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!

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