Squamish… or Trying to Fail Gracefully on Granite

~ By Jonny


So many of the worlds great alpine climbing areas, and great routes in those areas, are on granite. Yosemite, the Sierras, Bugaboos, Patagonia, Alaska, and many others are all massive granite faces and towers carved out of grey and golden granite.

Living in the Canadian Rockies, we are greeted daily with a sea of limestone climbing, mostly devoid of cracks, and offering few opportunities to hone the skills needed to access those greater areas and routes. We have spent a bit of time in the bugaboos, and a short week over 2 years ago in Squamish getting our feet wet. Our big goal has been to start looking at some of the bigger routes in the Bugaboos, but knowing that having a solid granite/crack game is pretty critical to finding success on those kinds of objectives.

The trip started with a pretty major conversion of a Dodge Promaster early in the spring 2017. You can read more about our van conversion on our (slowly, in progress) van conversion website.  This was the maiden voyage of “Conversion version 1” which included insulation, flooring, a basic water system, 100W solar panel, USB ports, 12V lights and a water pump.

We had 3 weeks off work, and we packed up and drove the 10 hours to Squamish.

The Arc’Teryx Climbing Academy

We didn’t realize it until the last minute, but the climbing academy was making a pitstop in Squamish on the same weekend we were arriving. We decided to take in the event by joining a few clinics – Mental Techniques with Hazel Findlay, Climbing with Katie Bono, and advanced trad techniques with Leslie Timms.

While it did tack on a few dollars to the trip, it was worth it to hang out with some really great people, and got us warmed up to the area.

Failing hard on Exasperator

Day 3 had us exploring the Grand Wall, with my first attempt at Exasperator, one of my big goals on the trip. The first pitch went pretty well, but it turns out that my terrible crack skills, in conjunction with shitty old shoes, warm temps and direct sunlight were not going to get me the second pitch. I ended up bailing after falling a few too many times near the anchor.

With my tail between my legs, we wandered back to the van and headed up to the Smoke Bluffs.

In the parking lot, catastrophe hit. Jolene made the massive step out of the van onto a rock and rolled her ankle. We were hoping that it would initially just be a minor twist, but after bagging our first climb together of the trip (Mosquito at the bluffs), it was becoming clear that it might be a little worse of an injury than it first seemed.

We decided to take it easy, mostly cragging days and saving the multi-pitch objectives for another day.

Tofino

After a week of cragging, we picked up my daughter in Vancouver to spend a few days in Squamish, before heading up the sunshine coast and on-wards to Tofino for a few days.

Tofino and Uklulet turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. My daughter and I rented surfboards for the first time, and gave it a fair shake. It was a blast! And we are both stoked to try again sometime soon.

We drove back to Calgary to drop off Caelyn, before packing back up to head back to Squamish for a grapple with Granite, Round 2.

We faired a little better the second go around. Jolene’s ankle was feeling a little better I managed to tick off a 5.11c sport climb at Murrin in 2 tries, and Jolene was feeling better trying some of the classic cracks around the bluffs, Murrin, and Shannon Falls such as Klahane Crack, Beginner’s Luck, and others. I also ticked off a few really classic 5.10b and 5.10c routes, which helped boost my confidence a little more for an attempt of “The horrors of Ivan”, a classic 5.11b, runout beast of a climb at Murrin. While I didn’t get the send, it was a great learning experience, and I felt like another day, it would go down.

We also ticked off the super fun “Slot Machine” near the Bulletheads, and I had a blast climbing the super fun and classic “Peasant’s Route” at the base of the Grand Wall.

At the time, I think we were both disappointed that our lack of granite experience, and subsequent injuries on the trip prevented us from accomplishing all our goals. However, we were both stoked with the overall experience, and both gained a ton from the trip. We are stoked to go back soon for round 3 with Squamish Granite, hopefully with a more humble approach that will help us both get a little further.

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