Sunday, 31 March 2013

Cheakamous--Long Weekend Edition

The long weekend is drawing to an end with the most amazing day yet in 2013.  Temperatures are reaching into the low 20's and everybody is loving life.  We decide to return to Cheakamous, as it was under-explored last year for such a huge and wonderful area. 

Heather wants to try some sport multi-pitch today, and practice her rapelling skills.  Sounds good to me.  We arrive at Conroy's Castle, intending to try both Emil and the Detectives and Charlotte's Web.  We start with Emil and the Detectives, as there is another group on Charlotte's Web.  I take lead today as Heather hasn't belayed from above yet.

The first pitch isn't hard, but today feels off.  I had to take a couple takes to re-assess my moves and rest my weary body before I made the top, but what a gorgeous day.  The shirt comes off and finds it's way into a pocket before I belay Heather up to join me.

The second pitch doesn't go much better for me.  I guess it just isn't my day.  I struggle and flail, but reach the top and am rewarded with an amazing view before I set up to bring Heather up to join me.  This is just the best.  I really could get used to this.  The sun is hot, I'm sweating, just a little.  Life is glorious.

I get one last stunning view once Heather has set up her rappel and then I follow her down.

Somebody is still on Charlotte's Web, so we decide to move farther down the crag.  When checking out the Interwebs earlier in the day I discovered an update to the Squamish Select guide that has reported a new route on the crag.  This seems like as good a day as any to try 'The Flying Classroom' a 19M 5.7.

Once we're situated I start off.  Start is good, I'm feeling a lot better now.  This climb is not for the faint of heart!  It's only a 5.7, the holds are nice, but not too plentiful, and the spacing on the bolts is about as far apart as someone would want to see!  Really gut-check time while making the moves up this climb. 

Being such a new climb the face is still REALLY dirty, lots of moss and lichen to liven up the terrain, and I booted loose a couple good clumps of grass that were occupying my footholds.  Watch out, Heather!

There wasn't really anything too remarkable about the climb overall, but it was good to get a winner under my belt today, and this one certainly qualifies.  Couldn't lead this one with confidence problems!

Heather's climb is still entrancing.  She makes her way up through the areas that I thought would give her issues by finding holds I didn't even see, I guess.  Love to watch those moves.

A great end to the long weekend, it's time to head off to Howe Sound Brewery.  O Yeah!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Cheakamous Canyon--Foundation Of Snow

When we went to Area 44 last week Heather and I had taken a short trip a little farther up the road to see if Cheakamous was ready for us.  It wasn't, there was still a half metre of snow on the ground, although the rock was pretty dry in most places.  After a week of beautiful weather we decided to see if things had changed.

Boy, had they ever!  There were about ten cars up in the upper parking area and almost no snow left anywhere.  Awesome time!

We headed off to the Foundation Wall because of it's nice moderates and very close location.  The temperature still wasn't high, but we were looking at double digits finally.  We set up on the 5.7, 'Flaming Arete' and Heather took the lead. 

After she daintily flew up the route I took my turn.  This is a climb that I like.  The moves are basic, the holds friendly, and there are options available for you to make your own ascent in the way that suits your movement style and body type.  It was a great warmup, and just an overall pleasant climb.

We moved over to the 5.8 next door, 'A Chossy Arete' which frankly sucks.  I will NOT do this route again, and will refuse to belay anyone who wants to climb it.  The belay stance is horrid, and the whole time your climber is ascending there will be dirt getting coming down onto your rope and into your shoes.  It's something that I had climbed before, but today's ascent will be my last.

After that debacle we wanted to continue with the logical progression and hit up a 5.9.  There are two to choose from at Foundation, one that we had climbed before, a 15M gem called 'Mystery' and an 8M route as well.  We felt that 8M is really a waste of time, and there was another party working Mystery.  Scratch the 5.9, lets try 'Mystery TV' a highly-rated 5.10a.

This lead is mine, and all I can say is DAMN.  The climb started with a couple of good reaches, and once I was level with the first draw I was facing another BIG reach.  There were a couple factors contributing to my problems at this point.  The only move I could find to execute required a monster high step on my right, while my right hand was pinching a decent hold so that I could force my left hand up to what looked like a reasonable cut in the rock, allowing my left foot to access what looked like not much! 

My issue with this was that I had re-injured my right hand a few weeks prior.  It wasn't giving me direct pain, but I was hesitant to really put it on the line.  Being so low I knew that I was in real danger of hitting ground if the plan that I saw in my mind didn't pan out in reality. 

Oh well, a faint heart never laid a lovely lady, did it?  I plant and drive up my left side, quickly getting my right following up to a notch a touch above my left hand.  This is more than enough to swing my feet up to some decent holds and get the second bolt in.  PHEW!  Safer now, the next couple sequences are cake, and now I need to find a way out from this bulging overhang just above my head.

That was a cool sequence too, and it led to some very good, balancy moves to finish the climb.  That was absolutely the best climb that I have taken down this year.  It beats Zoe because there was no slips or weird route finding issues.  Love it.

Watching Heather on her climb makes me shake my head though.  I'm probably a better climber than her, I have height and strength advantages, but watching her is just entrancing.  She usually makes effortless, confident moves with speed and surety that I wish that I could find some days.  I feel I climb mostly on guts and muscle, where she climbs on magic and beauty.  It's a great contrast.  She's definitely a better climber than I am once we're outside.

Another glorious March climb in the books and it's feeling like beer o'clock!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Area 44, SNOW DAY!!!

With Penticton an alcohol fuelled bust, (OF AWESOMENESS!) we decided to check out Area 44, to see if there was still snow there.  The temperature was only just above zero, but we loaded up and headed down to Preview.  No snow on the ground, so we set up on a 5.7 to start our afternoon.

Heather was taking first lead, and she ably climbed for half the climb before she hit something that caused problems.  Not sure what, as we have both climbed this pleasant little route on many occasions, but she was stuck for a short while, and had to work hard to find the holds she needed.  After she came down I started to prep.

I learned one thing from that cold weather at Skaha:  keep your shoes under your coat so you aren't strapping blocks of ice onto your feet.  This helped a lot, but there's nothing you can do to heat the granite, and before the second draw I was starting to lose my fingers again.  I'm used to this, it happens everywhere, all the time.  But it doesn't make for pleasant climbing, not by a long shot.  Shortly after my hands the feet started to feel the cold, and things just started coming off the rails.

I arrived at the same point that Heather had paused at, and every move was causing me pain.  Anything I touched hurt, and I couldn't tell if my hands were doing anything unless I could see them.  It was impossible to know if my feet were on anything unless I could see it, and even then I couldn't trust.  How can you trust something under those conditions.  I can see my foot on the flake, but is it holding any weight at all?  Fuck.

It took me WAY longer to pass this point than Heather did.  I was getting very frustrated with myself.  It was weird, to be so distracted by the discomfort that I really couldn't do much of anything.  Very annoying.  When I made it back to ground we noticed that it was snowing.  Yes, again, we were climbing in the snow. 

This trip, however, was to be even shorter than the Skaha day.  After that one climb we packed up.  It was just too cold, and Area 44's climbs are so high that you spend way too much time on the freezing granite.

Another day, Area 44...

Monday, 18 March 2013

Skaha Day 2

Upon waking up today we discovered that the black car parked in our spot had become white overnight.  Yes, for real, it was snow covered.  Seriously?  Time for a planning session!

We discussed our options over coffee and looked soberly at the weather forecast.  It didn't encourage us, so we decided to head up to Kelowna to try out their climbing gym and check out a favorite brewery, Tree Brewing.

The snow kept up, alternating with rain the whole way, and when we arrived at the climbing gym we discovered that it wasn't going to be open until 3PM.  What?  It's spring break, how pathetic is that?  Off to the brewery!!!!

After some delicious beer samples and lunch we decided to go and hit the rest of the wineries that we had missed the day previous, and whilst doing that we decided that we were going to head back to the city and see what adventures we could find there.

Planning the return to Skaha for late May.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Penticton Or Bust?

The date has finally arrived for a much-awaited, much-debated trip to Penticton to climb the Skaha Bluffs.  This might sound crazy, but we're well prepared, the forecast has been looking good for weeks, and Heather has a week off, so I take a week off so we can try our hands at the gneiss crags in the interior.

Come departure day the forecast has taken a turn for the worse, and is showing very unimpressive things to us.  So we pack our snowshoes so we can enjoy whatever we find when we get there.  The drive up was NIGHTMARISH.  I'm from Vancouver.  It rains here.  I drive in it all the freaking time, but the rain leaving town was Biblical.  I was just waiting to see some dude building an ark in a field in Abottsford, not kidding.  Didn't help that I've only been driving the Mazda for 4 months now.

After passing Hope things really started looking up, and it was a pretty sunny and pleasant drive the rest of the way.  When we arrived in Penticton our spirits were buoyed by the vistas over the lake.  No snow up there, and everything looks dry.  Once we located our hotel (after a quick stop at the Wine Visitor's Centre to get a list of open vineyards) we selected a restaurant near our hotel for a planning session.

Dinner was awesome, and we made a plan for the morning's adventure.  On the way back to the hotel we were about to cross the street at a green light when something made me stop and grab Heather.  Seconds later a car went ripping through the intersection, directly in front of us, stopping about 3M past the pedestrian crossing.  Wow.  I thought only Vancouver drivers were horrible.  Terrifying.  We made it back to the hotel with no further remarkable incident.

The next morning dawned clear and crisp.  Temperatures were just a couple degrees above freezing, so we went and grabbed some breakfast and decided that we came to climb, so climb we shall.  We loaded up the car and headed for Skaha Bluffs park.  Once parked it was a pleasant 15 minute hike in to the climbing area.  We didn't see any people, but there was a pair of mountain goats that were quite interested in us.  Cool.

We arrived at the Lower Red Tail Crag.  This was pretty tough, Skaha is HUGE, and there are dozens of crags waiting for climbers.  It took a couple tries to find our goal, but once we did it was time to get 'er done. 

I tried to persuade Heather to take first lead, but failed to convince her, so I tied in for my first crack at Skaha rock.  A 5.6 called 'Pried and Joy' was selected to be our intro to this new area.  The rock is VERY different than what I'm used to back home.  There's lots more feature to it than the climbs that we have used in the Sea to Sky corridor. 

The climbing on this route was pleasant, but the cold took away the feeling in my left hand and feet almost immediately.  It was a good thing that the holds were bigger, because otherwise I would have had some problems.  Also a good thing that it was only a 12M climb, because I wasn't having a lot of fun.  Can't trust what you can't feel, so I was sweating bullets most of the way up a lacklustre climb.

Heather didn't much care for it either, and after her quick ascent we moved over to 'Pry Baby' which is rated a 5.7.  I was cold from the start, no two ways around it.  It was certainly a much more enjoyable climb though, and I had to appreciate that, but once it was over that was it for our day.  We packed up and hiked out.  I was unsteady on the ground because my feet were so numb.  Disappointing day, but who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Off to an immensely enjoyable trek though the Naramata Bench wine route.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Murrin Provincial Park--New Adventures

Another amazing weekend, so Heather and I decide to hit up Porteau Cove for some quality provincial park camping, and become conveniently closer to the climbing opportunities in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Saturday dawns with the hint of a plan.  The parking lot area of Murrin Park has some beautiful moderates.  A 5.10a called 'Zoe' is the big attraction today.  A 5.8 called 'Oscar's Slab' is scheduled as the warm up.

It's cold here in the trees today.  It's not the warmest day in the world to start with, a solid three degrees according to the car's thermometer, and I'm concerned that my once-dislocated finger will not be too interested in the temperature of the granite once I get going, so I decide to lead.

First thing about this climb, there's an attractive crack running up the left side, accompanied by some decent edges running horizontally.  It looks nice and 5.8-ish.  Except for the water.  There's an impressive trickle going right down the whole length of the crack, and staining all the incuts that cross it.  Not inviting.

For some stupid reason I decide to climb. It's not a good choice.  The crack is unusable, and seconds after I touch the rock my hand starts to throb.  I gamely fight my way up past the second draw, gazing longingly at the beautiful crack, just begging for my fingers.  I'm losing feeling in my toes now, and I really need some of that wet stuff to continue on.

As I approach the third bolt I am really starting to worry.  I'm in pain, lots of pain, and I don't see much of anything to get me past it.  I suspect that I need to move over right to avoid the water and have hope of reaching obvious easy climbing above.  All of a sudden, my feet slip out from under me, and I'm slipping down the low-angle face with way too much rope out.

Instead of kicking away from the wall, I desperately try to cling to the nothingness that I just slipped off of.  In my defence, I was way close to the ground, and legitimately concerned that I was about to deck.  Scared the crap out of myself, scraped the hell out of my arms and knees, but stopped about 2M above the ground.  Well.  Tragedy averted, cold, angry, and in pain, I climbed the rope and started again from the second draw.  I re-routed to the right, and was able to gain the big jugs above the third draw successfully.  From there it was home free. 

After everybody got done with Oscar's Slab it was time for the feature presentation.  A top 100 5.10a.  Looks like a beautiful, varied climb, but the first bolt has a very, very tricky looking move to reach it.  In the gym, piece of cake.  Out here...  piece of scary cake.  Mert wanted the lead on this one, because I was in so much pain from my first ascent.  He false started for five or ten minutes before admitting that the first bolt was too high.  I decided that it was time to employ the legendary stick clip. 

After searching around for a couple minutes I found a nice branch that I am sure has done this duty before.  It took some doing, but I was able to get the draw hooked on the bolt.  After that Mert was able to reach the bolt, but he was having a tough time getting over the ledge up to the next sequence.  Ok, my turn.

The start was tricky, but well within reach, and from there it was just a pleasant wander up the crag.  The moves were sweet, the rock was warming and dry, and the first third of the climb was a piece of cake.  As I moved farther up, I encountered a variety of features, small overhangs, polished granite, cracks.  I had one slip, just lost my balance when trying to look over an obstruction, but Mert caught me perfectly.

Once I found my way to the top I allowed myself a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful sunshine before rappelling off to the conclusion of another beautiful day of early season climbing.

Now for a well deserved beer.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Lighthouse Park Climb In March

Yes, that's right.  March.  In West Vancouver.  Climbing.  It's a bit of a long shot, but we have had 3 days of not raining, which is a rare treat here.  The temperatures are climbing into the low single digits, and a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of rock.  It's a relaxing Sunday morning, and I have been perusing climbing websites and guidebooks in an attempt to plan my goals for the coming climbing season. 

I realised that the exposed sea cliffs at Lighthouse park could possibly have had enough sun and wind in the last couple of days that the rock could very well be dry.  Pretty much no vegetation above to hold moisture, and this could mean climbing on the third day of March.  Heather and I round up Mert and set forth.

As always in this wonderful city a sunny break in any season other than summer is so rare that EVERYBODY will take full advantage of it, and today is no exception.  We get out to Lighthouse Park after noon, and parking just is not happening.  We find a spot all the way out on Marine Drive and trek in.  We soon find the path down to Juniper Point, which is where the routes that we intend to attempt are located.

What a BEAUTIFUL day.  I feel so lucky to be here today, and we set out in search of anchors.  All the routes here are listed as 'top rope only' routes, so it's safe to assume that we will be rappelling down to climb. 

We find a couple anchor pairs, and after consulting the information we have we select an anchor that works for both a 5.7 and a 5.10a.  I set up the anchor, and by the time I'm finished, Mert and Heather have found a way down to the base of the climb.

By the time I'm down Heather is already tied in and ready to achieve the first climb of the year.  She works her way up the 5.7 side.  She makes it look like she's been out on the rock every day for a month, having no difficulty with 'Jugs Away'   Mert and I both enjoyed climbing the 10a, 'Boobies' as a great way to warm up for the year.

There's allegedly another anchor a few metres over to the left, but I can only find one bolt.  Nobody is going to be climbing on that, so we head over to the only other spot that we found with a pair.  This was fun.  There were a lot of other people enjoying the area, hiking and taking pictures and such, and some of them started to get rather excited when I walked over to the edge and tethered in to start setting up my anchor. 

I was a popular photo op for the next few minutes while I got everything ready and rappelled partway down the climb to check for water.  This one is really cool.  The belay space is right down at sea level, the waves crashing behind you, the sun hot on your back, I can't imagine a place I would rather be right now.  We all come down and climb out.  Joyous.

The day's climbing at Lighthouse Park over, I reflect again on just how lucky I am to be living in such a beautiful place.  Third day of March!  Not the most wonderful climbing, toproping some 12M warmups was a great way to start the year.