Friday, August 19, 2011

Squamish, Aug 12-14

The Vancouver Convention center: my home for 3 days.  This place felt like a real life architectural drawing.  After thinking about photon beams and volume rendering for 3 days straight, I did a 180 and headed into the mountains.
If my job and education have taught me anything, it is that the unknown is interesting and alluring.  It was hard to keep this in mind while driving north on 99 away from Vancouver and into the anxiety inducing unknown.  It was getting dark, and I didn't have a campsite, and all I knew was that I was heading for a big cliff an hour and change away.  I found the cliff after narrowly missing crashing my car after gawking at the golden hour light raining down on the mountain-lined Howe Sound.  The parking lot was surprisingly full for a Thursday night, as my frantic search for an empty site ensued.  I'm pretty sure I snatched the last one from a local leaving for a few days.
I definitely shouldn't be taking pictures from my car.

I met James that night while in the parking lot brushing my teeth.  He excitedly approached me, guidebook in hand as I stumbled over words and tried not to spray toothpaste spit in his face.  He flipped through the pages pointing out 15 pitch 5.10s, that I responded to with mumbles about doing some 5.8s.  We settled on Calculus Crack (5.8), and extensions if we were feeling ambitious.
Looking north from Memorial Ledge

I woke up early to head to town to finish my transformation dirtbag climber by purchasing the obligatory block of cheese as my main source of food for the remainder of the trip.  James and I met up in the parking lot at 9am, bushwacked our way through the first two pitches of Calculus where the fun began with a cruxy finger crack.  I wobbled a bit on lead but pushed through, and we finished up near Memorial Ledge.  After talking to a couple of foul-mouthed Canadians, I decided to hit Memorial Crack (5.9).  It felt easier than Calculus with a few funny toe jams at the crux. 

We noticed that we could continue all the way up to the top of the Chief at 5.9, but we weren't sure about how to avoid 10c, so we walked off and went to town to get some beta on Skywalker (5.9) at Shannon Falls.   We figured, starting late would result in no lines at the recently-cleaned classic.  The problem is, there were lines.  And slow climbers.  In fact, they were even slower than those Jacob and I had found at the Leap the week before.  We bailed after the first pitch, and both lead the foot and hand tiring, but amazingly classic line, Klahanie Crack (5.7).  After getting some good food at the Howe Sound Brewery, I passed out in my tent.  700+ feet of climbing crack for the day is tiring!
James cleaning Klahanie Crack

I started day two solo with a bouldering pad on my back.  I walked into the Grand Wall bouldering area, and quickly realized it woulnd't be hard to find people to climb with since all the classic problems were occupied by friendly looking groups.  I met a BC local, Chris, warming up on a v2, who I followed to do some easy climbs with, namely the classic v0, Fried Ant.  He gave me the beta for Anatomy Lesson (v3), which went easily.  Titanic (another classic v3) didn't go as well, and I couldn't get past the first few moves even after 10 tries and lots of encouragement from friendly folks from Pennsylvania.  Mildly discouraged, I moved on and sent the classic v2, Slingshot.  By 4 pm, my fingers were shot, so I called it a day.
Taking down my tent :-(

Sunday was my last in Squamish, and I woke up sore as hell from the previous day's bouldering.  I packed up my quiet campsite, and headed back into the Grand Wall area alone.  Early on, I ran into Jody, a nice older guy who lives in a van and travels the west coast climbing.  He showed me around and helped me with beta on a variety of v2s.  I tried a nice v3, Bobo Jones, and while I made good progress on the Lincoln Woods-esque traverse, I couldn't finish it.  Next trip!  My best send came right at the end when I finished the rather highball Old and Serious (v3) without a spotter and with several large falls.  That was a good place to end it, but I tried a v2 slab afterward, and bailed without the send to head back to the airport.
Old and Serious - mildly serious, but not that bad
I'm pretty convinced at this point that Squamish is my favorite climbing area I have been to.  The rock is grippy in ways you don't see much in Yosemite, and the climbs are friendlier without tons of chimneys or laybacks.  I love straight in cracks and bouldering with nice landings, and Squamish delivers.  I have so many projects I want to finish now, and three days was not enough to fully explore this gem.  I'll be coming back again soon.

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