Trip Report – Aug 2-10, 2008
Getting there –
So we ran into some problems getting there…we found out the day before we left that a huge rockslide was completely blocking HWY 99 about 10 miles away from Squamish. Other than by air or water, the only way to get from Vancouver to Squamish was to drive the looooong way around, turning what should have been a 45 minute meandering from the airport up the highway into a 6 hour re-route on curvy mountain roads. We stopped at a greasy little motel at the halfway point Saturday night around midnight (3:00 AM our time), and arrived in Cheakamus Canyon just before lunch on Sunday.
We camped all week at the Klahanie Campground, about 5 minutes from The Chief. It was a little more expensive than staying at the public campground at the base of The Chief, but we were happy with our decision – our campsite was a quaint little out of the way spot with very few neighbors, right next to a creek. The creek blocked out ALL the hwy noise, and we even had a picnic table to enjoy breakfast right along the water. But most unusual of all however, was the BUNNIES!!! I don’t mean wild rabbits, I mean big giant pet bunnies, running rampant everywhere! Apparently, they are all descendants from a pair of bunnies that were pets there about 20 years ago – they went missing, did what bunnies do, and now there are hundreds of fat furry bunnies roaming around, blissfully safe from predators by the Howe Sound on one side, and HWY 99 on the other!
It was PERFECT!!! We couldn’t have arranged it better ourselves! The mornings were a bit chilly, but highs in the afternoon were mid-70’s, low 80’s. There was not a cloud in the sky until the day we left Squamish to head back to Vancouver (but it’s always better taking DOWN your tent in the rain than putting UP your tent in the rain!). There also always seemed to be a constant breeze no matter what area we climbed in.
The Climbing –
Day 1 – Cheakamus Canyon
Charlotte’s Web – 2 pitches (5.9, 5.7) Sport
A little more exciting than what we expected for a warm-up…it appeared that a bolt was missing, which made for a fairly significant runout towards the top of the 1st pitch. We had great views of the white-capped Tantalus range at the top!
Small is Beautiful – 5.8 Sport
Bullet the Blue Car – 5.10d Sport
Amazing climb, well-protected and really fun moves! There was a weird mantle move at the start, then mostly smears and laybacks to featured slopers and sidepulls. Very technical cruxes at bolts 2 and 3. The moves were very sequency and took some time to figure out, but the route was not pumpy, so it was easy to find restful stances to work out the moves in my head first. I was really excited b/c it was my highest onsight to date!
Clear Cut – 5.10a Sport
Day 2 – Bulletheads (South side of the Chief)
Slot Machine – 2 pitches (5.9, 5.6) Trad
Our first taste of The Chief – and crack/friction climbing! WAY different than what we’re used to!
P1 – Hard moves off the deck to get established in a parallel crack system – pretty much had to hug your way up until one of the cracks ended, then jam your way to the ledge, running it out at the top through the slithery roots from the anchor tree growing down and through the crack.
P2 – significantly easier, I changed up the finish a bit, which ended up being really cool. Instead of belaying on the tree ledge left of the crack at the top, I stayed with the crack til it ran out, and then slabbed my way up to the anchors of the neighboring route.
Dora’s Delight – 5.8 Mixed
SCARY SLAB CLIMB!!!
Klahanie Crack – 5.7 Trad
Hand crack for 130 feet in an amazing setting – right beside a waterfall 6 times higher than Niagara Falls. The sound of the water was so loud it was actually difficult to communicate! A big thanks to Norbert and Manuela, and John Wilson for letting us borrow some of their gear (.5 – 1 inch camalots). This was our first pure crack climb with zero face holds, and it was crazy how physically draining this 5.7 was for both of us!
Day 3 – The Little Smoke Bluffs
We had intended for this to be an active rest day, but ironically we ended up doing more pitches today than any of the previous days! However, our day consisted for the most part of toproping easy-ish routes that weren’t very physically demanding, so it did turn out to be a relaxing day both physically and mentally.
The next 4 routes were in an area known as the Jug Slab, one of the places where Steve and I first climbed outdoors, with a guide, back in 2006. We wanted to go back and do these routes again. Ironically, we still get a little freaked on slab…I led one of them, decided my brain didn’t want to deal with slab on lead today, so we toproped the rest.
David’s – 5.6
StepLadder – 5.7
Moominland – 5.8
Hamish’s – 5.7
Laughing Crack – 5.7 Trad
This route deserves all 5 stars the guidebook gives it! It was so much fun! The crack was smaller than Klahanie (fingers instead of hand), and was angled so that a lot of it could be laybacked. Both of us decided it was our favorite climb of the day!
The Locker – 5.7 Trad
Weiner in the Bun – 5.11a Top Rope
Pixie Corner – 5.8 Top Rope
Day 4 – The Apron on the Chief
Diedre – 6 pitches (5.7, 5.6, 5.8, 5.8, 5.6, 5.8) 850 feet Trad
We hiked in and scouted out what we could from the base of this route the day before, just b/c we wanted to make sure it looked like something we could handle, considering the lack of available gear we knew I would have on the first two pitches.
P1 – Swim up a sea of granite for about 50 feet to a tree, then continue up some really polished slab past another tree (I decided the tree was on 🙂 to a scoop, then easy 5th class climbing to the bolt anchors. The initial slab was not as scary as I thought it would be, but the slight down step to the scoop took some commitment. I was both inspired and humbled by the way the parties on the next route over ran up the friction slab gorilla style a hundred feet at a time!
P2 – The infamous unprotected traverse…it’s amazing how you can just nonchalantly read over words like “unprotected,” and “50 ft traverse”, in the guidebook back home – then when we got to Squamish, it hit me – “Wait, that means NO gear on the entire pitch…” We decided if we didn’t both feel solid after the first pitch, we bail and rap off from there. But the traverse actually was really easy. Slab paddle up 10 feet, traverse on really low angle friction for 30 feet to a step down to a foot rail (the only committing move on the pitch). Then it was an easy ride along the footrail to giant slopey flakes.
P3 – The start of the corner that makes Diedre a classic! Layback crack on smeared feet (it kind of reminded me of a much steeper and mirrored version of “No Alternative” at Stone Mountain) Great mid-sized gear options, for most of the pitch I was able to keep my L hand on top of the corner while my R hand was in the crack.
P4 – The cracked thinned from hands to fingers as I worked my way up. For the first part of the pitch I had nice flakes up top for my L hand, but pretty shortly it rounded out and both hands went into the crack. Gear was good but smaller – mostly TCU’s and small stoppers. Gear stances were really awkward and I’m not used to smearing so much – I was physically very tired at the end of this pitch.
P5 – By this point the crack had thinned down to basically just seams with the occasional fingerlock just when you really needed it. I freaked a little bit about 25 feet into this pitch – the rack was cumbersome and my slings were getting wrapped around my gear…I also somehow managed to get my arm stuck in the strap of the gear sling…I was able to pull it together and keep on chugging to a small but heroic tree, which I happily slung and found a somewhat restful stance at. This pitch ended with a slight traverse out of the corner and onto the slab at the top to get to the anchors (VERY uncomfortable belay!)
P6 – The route went back left into the corner and was basically slab with very little gear. I felt like I was finally able to get the hang of the “slab paddle”, and moved really quickly up to the exit move at the roof. Right before I was able to get gear at the roof, I felt my foot slide a bit, which definitely sketched me out, but I’m realizing that one foot popping on slab usually doesn’t warrant panic mode. I got in a blue stopper and a #1 camalot at the roof (and for kicks clipped the rusty manky piton below my own gear) and did the exit move up and onto the forest floor – a very awkward move involving really high feet, pulling on a big slopey crack, and squirming and slithering my body up and into the forest above. Felt amazing at the top! I was so proud of us! We felt totally inspired in that physically and mentally exhausted kind of way 🙂
We had decided to play it by ear and see how we were feeling after Diedre – and then consider whether we wanted to keep going to The Ultimate Everything or not. After having lunch at the top of Diedre, picturing 11 more pitches and a looooong moonlit hike off 9 hours later wasn’t sounding that appealing. So we opted for the (too exposed for our taste) hike down the slab, scrambled along the trail, and navigated our way through the boulderfield til we finally made it down to the parking lot an hour and a half later. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out by Brohm Lake and taking pictures of the Tantalus Range.
Day 5 – Cheakamus Canyon
With all this low angle slab and crack climbing, our forearms weren’t getting their fair share of pump, so we decided to get steep again and went back to Chek!
Unknown – 5.6 Sport
Flaming Arete – 5.7 Sport
Master of My Domain – 2 pitches (5.7, 5.9) Sport
Steve led the 1st pitch, which was a funky pitch with kind of rolling, slopey terrain. I took the 2nd pitch, which was loads of steep fun – big move to jugs, with lots of smears. The crux was pulling the roof at the start. Nice hand/finger crack towards the top.
Giddy-Up – 5.10c Sport
Hard boulder start, felt a little stiff for 10c. I don’t remember a ton about this climb, but I know the start took me two tries, and I ended up hanging at least one other time towards the top.
Return to Sender – 5.11d Top Rope
Currently Coagulating – 5.11a Sport
I was a little disappointed that I let myself get sucked in and off route, and ended up clipping to a bolt on a neighboring route. It was very difficult to get back on track, and I even ended up placing and hanging on some gear (on a well-bolted sport route…). When I finally worked back left and got my feet up, I realized the move wasn’t that bad at all – had I stayed on route and not let my fear get the better of me I possibly could have held on to finish clean.
Creepy Crawlers – 5.11a Sport
Hard and sequency up to the crux bolt, which was a very tenuous and DESPERATE clip – I managed to get the draw in, but couldn’t get the rope in, so I had to downclimb and hang for a bit. The crux was super committing and a bit touch and go, but finally it backed off towards the top. I felt much more solid and in a much better mental space on this climb than the last one. This was Steve’s favorite route of the day.
Low Impact – 5.10b Sport
Day 6 – Murrin Park
We spent the morning toproping in an area known as Up Among the Firs, then after lunch we went down to gawk at the Petrifying Wall, a very intimidating and aptly named wall that is home to some of the hardest sport routes in North America.
Road Rash – 5.10d
Collet a Day – 5.8
Zeasi – 5.7
Nostalgia Ain’t What it Used to Be – 5.8
Chokin’ a Grogan – 5.7
Pleasant Pheasant – 5.11a Sport
This route was one of the highlights of our trip! Considered a classic at the grade, my best flash to date also happens to be the “warm-up” for the Petrifying Wall… J I was glad I got some beta from the folks that were finishing up as we showed up – otherwise I might have gotten sucked in off route or at the very least, way more pumped trying to figure stuff out. Even with their beta – the route was sustained and pumpy! It was definitely a test in focus! It felt really good to get this one completely clean, after some of the issues I’d had at Chek the other day! (See Video)
Elastic Man – 5.11c Top Rope
Since the anchors were the same as Pleasant Pheasant, I decided I may as well toprope this one. It consisted of huge power moves off of delicate crimpy rails – relentlessly tiring!
What a great trip! It was really fun going back to the area where we first were exposed to outdoor climbing (on the rest day from a ski trip!). It was nice to reflect on all the things we’ve learned and been blessed to have experienced since then. We were a great team, and worked hard and gave it all we had. It was amazing to be able to explore the different types of climbing that we are not exposed to back in the southeast – I think it will only help us improve by adding different techniques into our arsenal.
So we weren’t able to climb to the top of The Chief – and it doesn’t seem to matter! We came there not even sure we could make it to the halfway point. I think physically we could have continued on to The Ultimate Everything the day we did Diedre, but we would have been racing against the sun to complete the climb, and hiking down in the dark. It’s crazy how much more it takes out of you, both physically and mentally, climbing on terrain that is unfamiliar. Had it been another 1000 feet of bolted face climbing, the route would have gone no problem. I think we probably could have made it if we would have forced it, but I don’t think we would have been able to relax and enjoy it – and after all, we were on VACATION!!! We did manage to make it to the top of the Chief – after finishing up at Murrin Park on the last day, we decided to hike up the trail to the First Peak before dinner. It made both of us a little jealous to see several climbers topping out while we were up at the summit, but it didn’t make us regret our decision. We both knew that we couldn’t have asked anything more of each other, that we had pushed ourselves to our limits all week without pushing them too far.
We both feel very blessed to have been able to do our favorite activity 6 days in a row in an environment that is filled with such beauty and wonder! It was like we were living in a wilderness playground all week! We worked hard, learned a lot, had loads of fun, and have a hundred snapshots of memories in our head we can conjure up over the next few months whenever we’re stressed – what more could you want out of a trip?!?
If you haven’t had enough pictures yet, click here. 🙂