After two weeks in Darrington, our plan was to drive up to Canada to climb Mount Slesse. Unfortunately, all backcountry access in BC is closed for at least two weeks due to extreme fire danger... So we're headed to Squamish for some cragging instead. Squamish is home to a very nice looking piece of granite, the Chief. We've always wanted to climb there but it's a long ways from Los Alamos. Not sure what to expect in terms of climbing closures, one of the first thing we do when we arrive is swing by the local climbing stores. There, we're told that the Bluffs (nice cragging area in town) are closed and so is the North side of the Chief. That leaves all the routes on the Apron and the "Grand Wall", plenty of options really.
Next, we need a spot to park the bus. After driving around town and checking the campgrounds (way too expensive), we end up on the parking lot of the local Canadian Tire store (a large Canadian chain of hardware stores). We've stayed at Canadian Tire before in Penticton without being harassed. Plus, they have a free dump station and drinking water. By the time we're set, it's too late to go climb, so we go check out the town. Squamish claims to be the outdoor capital of Canada. It's certainly one of them at least. It's a pleasant town with all the amenities that a climber needs: coffee shops, supermarkets, climbing stores, and a yoga studio.
While in Squamish, one of our hopes is to attempt its flagship route: the Grand Wall, a beautiful and sustained line up the center of the Chief. Since we've never climbed in Squamish though, we need to familiarize ourselves with the rock and the local ratings by climbing a few routes on the Apron. For our first climbing day, we set the alarm at 5:30AM but can't get out of bed. After all, this is supposed to be just cragging! We finally leave the bus around 7:30AM and drive to the Apron parking lot. A party of two is already rushing toward Diedre (the most popular long route at Squamish). We do not care much since we have our mind set on a slightly less popular climb off baseline ledge, Saint Vitus Dance. The approach is very short (10 minutes at max) but the two 5.7/5.8 pitches of tree- and dirt-climbing to reach Baseline Ledge are not too much fun! Above the ledge, the route is good though. Saint Vitus Dance follows a nice hand and finger crack for three pitches of 5.9. The first pitch is the more sustained and almost feels like a typical Lumpy Ridge crack, even though it would probably be rated 5.8 at Lumpy. The second pitch trends right and traverses from one crack to the next. Eric finds this pitch harder than the first pitch, likely in part because of traversing a bit too high. After the third pitch, some scrambling brings us to Broadway, a prominent ledge system that splits the Apron in half and marks the end of most routes. A few other routes start above Broadway. We climb Memorial Crack (5.9), a beautiful crack along a flake. The guidebook only gives it one star but we both think it deserves two or three. One rap down puts us back on Broadway. We then traverse the ledge to the right to join the standard descent. A short walk down an exposed slab and we reach the trail in the forest that leads back to the car.
On our second day, we climb The Snake (7 pitches, 5.9). Nice climb, wandering around as the name implies. We follow the standard descent off Broadway and are back at the car early. Ready for more, we want to go for Rock On (5 pitches, 5.10a), another Squamish classic located in the South Gully (first gully on the left side of the Apron). Unfortunately, we find a long line of people on it, including a party of three that is just starting up. We'll be back tomorrow.
The third day finds us doing the 6:30AM routine again and hiking to the base of Rock On. As we are roping up, a party of two arrives at the base, obviously a guided party. The guide turns out to be a real as%!@#$ and tries everything he can to pass us. We're not that slow though, so he quickly gives up. Lucie leads the first pitch (5.8), a series of laybacks and corners leading to a short crack as well as the last pitch (also 5.8). Eric leads the remaining pitches (5.9, 5.9 and 5.10). The second pitch is a short layback on a beautiful flake. The third pitch follows a finger crack and a chimney (good pro in the crack) and then traverses left to reach a bolted belay on a small ledge. The fourth pitch (crux) is really fun; it involves thin layback moves at first and then follows a handcrack. A couple of awkward moves make it interesting. Rock On and Memorial Crack both top out at the same place so we rap off to Broadway and follow the usual descent. Back at the bus, we find a note asking us to leave by the evening. Oh well, the vacations at Canadian Tire are overů We decide to go park the bus next to the Apron parking lot for the next few days (we saw some people camping there so we hope we won't get kicked out).
The next day, Lucie leads the famous moderate on the Apron: Diedre (6 pitches, 5.8). This route follows a nice dihedral for two long and sustained 5.8 pitches. This route sees so much traffic that some sections as polished to a shine. The two dihedral pitches can be very well protected. Runouts exist on the easier slab pitches. All belay stations are equipped with beefy bolts and rap anchors. Great climb but be there very early, otherwise you may have to wait in line for a long time...
We have a late start the next day. We're quite tired from our 4 days of climbing in a row! We hike up the South Gully again, this time to climb Mercy Street (2 pitches 5.8 and 5.10b), a striking jam and lieback dihedral on the wall opposite Rock On. Excellent climb! Some people compare the second pitch to the Great Pillar pitch on the "Grand Wall"... After rapping down, we climb Calculus Direct, a 6 pitch line (10c, 10c, 5.6, 5.8, 5.7, and low fifth class to Broadway). This direct start has only recently been established so it is still a bit dirty but quite good and fun. The Calculus crack above Baseline Ledge is really fun and Lumpy-Ridge-like. Definitely worth doing! Unfortunately, it starts raining while we're finishing the 4th pitch and we don't have time to enjoy the climbing as much as we would have liked. We get back to the bus at 5:30PM and by that time it is really pouring. It rains all night long!
When we get up the next day, it's still raining and we're definitely tired. A rest day sounds pretty good even if it mostly involves the usual chores: laundry, groceries, and the like.
The weather is a little better the next day but the rock is still too wet to climb. We drive north to Whistler for some Bikram yoga and to check out the ski resort. Yoga feels good but as expected, we hate the place - typical Disneyland ski town with wayyyyyy too much money. We have lunch in Whistler (we manage to find a slice of pizza under $10) and leave early. Afterward, we drive to Pemberton. We are very surprised to find a decent supermarket with good bread and cheese selection in this small town.
More rain in the forecast. It is supposed to rain all night and all day so we decide to go visit Vancouver. We leave the bus at 10AM and are in the city an hour later. We go straight to the Grandville Market. According to "Lonely Planet", it's a food lover's dream so it sounds pretty good to us. And it is... We buy all kinds of goodies - paté, sausage and bread - and have lunch there. The paté is so good that we buy two more slices to bring back with us. We're also amazed to find merguez (a Tunisian lamb sausage used in traditional stews called "couscous").
The weather is finally supposed to hold today so we decide to go climbing. We hike to the base of the "Grand Wall" and climb Exasperator, a two pitch line (10a, 10c) that follows a striking finger crack. The 10a part (strenuous offwidth finger) seems more grueling than the 10c. The 10c pitch is great with technical and balancy moves. We then climb the Peasant Route, a 6 pitch line (10a, 10b, 10b, 5.6, 5.9, 10b), which was the first route to be completed on the "Grand Wall". Good route with soft grades we thought. Back at the bus, we realize that the provincial authorities have just reopened the backside trails and get very excited thinking about the other routes we could do (several long routes top out on the Chief and their descent follows trails around and behind the mountain). After a quick dinner in town, we pack our gear for the next day and get to bed early (we are planning on climbing a long route, Angel's Crest, 13 pitches, 5.10c).
Unfortunately, once again, the weather does not cooperate. We get up early but it starts raining before we even leave the bus. Disgusted, we go back to bed and spend the day doing a few chores and going to yoga.
It finally stops raining during the night. We get up early to go climbing a couple of pitches at the base of the "Grand Wall". Unfortunately, it is too early and the climbs are still dripping wet. The only thing that is dry is apparently the "Grand Wall" route itself. We then decide to check out a few climbs on the campground wall that are supposed to remain dry when everything else is wet. The climbs do not look inspiring at all so we give up. After some running around and deliberation on what to do, we go back to the bus hoping to climb in the afternoon. We come back around 2PM and climb Arrowroot (10b) and the first pitch of Rutabaga (10b) (the second pitch (11a) looks a bit too intimidating with very thin pro).
The weather is supposed to hold for one more day so we decide to go check out Sunblessed and Enlightened, two beautiful climbs that are located along the back side trail and require a longer approach by Squamish standards (about an hour if you know where to go). We start hiking around 7:30AM but have trouble finding the climbs so we finally reach the base at 10AM. The start of Sunblessed looks really run out (the first bolt is 30ft off the ground). On top of that, Eric is complaining about his wrist (chronic overuse injury)... So no climbing for today! We hang out at the base of the climb and meet two other parties who arrive shortly after us. They too got lost on the approach. We watch them hang-dogging the 5.11a start (they were not willing to do the regular start either). We leave around 1:30PM. The other party is still not up the first pitch by them. Back at the bus, we drive to town and have dinner at the local brewery (good and inexpensive burgers, very popular with climbers).
By the end of the first week, we feel that we're as ready as we'll be to tackle the big one but the weather turns for the worst. It's one more rainy day after the other... Discouraged, we go check the weather forecast: rain on and off is announced for the rest of the week! Tired of waiting for the climbs to dry, we decide to leave and drive to Leavenworth to climb Outer Space and Mount Daniel, two projects we had left unfinished. The "Grand Wall" will have to wait. Who knows? Maybe next spring?
Cragging at Squamish, BC, Canada
|Welcome to Squamish!|
|The Chief, seem from the kite-boarding area (the "Spit") across the sound.|
|Eric on the 1st pitch of "St. Vitus Dance" (5.9), the Apron.|
|Just above the crux on the 2nd pitch of "St. Vitus Dance" (5.9).|
|"Memorial Crack" (5.9) makes a good finish to "St. Vitus Dance" or other climbs on the Apron.|
|Squamish is also a wind- and kite-surfing Mecca.|
|Eric leading the 5.9 traverse on "The Snake", another Apron classic.|
|View from Broadway ledge, where all climbs on the Apron eventually end up.|
|Descending exposed friction slabs from Broadway.|
|"Rock On", 5.10, one of the best climbs at Squamish (climber unknown).|
|Eric on the 3rd pitch of "Rock On".|
|Semi-abandoned boats near Brittania Beach, south of Squamish.|
|Lucie leading the mega-classic of the Apron, "Diedre", a superb 5.8 dihedral.|
|Starting up the 2nd pitch (5.8).|
|Higher on the same pitch.|
|The little town of Squamish, as seen from high up on the Apron.|
|"Mercy Street", an incredible 5.10b lieback across the gully from "Rock On".|
|Eric on the 2nd pitch of "Mercy Street".|
|Lucie on "Calculus Crack" (1st pitch).|
|One of the most famous pitches on the Grand Wall: the "Split Pillar (5.10b).|
|Eric leading the 1st pitch of "exasperator (5.10c).|
|On the exquisite 2nd pitch of "Exasperator".|
|Eric low on the "Peasant Route" (5.10c).|
|Lucie leading the 4th pitch (5.9) of "Peasant Route".|
|Eric leading the Classic "Arrowroot" (5.10b).|