Squamish Climbing. Where to begin with how it feels to take one’s ego, throw it in the dirt, and trample it with golf cleats for 213 days straight? If you want to be a bonafide alpine climber, you need to be rock solid on big granite walls. So many of the world’s greatest alpine climbing 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.
The Canadian Rockies offer amazing climbing throughout. They do not, however, offer any cracks amongst the sea of vertical or overhanging limestone walls. We have spent a bit of time in the bugaboos, and a short week over 2 years ago getting acquainted with Squamish climbing by (literally) getting our feet wet on some of the classic routes in the area. Squamish Climbing offers an ideal training ground for our lofty goals of trying to tick anything off in the Bugaboos without totally getting our asses dealt to us.
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 Squamish 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.
Despite the additional cost, the academy was more than worth it. The few days offered a chance to meet some awesome people and get a bit of a warm-up to the area.
Exasperator – the best of Squamish Climbing brings out the very worst of me.
Day 3 of the trip had us exploring the Grand Wall. This was my first tassel with a “real” finger crack – an attempt on the world-renowned Exasperator, one of my big goals on the trip. The first pitch went pretty well with a relatively painless onsight. The second pitch went south less than 3 moves from the anchor. It turns out that a combination of zero crack climbing skill, shitty old shoes and sunshine aren’t conducive to sending this area 5.10 testpiece.
Some pretty serious swearing ensued, and with my tail between my legs, we rapped down and headed to the smoke bluffs for some… easier Squamish Climbing.
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.
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 Ucluelet are wonderful destinations to visit and should be on everyone’s ticklist. In many ways, these were some 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! A return to this area is a necessity to take another crack at surfing.
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 felt a little better and I managed to tick off a 5.11c sport climb at Murrin in 2 tries. Jolene was feeling better trying some of the classic cracks around the bluffs, Murrin, and Shannon Falls. She got on 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. I gave an attempt of “The horrors of Ivan”, a classic 5.11b, runout beast of a climb at Murrin. It was a great learning experience despite failing, and I felt like another day, it would go down.
We also ticked off the super fun “Slot Machine” near the Bulletheads. I had a blast climbing the super fun and classic “Peasant’s Route” at the base of the Grand Wall.
The trip ended with some relative disappointment. A lack of skills on granite and some injuries put a hard cap on the experience. The trip was not a failure though. Despite the struggles, it was a reminder that climbing is hard, but it is also rewarding. A new style of climbing can mean a return to the basics. The big picture is what matters with Climbing. The time we spent learning and failing was more than worth it, and we’ve come back better people for it.