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.