this is from my recent trip to squamish with my girlfriend Steph. I probably left a ton of stuff out, but live with it, i was living it to live it not to write it down. It is my first shot at a TR so its really wordy, but then again so am I.
The Alarm goes off at 5 am or so, even if this was a trip to the gunk's, this would still be too early. But this was no ordinary trip to the Gunks we were embarking on; we were off to Squamish and the greater Vancouver area for a week. The Yosemite of the north was supposedly an outdoor enthusiasts Mecca. Steph and I were going to find out how true this is.
We don't have a direct flight to Vancouver, I don't think they exist since the airport is kind of small. A quick note about Sea/Tac. It has three groupings, a north and south satellite and the main terminal. Since we flew into Seattle on US air, we landed in the North one, since our connection was through United, we had to go trek thought he maze of the airports, ride some monorails all the way to the South end. Plus to make things
interesting, there are none of those handy televisions that tell you what gate the flight is in, and they have people trying to hawk money from you like every 20 feet or so.
Anyways, back to the story. Arrive at Vancouver after riding this like 12 row prop plane. Kind of cool. Land, get rental car, and try to find out how to get to the Sea to Sky Highway: our ticket to Squamish and points north. A note about Vancouver, there are like no "east coast highways" everything there is essentially street traffic, and to get to the highway from the airport you have to make like 7 different turns, though I swear its easy to
Sea to Sky Highway is Awesome! It goes through Stanley Park (Its wicked cool eh) so Sea to Sky is essentially a two-lane mountain highway that winds along the Sound. Every turn brings about another wow that's gorgeous. An hour of this later, we reach the Stawamus Chief Provincial park. My god the chief is amazing. And there is rock everywhere. If I
weren't so tired I would probably have a seizure from staring at the amazing places to dream about climbing. (the running gag we had was that like every picture we took seemed to be off the Chief, this is the chief from the rental car, from the hotel, etc)
Steph taps my jaw shut and we chill out and stretch while staring at this enormous hunk of granite. From the parking lot we were able to spy a party doing Humpty
Dumpty (A4) on the grand wall. Looked pretty wild with a cool overhanging indentation. So we sat around drooled at the grand wall area and decided to go check out one of the gear shops to pick up a guidebook.
We used the Climbers Guide to Squamish by Kevin Mclane; we got this at the first shop Valhalla Pure. Though nothing special (we have it good at Rock and Snow) the do offer free Internet and their own clothing line. Not much in the way of gear though. The other store Climb on was really just a big hole in the wall with some gear, though they have a bouldering cave. Guidebook in hand we head to our hotel (yes hotel we were living it up while on our vacation) plus our hotel had a freaking hot tub. We spent the rest of the day getting things organized for our first day of climbing and ate in Squamish Center. As night set in the temperature dropped so we went to bed hoping to get an early start.
Being the weekend and local rumors that Squamish is the busiest place on earth during the summer we decided to push back our plans of doing some long stuff on the apron and do some of the abundant single pitch stuff in the Smoke Bluffs. Containing over 400 routes broken up into over at least a dozen or so smaller crags the Smoke bluffs are an amazing place to climb. There are several main trails and all it takes is a decent landmark or route to find your way around. Destination number one Laughing Crack 5.7*** on the Smoke Bluffs wall.
The guidebook calls this a superb finger and hand crack and a great gear lead for novices. F that. This is a great lead for anyone. This was one of my favorite routes that we climbed. With tape gloves on, it was one sweet jam after another with bomber gear the entire way, You could probably close your eyes and grab any nut off your rack and it would probably be a bomber placement. I was sad when I got to the top and lowered off. It was Steph's turn now. Being a crack newbie Steph was rather reluctant to jam anything.
Previously she would always layback any crack we came upon. The tape gloves we made for her helped assuage some fears, but she still seemed rather reluctant. My glowing recommendations of the route convinced her and up she goes jamming the entire way looking like a crack climbing veteran. She cruised the route and as I lowered her off the route she was bouncing with excitement. "That was A+ "she yelled exuberantly. Our Squamish trip was off to an amazing start. If all the routes were even half as good as this
one we would be into a treat.
Next on our trip down the Smoke Bluffs trail we came upon Mosquito 5.8 **
A Smoke Bluff Classic. Hand Jamming and liebacking to a good ledge. Delightful Climbing and exceedingly popular, but suffers death by top-roping
We originally came across Mosquito when we walked past the turn-off to head up to Laughing
Crack (where there was a small group toproping/leading the three starred routes in the area, S-M's delight(5.10b)*, Mosquito**, and Spinx'ter Quits(5.8)** (I swear there is a route by this name at every climbing area) So we decided to try and give it look to see if there was a line-up on it since it looked like a sweet line. We got there and there was a group of four top-roping mosquito, we
asked them if they were almost done, and apparently two more needed to climb it, fortunately for us a duo who was waiting after them gave up and we were next. This group provided endless amounts of entertainment as well a few scares. As Steph and I were racking up for Sprinx'ter Quits, the leader of the group who was at the anchor of Mosquito calls down to his two friends at the base and asked them if they knew how to make an anchor. The one guy, we will call him Pierre, turns to his friend, says some stuff and then spies us racking up
our gear and asks us A). Whats an anchor? and B. Is that the thing that you clip into the rock that keeps you on it?
I looked at Steph and we both shared the 'oh my god we are going to have to take part in a rescue on our vacation' look. I gave the guy a quick response not wanting to convince him that he knew what he was doing and hurried up to set up for our climb.
Mosquito is part of the Smoke Bluff Connection. Basically its 4 tiers of climbs. It starts from Mosquito, then goes to Phlegmish Dance 5.8**, then Jabberwockey 5.10b**, then finally Wonderland, 5.9**. Our plan was to do Spinx'ter Quits then since they were still on Mosquito, to do Plegmish Dance and go down and wait for Mosquito to open up. By the time we were halfway up the route they were almost done so we we decided to do the first half of the smoke bluff connection in proper order. Sprinx'ter Quits was an interesting route. It's a face climb with several bolts that make it look like its way run out. Fortunately, the bulges contained pretty nice cracks that were invisible from the ground.
Fairly straight forward, I don't think it deserved the stars it got. It was nowhere near as good as Laughing Crack. We rap down and finally get on Mosquito. Luckily a party we thought was going to steal our place in line (well our presumed place in line since we technically weren't in line) walked on. The crazy party before us set up on the 10b to the left so Mosquito was free. One thing that scared us: the leader who knew what he was doing was redirecting the rope from Mosquito to the left to other climb, he asks for some slack (i.e. lower me) and his belayer pays out like 10 feet or so and he proceeds to drop like a rock towards a big fat bulge, before he gets stopped. Don't know who was at fault but it all boils down to the fact that they were both dumb. This group
provided both unintentional comedy as well as terror, an interesting combination.
Mosquito Is awesome. It starts off from fingers/liebacking up a face where you go up over a
bulge where you get to fingers and hand jams. Oh man this was the good stuff. I bring Steph up avoiding the crazy French Canadian, the leader who spoke like 10 languages (seemingly all at once) and their two friends who have no clue. Another guy joins the party and they do Spinx'ter while we set up to do Phlegmish Dance. This is a really thin finger crack up through a small corner so you can stem. Maybe it was the fact I was getting tired or that it was too thin for my fingers but it was a lot stiffer than Mosquito. Was alright, maybe
one star, worth doing, most people stop at the first belay anyways so no one was on it.
Again we rap down, and let the leader and his new friend rap on our ropes. They were bitching about the cluelessness of their three other friends the entire time while Steph was belaying me up. Comedy at its best.
First setback of the day, we are pulling the ropes at the end and when the one rope is halfway up, a guy points it out to us that there is a knot in our rope. Ooops. Fortunately for me, that guy was going all the way to the top and he unstuck our rope. This guy flew up
the routes and place like 4 pieces the entire way.
Our rope now free we packed up and decide to head out to the Penny Lane wall to try our luck at Quarryman 5.8**
There was no way this was a 5.8, that or my endurance really sucks since I got spanked by this route. It started off halfway decent with a bouldery start for like 10 feet or so (which I promptly almost chubbed by blowing a foot about 6 feet up with no gear in. Ooops.)
It then went up with some off-hands jamming with some face moves that were nice. About halfway up the route was where it got interesting. Basically the good jams just disappeared all that was left for me were finger jams that were too big for me to get anything good and it was too awkward to get a good lieback on it. I was screwed if I kept going I was going to pop off and it wouldn't have been pretty. so I threw in the towel in and rested on my gear in disgust to get rid of some of the pump. So after this I thrashed my way up some more until the route was supposed to traverse left. Going straight up was
into 10b thin-crack territory. My choices were to go left with a thin move to another shallow crack system/corner or go up try the 10b finish. I thought about moving but instead just rested on the cam I threw in. About this point I was about ready to say f that and bail, too much jetlag and too many other great routes wore me thin.
From Steph: Mitch looked pretty good up until that point, then he just had that look of get me the hell off this rock, but I didn't understand why, from where I was it looked like he only had 10 feet or so left
After resting, I managed to make it up to the belay ledge with some nice bolts to clip into after which I collapsed into the ground spent of all my energy. I took off my shoes and tiredly pulled up all the rope to bring up Steph. Once on belay she cruised up the route with more style and grace I was able to muster. She was half way up and she stopped climbing. 5 minutes or so later, I yelled down to make sure she was all right. She was in
the process of figuring out one of the nuts I placed. Another ten minutes passes, and no improvement on the nut. "Just take on the rope I yell down" To which I was reprimanded for even implying she not do the route clean (That's my girl
) Another 5 minutes or so and she finally breaks down and yells, take!, to fiddle with the nut some more. "Its like one of those key puzzles you get in new hope" she yells up. More time passes, to which I reluctantly say just leave the nut whipping tears the entire time. She fiddles with it some more and just climbs up. Struggles a bit with the traverse but figures what she has to do. At this point this huge carpenter ant takes up residence on foot and turns it into his personal smorgasbord taking a nice bite out of my one toe. I then did what any tired climber would do, Igrabbed the biggest thing I could find and went Smashy Smashy. My helmet didn't quite give me the effect I was going for so I grabbed my nasty stinky shoes and pummeled the half dead ant. Oh what a way to die.
Steph gets up we rap down. Say, wow that kicked my ass, agree, and head out on the hike to the car and to home.
About the nut. When i place it it was in a perfect constricion/pin scar. apparently the nut or the rock swelled in the sun and then it didn't fit anymore. Once it cooled down someone probably got away easy with my #8 wallnut.
The next day we originally were planning on kayaking but it was cold so we hiked the backside of the chief. It's surprisingly tougher than I had thought. I am glad I didn't
wear my flip-flops. The trail itself is pretty steep, with lots of big rocks and roots and such. We ended up going up to the first peak, though in hindsight, the second peak looked a lot more fun to do. Some notes, it's a zoo at the top, I saw some Chinese women with like
loafers and a leisure suit up there. Plus there are some really cute chipmunks running around trying to take food from the bags. On the way down we decided it would be more fun to run the trail. We did, and it was.
The next day we set out on an expedition to find Diedre and climb the famous friction on the Apron of the Chief. Diedre, 5.8*** is one of the more popular routes on the apron which in turn can make it a vertical parking lot. That is assuming you can find the small ledge that all the climbs start off with. Once you have been there its simply a matter of retracing your steps. For those unenlightened, i.e. us, we were clueless and left wandering around in the woods looking for a specific slab among a sea of slabs. The approach beta is to go up a well-worn path to the top of a dead tree and fork right scramble up to the right then scramble back left and back right again to the base of a beautiful slab. Easy enough except their idea of a scramble is a hidden trail of worn tree routes and slabs that don't even
look like trails. We first got stuck with the right fork. Its not really the first fork you come to, it's the second one and it isn't even a fork so much as a trail that branches off the main one. When we found that path/ledge we weren't sure if it was Deirdre or not, it certainly looked like it would lead up to a corner system. So I solo up the first pitch or so to the left where I ask some other climbers I saw what they were on. Turns out we
weren't even close. Luckily, while Steph was waiting for me to get down another couple walked by on the way to banana peel 5.8** which also happens to be right next to Diedre. Break one for us. Break two for us came when finished with the bushwhack, err scramble, there was no one in line for Diedre just a party of three ahead of us and god knows how many people in front of them. The other couple was on their way to do this new route up the Squamish Buttress. It was called the Ultimate Everything, and supposedly went at 5.9 with a pitch of easy aid climbing or 5.11 on bolts or something, maybe next time.
Anyways soon I rack up and am off. The first pitch is really only a half a pitch with the only real piece of protection being a big birch tree I decided to sling since the move it protected went right instead of left so I could use the tree itself as gear rather than having to sling it. Anyways. Reach the belay station (They are all bolted) having placed like one tricam in almost 200 feet of rope. Bring Steph up, to which I got the "Hey you only placed one piece of gear", to which I said with a big smile, oops. Not that I could have placed anything (I wanted to really). So now we are stuck waiting for the party ahead of us so I stop and take some pictures, drink some water and marvel how already there are like 7 parties below us, each somewhere along the first pitch. Finally get to go up again, and I reach the beginning of the dihedral where I then proceeded to do the same move over and over again. Step off the rock so I can lieback the crack in the corner and keep walking up like that. The two crux pitches come when the crack gets thin and you can't really get your fingers in it, along with the slab getting steeper. One thing that stood out was while at the third pitch or so, the party below us led past Steph to the belay point I skipped. Not only that but they crossed my rope and then made Steph crawl under their rope. At this point I thought I would throw some of my DMM walnuts on them. Oh wait I WANTED to do that. I really just got really clumsy at this point and was dropping everything. Also there were now like thirty people on the climb. The next pitch I dropped my biner that had my blue and black alien luckily it got caught on a sling and I was able to flip em down to Steph The crux pitches were interesting. Really thin crack for your hands with some thin gear. Same kind of move though except for the fact you are standing more upright. After the crux the climb backs off a lot and got fun. The last pitch I put two pieces in the entire thing and that was only to protect the exit moves to get up to the ledge. We got our picture taken at the Broadway ledge and soon were on our way down. Walking along the highway back to where we were parked, looking up there was literally a conga line up the route; a person at every belay with people climbing each pitch.
After taking a short siesta, we headed back to the Smoke Bluffs in order to squeeze some more climbing in to the end of the day. We decided to go to Fern Gully a small crag tucked away on the far end of the Bluffs. Steph led her first climb of the trip with Fern Gully, 5.4* This was a nice little crack with a lot of face holds to help out with the jams. Here I led Rampage, 5.8**. Essentially the first few moves of the climb are 5.9 and then it turns into some frictiony stuff up high. It was a lot of fun. The crack at the beginning was fun and the smears up high were thought provoking. The last move took me like three times sliding down the slab a couple times. Not fun. After that we felt satiated as it was
also starting to get dark. Of course this means we get lost trying to find a shortcut back out. In our wanderings we came across Pixie Corner that had some sweet looking crack/corner systems. We vowed to come back and headed home.
Tuesday was our last day of climbing. A late start in the morning, missed trails and twisted ankles, and we pushed off climbing and were going to kayak instead, but it was too late to do that, so instead we headed back to the Smoke Bluffs to get on some climbs we wanted
to do. We hopped on three climbs at the corner:
Pixie Corner, 5.8**- an awesome route running up through a dihedral with parallel finger cracks. A lot of fun with good jams and sweet moves
Trixie, 5.10b, -Its short and basically a one or two move wonder. It's a real thing crimpy move at the end; it was nice, even got Steph to give it a whirl.
Davy Jones' Locker, 5.7* - a finger crack in a corner, similar to the moves on Diedre, but a better crack and much nicer. Steph contemplated leading this one herself, but opted not to, which I am glad she didn't since the gear was there but tricky to place.
After hitting up Pixie Corner, we both felt good so we took a walk over to Jabberwocky, 5.10a ** it was another short climb, it's a nice layback up a finger crack/corner. I got like 3/4s of the way up before getting pumped out since I had to fool around and find the right piece.
We then decided to try and go to Neat and Cool, this is one of those crags that seemed to always have people top-roping it. If you are going to climb there I suggest doing it at the end of the day, besides it is in the sun all day.
There are some classics on this wall. I decided to try Flying Circus, 5.10a ** rather than Neat and Cool, another two star 10a. Flying Circus is technically a finger crack, though I ended up laying back a lot of it since I couldn't get decent jams in it. The climb itself is not all that difficult. Its more so the stopping and placing gear. I was all pumped and thinking of bailing to the 5.8 to the left, but decided to give it one last try and luckily I found a great hold and pushed through to finish the climb. The problem with the climb is the good handholds are the good places to put gear in, but its a fantastic climb, one of my favorites. Steph was nervous about it at first but I convinced her to try it saying it would be easier to climb it than to lead it. She flew up it in style. Take tricams for it. i placed all mine on it.
For our last climb of the night (at this point it was clearly dusk, Steph wanted to lead the 5.6 to the right of Flying circus, Corn Flakes, 5.6*. I was a little weary of her doing it since it's harder than anything she has led before. She thought about it and decided to head up. It turned out to be a fun climb. It goes up a bunch of flake systems, which made it a little tricky to protect, but Steph did a bang up job, even on the hidden layback crack at the top. She reached the top and let out a triumphant yell. I quickly followed up, with each move I became more and more proud with what Steph just accomplished. We got to the top with the sun setting, rapped in the dark and walked back to the car with our headlamps. It was a fantastic way to end our climbing at Squamish. It was full of firsts and other personal
breakthroughs, and I wouldn't trade them in for anything.
After this we headed to Vancouver for a couple of days, but its not climbing related so I'll leave it for later.
A couple of notes.
Crowds. The popular long stuff on the apron gets crowded; get an EARLY start. Otherwise
Canadians have no idea what crowds are.
We had no rain whatsoever, a couple of days of overcast but otherwise it was nice during the
day and cool at night.
Where we ate:
Mountain House Burger: Cheap and really good. Its open 24 hours so you get your meat fix whenever you choose. They have some delicious homemade french-fries.
Yanni's Greek Restaurant: Also not that expensive, it was pretty good. It was a nice change from hamburgers, they had nice roasted potatoes.
Red Heather Grill @ the Howe Sound inn. This was the local brewpub. The beer was pretty good there, I mean it was no Under Me Kilt Scottish ale at the Otter, but still good. Food was typical brew pub sort, but it had some exotic stuff. Steph enjoyed her Tandori chicken (actually so did I) large portions.
KFC/Taco Bell: they take the fast out of fast food. Always a line up, and the place was dirty. Plus they don't even have mashed potatoes up there.
Dragon Something Chinese restaurant (its right by the greek place): this is by far the best tasting Chinese food I have ever eaten. Portions are huge, the small size was about the size of a soup dinner. Oh this place was so good, plus it was cheap and the place was really friendly.
The climbing stores in Squamish are ok. I recommend stopping in Vancouver for any gear needs. MEC and a whole block of outdoor stores are located on Broadway past the Cambie Bridge.