Squamish Climbers - the '80s - Photos


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Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Original Post - May 2, 2009 - 01:49am PT
The purpose of this thread is to spotlight the people who were Squamish climbers in the 1980's, home base was Squamish, so but we will include Yosemite, Bugaboos photos, where ever these people climbed and what, in the eighties. Otherwise there might not be many pictures of these folks, if we restricted this thread to Squish only shots in the 80's.

These are some of my pictures of Squamish climbers, first up, Uncle Bens on the Chief, a Burton and Sutton route, I believe. Which I did with Jim Brennan

Jim cleaning ....

Jim Leading ....

Croft ended up freeing this pitch, but of course I nailed it, to enable him.

Me cleaning ....

Jim leading .... etc, etc, until we got to the top.

lot's more pictures to come, I scanned 137 shots last weekend ...

By the way my name is Bruce MacDonald, drop me a note if you remember me from somewhere.

I was shooting with a 35mm Contax equipped with a Ziess 45mm f2.8 lens. Scans from slides were done with a Nikon Coolscan 5000. As I deal with more scans, if the edit timeout period allows, I will go back and update some posts with more pictures.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 2, 2009 - 02:07am PT
Are the shots from Uncle Ben's from the time when Jim fell on the last (second last?) pitch and broke a wrist?
Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2009 - 02:11am PT
Hamish Fraser - Squamish's second greatest free climber of the 80's, after Croft.

I climbed a lot with Hamish Fraser. Here he is when he got the idea to free climb the Ten Years After face crack. He ended up making a route out of it involving some amazing slab climbing with bolts placed on lead to get there.

Anyway this was the first day, of what became a long project for him called Genus Loci. This is the prepping and exploration phase

Here is another shot of Hamish starting up one of our many trips up Grand Wall, armed with only a 1.5 friend, a #4 RP and a few stoppers and a bunch of biners.

Hamish going for the #4 RP placement at the crux of Apron Strings (10d), as we 4th class to the base of the Split Pillar.

Last pitch of Grand, the 5.10 undercling, 90 minutes later ... me arriving at Bellygood ledge

Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2009 - 02:14am PT
Anders, I wasn't going to mention that !!!!!!!

We got to the last pitch and then wham, Jim lands on top of me.

Jim is going to be pissed with you ....

What a way to start a great thread.
Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2009 - 02:46am PT
This is a tribute to Jean McCrae post.

Jean was one of the very few women climbers in Squamish. In fact besides Tami, and Candice, Simon Tooleys girlfriend, who else of that gender was climbing in the 80's ?

What happened to Jean ? Where is she now ?

This is Jean finishing up the last pitch of Grand Wall with me.

Jean leading the 2nd to last, pitch on Grandwall. Rated 5.9 Note the Whillans harness and EB's

Jean dealing with the Bellygood Ledge, traverse off of Grandwall. I think the original party crawled this section, hence the name.


Social climber
May 2, 2009 - 02:50am PT
hey there, say, climbing dropout... thanks for this wonderful share... kind of like a history lesson, too...

wow, great share... :)

May 2, 2009 - 03:19am PT
Much appreciated, Bruce. I last remember seeing you at a lakeside in Whistler some years ago.

Hamish is well known for being a little known great climber. That Genius Loci whomped Catalin and me. I had seen a picture in Canadian Geographic of Greg Foweraker on the dike that leads back to the Split Pillar. The dike was a narrow strip of positive holds with nothingness above and below. Had to get there, and Genius Loci looked like the way. First mistake was starting with the first pitch when we could have gone to the 3rd, where Hamish in your picture is starting up from the standard traverse from Mercy Me to the Pillar. By the time I got to the relatively easy dike I was too far gone to do even that without a rest. In short, if Hamish calls a pitch 5.11 then don't expect to onsight it, and if he calls it 5.12 then don't expect to climb it, period.

Andy Cairns

Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 2, 2009 - 12:01pm PT
Nice thread - I'd like to think that Apron Strings is 10d. I always thought it was hard for the 10b in the book of the time. Cutting over from Merci Me to the base of the Pillar. Note the EBs with the leather panels sewn on the sides.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 2, 2009 - 12:50pm PT
OK, my apologies to Jim. But it did happen, and was probably the first 'real' rescue from any of the Grand Wall routes. 1983 - I helped a bit with the rescue. They let me carry a rope or something. You guys just had a bit of bad luck.

Anyway, great stories and photos - reminds to get back to work and finish up the "Climbing at Squamish in the 1970s" thread. And all useful for the projected history of the first 50 years of climbing at Squamish.
Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2009 - 01:00pm PT
I concur, Apron Strings is 10d. I think Smailles grades in his guide book contributed to a lot of subsequent Squamish climbs being under graded.

Jim was rushing himself, and grabbed a loose block. He was only about 10 feet above me, but I took a big hit when he dropped on top of me with the weight of a huge rack of pins. Being kinda mentally stunned for the next while, I thought we were on our own up there, and racked up to do the last pitch myself, thinking it was the only choice, as me lowering and rapping the entire route with Jim in his condition was out of the question. I thought I could haul Jim up to Bellygood and get him off myself. I set up Jim with a sticht plate for the belay, with his one good hand. Before I set off, I looked at him, he was not even aware that he was supposed to belay me. His level of pain was very high, I guess he had gone into shock. So I pulled out a red sleeping bag and set it up as a flag. There were some climbers on Slab Alley, I started yelling to them for help. I think every Squamish climber there ever was, showed up to get us off safely..

This was the only time anything even remotely bad ever happened during my climbing career.

The situation was a show stopper down on Highway 99. This shot also shows the original winding section of Hwy 99, which became known as Psyche Ledge.

More photos and stories from me to come after the weekend.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 2, 2009 - 01:12pm PT
There is more or less a rest on Apron Strings, just before the crux on the first pitch. You place some gear, then step/bridge down and right to a foothold at the top of a blank groove. Not great, but helps. Knowing of the rest might reduce the number of spectacular plunges from that point though - people have a tendency of going for it at that point, often to their regret.

Most of Gordie's grades in the 1975 guidebook seem fine to me, though some were based on a single or few ascents - the Apron Strings crux might be 5.10c for a move or two. I first did it free in autumn 1974, so it can't be that hard.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 2, 2009 - 01:14pm PT
For those who have not been there, looking up at Merci Me (or is it Mercy Me? - that Canadian/French thing). The easy path up to the base of the Split Pillar (Apron Strings or Cruel Shoes are outstanding more difficult alternatives). On the right side of the photo you can just see the crack that is the left side of the Pillar. The classic Split Pillar route goes up the right side and can't be seen in this shot).

Squamish is an incredible place to climb.
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
May 3, 2009 - 02:14am PT
Dear Anders and Bruce,
No need to apologize or be overly sensitive. After all, I took a risk free climbing in Vasques with wall loads on , fell and broke my wrist.
I'm still thankful for the help friends and strangers offered that day. After the fact, Jock Richardson straightened me out. "Don't beat yourself up, that's why we wear ropes and use gear".
By the way Bruce, what scanner or program did you use to refresh those old pictures?


Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Reply - May 3, 2009 - 09:07pm PT
This is a tribute to Dave Vernon post.

Dave was a Squamish Climber I also climbed a lot with. He was poking around Squamish back in the '70s, and probably still is today.

Our best climb together was the West Buttress of the South Howser Tower - aka Chouinard Becky route.

We climbed it the same day as Croft and Hamish did it as an unroped simu solo together. They were an hour ahead of us onto the route, knowing Dave and I were the backup crew, should things go haywire for them.

Truly a stellar route and a very long day for Dave and I. Tami remembers the date. Dave wore his EB's and I had on some piece of sh#t, one size too large Vasque Ascenders which I wore for the approach and the climb. Totally frightening footwear, when it came to the 5.10c face climbing traverse out over the void, near the top.

Starting out the route, it was obvious what lay ahead above this overhang was some amazing climbing on quality alpine granite.

The lower 3rd of the route is not very steep at all.

The perspective of the route above changes, wildly, at this point, the Buttress headwall becomes very prominent

Being on the headwall is spectacular. After this is the dicey face climbing traverse left, which really puts you in space. The wall drops 2000 very steeply below you as you gain the grooves that comprise the final section which lead to an airy summit.

We were blown away by the chalk marks Hamish and Peter had left on the face to get to this belay. It must have been very mentally challenging for both of them to complete the ultra exposed face climbing traverse


Big Wall climber
May 3, 2009 - 11:22pm PT
Wow great stuff guys - keep it coming!

A long way from where I started
May 4, 2009 - 01:18am PT
Hi Bruce. Thanks for getting this started -- we've been stuck in the 70s for way too long.

By the time the 80s hit Squamish there was a big enough community that not everybody knew everybody else well -- although it was still small enough that most people knew most everybody else at least a little.

Here's a shot of somebody who played a big part in Squamish climbing then -- not so much for his climbs just at Squamish, but also in the mountains of southwestern BC. A fine climber, a fine partner, a fine friend, and a fine man: Don Serl.


Trad climber
May 4, 2009 - 10:35am PT
Wow, a Jim B sighting!

Tx for starting the thread, Bruce. I don't have many Sq pix left-- I'll see if I can find some more later this week.

Apron Strings always felt 10b to me. Although it still had a fixed pin the last time I did it.

And Mercy Me was the "easy" approach to Split Pillar only if you aided the last pitch. Otherwise it was 5.11, and that last bit before the Pillar was always the crux of Grand Wall for me, at least back when the upper bolt ladder hadn't been freed.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
May 4, 2009 - 10:43am PT
Yup - you can see Steve following that last bit in slings in the photo up there. I never found a 5.11 route up that bolt ladder. We french-freed it long before I'd ever heard that expression. I think this last short section of the traverse from Mercy Me to the base of the Split Pillar is part of the original Baldwin-Cooper line. Back in the early 80s when I did it, there were no hangers--you slipped the wires from wired nuts over some bent, rusty 1/4" bolts.
Climbing dropout

Trad climber
Vancouver, BC
Topic Author's Reply - May 4, 2009 - 01:32pm PT
Another tribute to Hamish Fraser post ....

Fall of 1989 I was in the Valley and having a wicked trip climbing a number of classic day long free climbs, with numerous different partners, including the DNB with Dean Hart.

Then Hamish showed up ....

Astroman was not on my tick list, but it was on Hamish's. He needed a warm up so we got on the full Rostrum to get him in the groove. Unfortunately I did not take my camera on the Rostrum, but I did have it with us on Astroman

This is looking up to the Harding slot, 3 pitches above, from the belay on top of the Endurance pitch. Hamish running it out on easy ground.

Hamish was pysched to get shots looking down the changing corners pitch as he had seen images of Ron Kauk there, in Time magazine that looked great. We are still waiting for Time Magazine to return our phone calls, or at the least, my negatives ....

Another shot, because this is such a great spot

Note to self, jam feet in crack to conserve strength, keep tongue in mouth to conserve for elusive and mythical Squamish climbers girlfriend back at campsite.

Serious climb, but not so serious Squamish climbers

We summitted in good time that afternoon as evidenced by the shadows in this picture, completing the route in a 7 hour time frame. That evening Croft showed up in our lower Pines campsite to congratulate us and inspect the backs of my hands for damage. There wasn't any so he was impressed. We felt awesome about the whole day and having Peter come by that evening to inquire about how it went, was really cool.


May 4, 2009 - 02:58pm PT
Bump for a Climbing thread
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