out they weren't open.
Mert on Marion Ravenswood
After much discussion on the drive up Mert persuaded us to hit the 'Well Of Souls' for some good quick warmups.  With a name like that, how can you go wrong?  I submit that you can't. 

What a trek in.  It seemed to stretch forever, passing all the major climbing areas at Chek, until finally Heather spotted a sign on a tree guiding us the last steps of the way.  We found ourselves at the top of one of the boulders that make up the well, and since there was no obviously better way, we decided to rappel down to the base.

At this point we discovered that Heather's shoes were still in the trunk of the car.  Awesome.  Ever forgiving of her injured knee, I trekked back to acquire her shoes, figuring that I would return to find Mert mid ascent after setting up on a 5.9 called 'I Hate Snakes' to rappel.

I found a more cleverer way to access the base of the climbs, and arrived to discover that no climbing had yet been done!  Wow, this really is the slowest day ever!  The team back together, we finally got some climbing happening.

Heather on Marion Ravenswood
The base of the climb was very reachy, leading to some rather uncomfortable moves for Mert and I, and some damned impressive dynos by Heather.  After popping over left, the climbing got pretty, with the other boulder encroaching on your shoulder.  Some decent jugs gained the top of a pretty enjoyable start.

By this time two other groups had set up on the other two climbs that we intended to tackle, leaving us with a rather unfriendly 5.10d or a very interesting looking 5.10b.  We elected to take down the 10b next, and Mert was the first contestant.

A Stab in the Dark's crux was the start, no question about that.  A high first bolt and almost non-existant holds led to some pretty tricky moves.  So balancy, then such a big reach onto a powerful crimp.  Mert made it look pretty easy, and when Heather was ready to start she was already despairing.

I had tried playing with the start already, and had a sense of just how bad it was, but Heather made the first balance like it was nothing.  A couple of nimble moves later and she was ready for a monster move.  She tried it, and just couldn't exert enough squish on the rock to stick.  A few more tries with the same result, and decided to give in, for the first time in a long time.

Now it's my shot, and that start is still horrible.  There really isn't anything there for the right hand, just some weird quartz crystal that looks awesome, but is really hard on the hands.  The sad thing is, once you get your balance in that start you just have to move on, somehow, and move on I did.  Carefully moving through the small, balancy stuff to get to the more generous holds above with fingers aching.  It's great to reach some golden holds like these, you can ham it up a bit and have some fun.

That was a really fun climb, and I'm very pleased with myself.  With no other options available in the Well right now we elect to head back out and search for some big opportunities back towards the parking area.

--Editor's note:  I have since learned that the initial interpretation of the topo for this area was incorrect.  The first climb was a 5.9 called "Marion Ravenwood" the second, "A Stab in the Dark" has been re-graded as 5.10d as critical holds at the start have broken off.--

Arriving at the parking area, and already late in the day, we decide to hit up Conroy's Castle for some awesome scenery and tall climbing.  It's busy here, but we find "The Flying Classroom" available and decide that Mert should experience this big, bold climb.

Not for the faint of heart, "The Flying Classroom" is only a 5.7 and won't test your skill much, but it sure tests your gut.  The protection on this 23M beast is about as spaced out as you could make it.  I remember climbing this one last on a day that I wasn't feeling like awesome, and am looking forward to another visit to enjoy this climb.

I managed to convince Mert to take lead as I had already had the pleasure of doing it once myself, and after some cajoling he tied in and started going.  He was quickly up to the second draw, moving up easily.  Until he wasn't...  The gap between two and three is plenty far, and there really aren't any holds to work with there, Mert stalled, and realized that he was high enough that if he slipped without getting the next clip there was a good chance to deck.  Not fun.  I was starting to get nervous, watching him trying to get the last couple inches to the bolt, remembering how I felt when I was there a few weeks ago.  It's really a tough spot!  He succeeded in getting the draw on, but that was the end of the climb for him.  He insisted that I bring him back down.

I took over the lead, finishing the climb and enjoying the gorgeous view while I set up the anchor and came down to give Heather and Mert a chance to try the moves as well.  I really love that climb.

I think it's beer o'clock, and Howe Sound Brewery is just 15 minutes away.  What a great day!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Skaha Adventures!!

I would have to say that this Skaha trip was one of the best vacations I have been on in awhile. It had the perfect mix of all the elements that I love! The combination of cute animal sightings, climbing days, wine touring and some relaxing by a campfire all made this trip very enjoyable.... that is, until we had to leave! Noooooooooooo!!

Climbing in Skaha reminds me of a huge playground, so much to do and so little time to do it all! Which means you get to come back again and again and it will be different each time. We have not even walked to all the different crags yet because there are so many, ridiculously awesome!!!

I loved the number of different little critters we saw this trip, the desert is so full of life! From the baby duckies swimming around the moat of our campsite, the frog in the garbage can that scared me half to death, the marmot at the winery, the many fascinating bird species, and the deer feasting away on the side of the road at dusk. All of these made me smile to watch, but, the highlight for me was the evening at out campsite when I noticed that the ground was moving. Worms were everywhere! These were no small tiny worms, they were big, fat and about ten inches long each! With them coming up from all sides of our campsite we were surrounded by these creatures looking for dry land to camp out on. It was really amazing to see this because there were so many and they moved so quickly once they got going. If you ever get to experience staying in a flooding campsite I hope you get to see this because it is really memorable to see!

Back to climbing...

One of the highlights for myself was climbing lead on the Daycare crag, I just get such a thrill while climbing this way. Knowing that I am safe, but if I fall...eek!!! What a thrill! I also have the support of Wade telling me that I am doing great and looking fantastic so it helps push me along.

Having Wade do the majority of the lead climbing really eases my mind because some days it is very terrifying! On top rope I can do all sorts of fancy moves I would not be confident enough to try while leading. Watching Wade lead climb makes me a little bit envious of his courage and no fear of falling! One day I will get there!!

Overall the trip was awesome with my overall favorite climb being the 10.a on our second day!

What a fabulous time at the bluffs :)

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Inadvertant 11.b

Another half-decent weekend, another chance to help my youngest daughter, Daisy, discover how awesome climbing on real rock can be.  She had so much fun her first time out, it's all she was talking about.  Now for round two!

It's not the most beautiful day ever, a little rainy in some places, but I'm nonetheless confident that the essentially rain-free forecast in Squamish will be accurate.  Famous last words, those, but onwards we roll.  The destination is Murrin Park, a crag called the Sugarloaf holds a large collection of super-easy climbs.  I have never seen a 5.4 before, but there's three of them here, along with a delightful leavening of 5.7-5.9's.  It's all trad up here, which means that it will be top-rope o'clock, but that's the name of the game when you're climbing with a ten year old.

It was a late start, leaving Po Compton at 10, so it was about 11:30 by the time we arrived at the parking lot.  It was a very short trip up to the crag, thankfully, but upon arriving we found all three of the bolt pairs in the area that I intended to use already full up.  Not excessively surprising, and totally ok.  These are not the only routes in the area!

I hike up to the top of a very high rated 5.8 and I learn something new about the Squamish Select guidebook:  a solid red circle at the anchor indicates a 'gear anchor' and a red and white circle is used to indicate bolts.  Oh.  I guess third time's the charm.  Another 5.8, just a little farther over.  It shares an anchor with Block and Tackle, a very intimidating 5.11b.  Daisy should be able to handle the 5.8 with some effort, then Heather and I can take a turn too.  I set up anchor and rappel down, only to discover that the perspective of the photo in the book is pretty misleading.

If I let my daughter climb the 5.8, which is certainly within her abilities, I will be setting her up for a catastrophically dangerous swing-fall in the event that she fails to send it.  I look at it, and compare thoughts with Heather.  We agree that I would be completely irresponsible to allow her to try the 5.8.  She's good enough to get to a very, very dangerous point.  Well.  Strike two on the day.  Now I need to go get my gear back and find someplace else to climb.

Bah.  I think I should let her try Block and Tackle for a bit.  She doesn't know it's massively hard, she just loves to climb.  Who knows, if she gets something going, she will be so proud.  She ties in and starts trying.  And trying.  And trying again.  After about 20 minutes she's getting frustrated, so I lower her back to earth.  Upon informing her that she was working an 11.b I got an earful.  11.B!!!  What were you thinking!!!  Right, sorry.  But you did well, dear!

The idea of walking up and around was not something exciting to me, so I strap on my climbing shoes and tie in.  I have only climbed a few 11.b's in the gym, which is generally considered to be soft on grade, so I don't have a whole lot of confidence, although the climb looks attainable.  On top rope, what can I really worry about anyways.  The book says it's a lot of arms and pulls, so it should dovetail nicely with my climbing style.

The tricky start promised by the guidebook is just that, very specific placement of feet to support decent handholds to prevent burning my arms out on the massive flake at the bottom of the climb.  Slowly working my way up, the crack opens up too much for a good finger lock, so it's elbows deep!  If I fail though here I'm going to be facing a significant swing, and I try to keep that in mind as I work my way up.  Moving up the flake is awkward, my left foot outside on the face, my right behind me on the opposite wall when it's not on the ridge of the crack.  Weird positioning!  Arriving at the roof I find a decent hold and assess my situation.

There's not a lot to stand on, but this wonderful, sticky, granite should offer enough to move up and out.  Since I rappelled down I do have some unfair knowledge of just what I'm facing, and I know that the character of the climb is about to change from big and bold to smooth and dainty.  I reach up and over, left hand, right hand, and start shuffling my body left.   After a few 'steps' I find enough below to push my leg up and over, on to the ramp.  Wow!!  I cannot believe that I just made it here!  This is so exhilarating!

The last 4M comes fairly easily, it's such a low angle that hands are really only for assurance, but that's a good thing, because my heart is racing!  High above Petgill Lake, with a little bit of the highway in view, I'm on top of the world, figuratively speaking.  That was a major ascent, tainted only slightly by the fact that I had to do it on top rope.

One of the anchors over on the easier part of the crag has freed, so I wrap up the gear and head that way, setting up so Daisy can get some climbing in.  Powersmart (5.9) and Magnet (5.4) are the options presented by this location.  Magnet is supposed to be a very high quality climb, it achieved a 4 star rating from the book, and the little one is eager to get climbing.

As she starts moving up the clouds start to make their presence felt.  The rain starts falling, and Daisy gets concerned.  I'm not sure if she's made of sugar, or just apprehensive about climbing wet rock, but the child is hesitant for the first time ever.  She's doing an awesome job working her way up the cracks, becoming more confidant as she travels upwards.

She handled it nicely, in what is starting to become a decent downpour.  The biggest problem that she faced last time was trying to descend, and this time she did much better.  Instead of trending sideways to keep her belayer in sight, she was able to turn her back to me and walk down pretty much backwards.  An excellent improvement.

Heather elects to hit Powersmart.  Quel surprise, she opts out of the 5.4!  There's really not much to say about this climb, she ran up it as the rain poured down, and I followed and started wrapping up the rope and gear while they cleaned up at the bottom.  Rained out, it's time to head for a much deserved milkshake!