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Sunblessed

Posted by robjwall on September 26, 2010

Its been a very wet September here.  Kira is keen to do a two day easy route on The Chief, but we have had no chance.  Last Saturday we snuck in a quick ascent of the classic Apron 5.9 “Vector”.   It had been wet in the morning, and we were the only climbers on the whole Apron.  The cux pitch is indeed as straight as an arrow, and wide (I was very glad of my new #4 Camalot that we purchased that morning).  It got dark just as we got back to the bikes.

Yesterday we thought we try something a bit more challenging.  After days of heavy rain that once again ended on a Saturday morning we needed something high, that would catch sun and wind.    We decided on a  route on the back of the Chief with a famously long walk in: “Sunblessed”.  Demelza, Kira and I left the house at 10.30am and wasted some time in the Coffee shop /juicebar/kitesurfing shop on the way.  By the time we had ridden to the campground, and then walked up the trail, following the tricky but accurate directions in the guidebook it was 2pm., and the sun was actually out!   The first bolt is 10m off the deck up and incredible dike feature. (There has been a lower one added, but chopped…)   I went up and clipped it before lunch so we could enjoy our pita bread and tuna knowing the scary bit was done.    The girls had no trouble with this pitch (easy 10a) and we all managed to avoid the little stream that was flowing over one hold with no problem.   The rest of the rock was incredibly dry.

The second pitch is a 35m thin hand crack in a stunning position, on perfect rock, with incredible  views to the South.  We are pretty fussy now after months of climbing, but we all agree this was a really really nice pitch: long, clean, good pro….  It took a while to get all of us up it though!  A quick roped scramble and we had 3 options to get off (the clouds were back with a vengeance now and it felt like rain any minute). 1. continue up the route via the 10b fist crack with “difficult pro”.  2. climb the nice looking 10a Arete to the right, which has had the first bolt hanger removed by some idiot. (I was thinking I could put a wire over it?)  3.  Go back down to the anchor at the top of the 2nd pitch and rap (I think it was 65m to the ground, and we had a 60m and a 70m rope with us).  The girls are good at abseiling, but it would be better if they could make the ground in one rap, as they are not experienced at multipitch raps.

There is one rusty bolt in the tricky part of the 10b so I decide to try it.   I place both the 3 and 4 Camelots before the bolt in the flaring crack (the 4 is actually not too bad).  Above that its just lots of grunting, some fist jams, and continuous painful left foot jams to get up the corner.  I  need both the 1, and both the 2 Camelots also in this short crack.  The crack is  damp, and I am slightly more scared than usual…!  As I reach the anchor chain there is a sudden heavy rain shower and the crack becomes  a mini waterfall in less than a minute.  The timing is exquisite.  I am able to lower the spare loop of rope down so the girls have that to pull up on while I take in.  They don’t muck around trying the soaking fist crack but both quickly pull up on the rope while I take in.  Its now late, cold, and nearly dark.  Normally you could solo up from here, but I take the rope up and around a tree and bring them up on TR.  We walk about half way down but get to a section of slab that probably only  20 or 30 degrees from horizontal, but slippery so we do the most horizontal abseil of my life (with a tangled rope of course!) down to a cairn that marks the trail.  I run back to the start of the route to get the packs, and we do the long walk down by headtorch, down the gully, which is now more of a river than a trail.  We ride very slowly home in very heavy rain for a warm bath and hot meal at 9pm.

Some photos of the route I found are here.  We had no time for photos, and the camera would have been ruined anyway!

Posted in Climbing | 1 Comment »

Squamish Update

Posted by robjwall on September 15, 2010

Well finally after 6 months of travel someone had to see a medical professional (me).  It seems my bike crashed stretched and damaged some muscle in my neck, but the soft tissue and spine is ok; so I have to take it easy for another couple of weeks.  I did some easy climbing on Monday (ouch)  with Martin (Austrian) who has been staying in the house with us.  He  took a couple of good shots of “Wonderland” 5.9, a real Smoke Bluff’s classic.

Posted in Climbing | 4 Comments »

Squamish Long Weekend

Posted by robjwall on September 7, 2010

School is back today, but we have just had an interesting long weekend.  Friday afternoon I  had a very relaxed paddle in the sun with Demelza, Kira, Tarquin, Dave and his two kids Sam and Zak.  The water level is quite low now, so you don’t get pushed around so much, but its not too rocky either.  The colour of the water is now Opalescent Turquoise We all camped the night at on the river bank and had a fire (defying the marshmellow ban).

Saturday morning those of us with bikes rode the “Farside” trail – about an hour of technical up and down mountain biking.  THEN it was time for a downriver run to Squamish (the first long paddle Demelza and I have done).  Joined by Sally from Coast River Kayak we  started on the course (I capsized while out of breath, and totally failed to roll…)  then spent a couple of hours slowly paddling back to the put-out near our house.  The kids have named the rapids on that run “Skittles” (something to do with food) and “Tarkies Terror”, because he was afraid of it – but he did it when I watched (missing the big rock).  We all had a pretty early night.
Which we needed because on Sunday morning we braved the cold and met up with Karen (Sam and Zak’s mum this time) at a secluded cliff “Fern Gully” Demelza led one of the easy routes & we did two more.  The kids all shot up them all as ever.  Alfie got half way up the 5.4. After lunch (bread tuna and cheese, just for a change) we moved to Ronin and took some photos on the classic “Ridge Runner”. I led two routes between Deep Breakfast and Ridge Runner — I especially enjoyed the hard slab/face “Ne’r do well” which is new since the guide book.  I was  almost falling the whole way up, using my newest shoes to stand on tiny crystals (10d at least I think!).  That night we all went out for Fish and Chips.

The holiday Monday was raining.  John Fantini dropped by for a cup of tea and to use my computer, so we had a good chat about 1980’s Australia and made some future plans.  Sometimes its good to have rain to keep us inside.  Nevertheless Tarquin and I headed up (700m up!) on our bikes to the top of “Half Nelson” a long and winding bumpy downhill trail… (this is a video I found on youtube!)

and raced down it.  I got a little too much rotation on a steep bump (about 6 minutes and a bit in on the video?) and landed directly on my head.  Lying on the ground all I could think was to yell at Tarquin to slow down, as if the same thing would happen to him (which it wouldn’t because he has way more BMX still than me).  Today I am nursing a sore upper back and wrist, but nothing is broken.

Maybe all weekends here  are not quite so full of outdoor sport, but there is certainly lots of opportunity!

Posted in Climbing, Travel | 1 Comment »

The Smoke Bluffs

Posted by robjwall on August 29, 2010

I had never even heard of the Smoke Bluffs until we lived in Canada. They are a park/crag that is about 20 minutes away from our house by bike, on the east side of Squamish.  Nestled in the trees is a truly stunning assortment of small (well 20 to 40m, so small by Squamish standards) granite outcrops with some of the best crack and slab climbing anywhere.  The park has been established and maintained by  dedicated volunteers led by long time local climber Brian Moorhead.  (I climbed with his son Colin at Arapiles in 1996!).

The kids and I have been spending quite a lot of time here this summer, as there has been little rain (I just counted, there are 37 4-starred routes up to 5.11a in the book, and between us we have led 31 of those so far…).

The kids are fascinated by natural gear, so Kira led “Burgers and Frys” the other day (a runout 5.7) placing her own gear.  Tarquin led the brilliant “Dusty Eyes” 5.4, and Demelza led the flaketo the right of that “Wisecrack” 5.7, all in good style.  The rock here takes pro really well, and is the perfect place to learn these black arts.

One of the best outings was taking the girls up the 4 pitch “Smoke Bluff Connection” with a variant finish.  The 3 rd pitch “Jabberwocky” is as fine a crack climb as you would find anywhere on earth.  They did really well on the feisty 10b first moves! (“Twas Brillig and the Slithy Toves did gyre and gimbal…..”)

Some of my other favorites are “Geritol”  5.9 (take 2 ropes), “Yorkshire Gripper” 5.11c (I seconded this one, a good idea!), “Power Windows”  5.11a (My foot just slipped near that bolt, ok!),  “Penny Lane” 5.9 (you have to do this one), “Partners in Crime”, 5.11a, (my best crack O/S – ever, and one of the cleanest crack lines I have ever seen),  “Supervalue”, 5.10d (hard, and then more hard!!), “Triage Arete” 5.9 (not so popular before the 4 bolts apparently, as it is you don’t want to fall off this).

The O/S failures are “Power Windows”  11a (great fun anyway), “Skydancing” 10d (I couldn’t even get to the first bolt – stick required), and “Climb and Punishment” 10d (A good route – check out the  Peter Croft  madness above it!).  Apart from that we’ve onsighted  40 something  of the 3 star routes and have about 25 left including the famous “Wonderland”, “Popeye and the Raven” (which always seems to be busy,) and the intruiging looking  11a, “Kangaroo Corner”.  We are so lucky  to have so many great routes so close to home – thanks to all the volunteers and route developers who have made this great area.

Posted in Climbing | 1 Comment »

Alfie goes mountain climbing

Posted by robjwall on July 20, 2010

On Sunday we took a taxi to the Lake Garabaldi Trailhead (alt 580m), about 20km North of Squamish.  After a very long 3 hours of constant uphill on an excellent trail, it was suddenly different: a stunning section of small lakes, steep streams, bridges, big white snowy banks, and sunshine!  Alfie was well rewarded for his long uphill battle – I can only imagine what its like to climb 900m (over 6km) with 3yo legs!  He has a policy of running downhill which is useful, when he’d not tired and trippy.  After the long uphill it was only 3km through this varied terrain to the Lake Garabaldi Campsite (alt 1470m), where we pitched a tent on a wooden platform, and another on the snow.  The kids made a great game of using the provided shovel to flatten some snow.    Kate went for a walk to take some pictures and the rest of us swam and lazed by the lake.  After a freeze-dried dinner, a solid sleep, and the usual weetabix and powdered milk with melted snow I was ready for something…

The kids were asleep, so rather than taking them up Panorama Ridge (2130m) as discussed, I decided to hike up to have a look at the Black Tusk (2320m) alone.   I had met some climbers the day before who recommended Mt Price  – 2050m – but the route to it was indistinct and snowy.  The route to the ‘tusk’ was more south facing so I figured on less snow – plus it is a very attractive peak from a distance.  I was wrong on both counts, the walk up was snowy and I lost the trail several times, but following my nose seemed to find it again.   There were some great grassy patches higher up, with small pine trees, great bear country, but I didn’t see any.  I am really enjoying moving fast in this  lovely terrain.  The lack of a pole, or axe brought back memories of sliding down snow slopes before, but it really wasn’t steep or icy (I carried a pointy rock for peace of  mind) and the bushwalking boots were fine.  After about 2 hours I got to the base of the scree, and decided to scramble up it a little: one step up, 1/2 step sliding back (but it makes a great sound), this thing is a huge pile of small hard black rocks.  30 minutes later I am at a rockface – loose and clearly unclimbable. I walked around to the right for 50m or so and find a short steep chimney of better rock – surely this isn’t the ‘scramble’ so many people do?  I decide to climb this 5m to ‘have a look’, its steep but not hard (5.5?), pulling up onto what feels like the scree again.  The terrain is lots of flutes of terrible rock that are all about 45 degrees from vertical: the climbing looks easy, if a  little dangerous, and I am worried about finding the way back to the top of the chimney, so I build a small cairn.  Another 15 minutes and I am at the top, and take a photo of the ‘Olympic’ cairns.  You can see everything Whistler / Tantalus / Mt Price / The Garabalidi’s.   I don’t linger.  I realise down-climbing that you could not have more than one person on this thing, each step sends a cascade of rock down, the chimney would be a shower of rocks (my carin was destroyed).  I enjoy climbing down the little chimney, and then running down the scree (in about 5 minutes, I undo 30 minutes of up).  I kept two rocks.  I meet two hikers on the way down, with lots of tattoos.  The snow is perfect for glissading too (all though by now my inexplicabley sort right leg is really hurting) and I am back at Taylor Meadows pretty quick (in all 3 hours to the summit, and 90 minutes down).  A great outing, in an interesting location, on an eroded volcanic remnant.  I wouldn’t feel the need to do it again.

Alfie leads the way on the long run back to the carpark, chatting all the way (until he got ‘tired legs’ in the last couple of km!).

Posted in Climbing, Walking | 3 Comments »

First Leads

Posted by robjwall on April 19, 2010

At Orpierre Kira and Tarquin both led there first routes.  Its perfect for it.  Lots of Fr 5a to 5c, lots of bolts, and sunshine (Well actually it was unseasonally really cold – on the first day it snowed – a lot!).

Posted in Climbing | 2 Comments »