Trip Report
Freeway (many photos)
Monday May 30, 2011 5:04pm
It all started with a phone call on Saturday evening. I was pretty tired from cragging earlier in the day and was hoping my friend would be up for something low-key. Jorge was really excited when he picked up the phone. The forecast for Sunday looked good for Squamish standards (only 40% chance of evening thunderstorms). His reply: "I was thinking Freeway". I lied: "That's exactly what I was thinking!" Freeway is the route to do in Squamish and one of the main routes that I had my eyes on during my short stay in Wetcouver. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to rope up with Jorge (a Patagonia veteran and a Squamish local since March) and do the route that I've been dreaming about long before I set my foot in Canada.

The prospect of climbing a route of this statue is intimidating for me. In its 10 pitches 6 or 7 are rated 5.11 depending on how you link them. In addition, the crux double roof pitch is 11c/d - a grade that I've never onsighted on gear. Nevertheless, an acquaintance of mine who has climbed in Squamish for almost as long as I have been alive told me that the "cruxes are short" and the "route is about as hard as the Rostrum". And that's how I got sandbagged.

At 10:30 am on Sunday we were at the base. It was chilly, but we knew that the Chief would be in the sun in the afternoon. To go light I brought 2 t-shirts for the climb and we both had flip-flops for the descent. The guidebook mentioned that the first pitch (10c slab) is often skipped using a dirty ramp and a fixed rope. I was hoping not to do that as I wanted to climb the route in it's entirety. In addition, warming up on an 11b pitch is not my style. We were disappointed to find a wide wet streak that overlapped pretty well with the line of bolts on the first pitch and resorted to yarding on the tattered and rotten fixed rope that looked like it has seen a few Canadian winters. I was hesitant to claim my lead and Jorge quickly charged up the 2nd pitch which put him in position to lead the hardest pitches for the rest of our climb. The climbing was very technical right off the belay and it took him a long time to clean out dirt from every finger jam while pasting his feet tenuously on the moist granite.

As I came up to his station he looked very disappointed. The dihedral above was even dirtier, wetter, and completely overgrown. Bad thoughts started up in my head as well. "WTF? How can this be a classic? Has anyone climbed this before?" They didn't last very long as a quick look at the topo revealed that we are to take a hard right into a splitter, but grainy fist crack called "Daylight crack". We both cheered up and the climbing got better and better from that point on.

I linked the Daylight crack into a sloper traverse down and to the right almost getting off route in between. That put us at the base of the 100 meter dihedral which is one of the best features of the route. The dihedral can be split up into 3 11b-ish pitches or the first two can be linked together to make two monstrous 50 meter endurofests. That's exactly what Jorge ended up doing for his turn. The climbing was spicy, extremely technical, with occasional wet finger locks, and cruxy dead dihedrals that were negotiated with many calf-burning stems on micro features. My friend Lindsay was possibly right - the cruxes are short. The thing is: every pitch has a handfull of them with no places to hang out and rest.

For the second half the dihedral steepens and the quality of stone goes way up starting to resemble that of the valley. I got a mandatory knee-bar 10 ft away from the station and proceeded to get my body trashed. Fingerlocks become more positive but the climbing also got extremely pumpy with calf-pump and and forearm-pump continuing to build up. The book suggests to "bring all the gear you own" for this pitch. It was true: it's been a while since I've come to the belay with so little left of the rack and so much rope drag.

The dihedral ends on a ledge that is capped by a massive set of roofs that can be seen from the base. We were both psyched to do the freeway "light" with no falls, but I started to worry as my body was starting to get extremely exhausted. By this point I've already climbed more 5.11 cracks than ever before on a given day and I was happy that Jorge was stoked to lead the crux roof pitch. It looked super intimidating as you couldn't really see any holds over the roof and the exposure was ridiculous. We chilled at the "Truck stop cave" for a few minutes and Jorge proceeded to onsight the double roof.

While following I spent a good bit of time pulling out a cam that walked in and required both hands for extraction. Finding a no-hands position in the middle of that overhang wasn't restful at all. I'd say it was gut-wrenching. The exposure frightened me with nothing but air under my feet all the way to the base. I succeeded with the cam, but only to have my forearms explode on me at the last hard move of the 40 foot pitch.

We rested for a few minutes during which I contemplated whether I still have it in me to lead the next (11a) pitch. With all signs against it I decided to give it a go and proceeded to get suckered into a harder variation. Upper levels (rated 12a if you link it with the previous pitch and omit the hanging belay) looked amazing, but hard as I climbed up to the fixed stopper at the crux. My forearms and biceps started to cramp up and I knew that I could barely hold on, not to mention place gear.

I downclimbed back to the hanging station and let Jorge give it a go. A thought crossed my mind that we should traverse around the arete clipping the pin at my ankle level in the picture above (that's where the regular route goes), but the splitter layback of Upper Levels beaconed. Jorge finally met his challenge taking a fall into empty space below the roof and pulling me up to hang without touching the wall as well. The move wasn't super hard (maybe V3), but we were both pretty beat up. I could barely hold on to the rock at this point while following him. Nevertheless, I was happy to finally get on some sunny rock and return to the vertical terrain.

Jorge started up the Fast Lane variation as the cracks on the regular route looked like they have not gotten much love lately. He proceeded to link two pitches avoiding the hanging belay in between to stretch our 60 m rope to the next station. By the way, did I mention that he is a total badass! The pitch involved stellar face climbing on very raw granite flakes that threatened to puncture our fingertips.

I finished the climb by leading the short bolder problem pitch call "Last Exit" and we were finally at the top way more psyched than when we left the ground.

Needless to say, today I'm feeling like I got ran over by a truck on the freeway. I hope that many more adventures with Jorge will follow. It's awesome to have such a solid partner!


  Trip Report Views: 8,698
About the Author
Impaler is a gym climber from Vancouver.

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Comment on this Trip Report

  May 30, 2011 - 05:39pm PT
Nice TR. I was expecting balloon-aided pictures of six lane cloverleaves.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  May 30, 2011 - 11:45pm PT
Excellent! Thought about this one many times in my years in the Northwest but never felt ready. Back then it was not a free route. Even the Lite version looks intimidating. Nice job.

Trad climber
  May 30, 2011 - 06:11pm PT

Very cool!!

A long way from where I started
  May 30, 2011 - 06:40pm PT
Pretty amazing, what with moist fingerlocks and all. Nice pictures, too.
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  May 30, 2011 - 06:43pm PT
Thanks! Was this from yesterday?

(The spelling reminded me of Dan Quayle's famous 'potatoe'. :-))

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  May 30, 2011 - 06:54pm PT
Yay Vlad! Still having fun scaring yourself, I see!


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  May 30, 2011 - 08:27pm PT
Thanks for that.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
  May 30, 2011 - 08:51pm PT
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 30, 2011 - 09:22pm PT
Totally Awesome Valad!
Y'all got her done!

Social climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  May 31, 2011 - 12:20am PT
Thanks for reading, everyone!

I'm glad I have the blessing from Weld_it! Thanks Bro!

Anders: Yes, this is from yesterday. Sorry about the spelling. My usual excuse is that English is not my first language, but in reality I suck at spelling just like everyone else.

Bruce: I totally agree with your description of the Rostrum: "Blue collar jamming" lol! Well, at the crux I had a double undercling/handjam just a few inches lower. I'm now nursing my gobies from that spot. There's also a bomber finger lock where the bottom of the quickdraw is in the pictures. The problem is that you can't reach the fingerlock from the jams due to absence of any feet and the only option that both Jorge and I saw was to power-layback for two very strenuous moves. The crack in between was too flaring for us to jam.

Social climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  May 31, 2011 - 01:21am PT
Yes, that was him. I run into him in the gym and at the crags all the time. I was joking, of course. I knew what I was getting into on Freeway. I noticed his name in the book on the FFA yesterday after we got down. I'll have to ask him about that.

Speaking of daily planet, Lindsay also told me that the first pitch is easy for the grade. So far I had no doubts about that piece of information. What do you think? Is that the pitch you are talking about?

Trad climber
  May 31, 2011 - 11:54am PT
that route is full-on. Dirty Harry said it best: hard 5.11 climbing with cruxes well above decent gear. I have been rained off the damned thing twice and am stoked to get back.

FYI Alex Honnold freesoloed it (!) a few days after his epic hardest-ever triple crown day with Will.
this just in

Justin Ross from North Fork
  May 31, 2011 - 12:19pm PT
Great tr and great climbing, thanks.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  May 31, 2011 - 12:28pm PT
FYI Alex Honnold freesoloed it (!) a few days after his epic hardest-ever triple crown day with Will.

I guess doing it that way eliminates the problem of "cruxes well above decent gear"
The Alpine

The Sea
  May 31, 2011 - 12:38pm PT

  May 31, 2011 - 03:21pm PT
Hey Vlad,
Good one and great shots-say hello to Dr Eltis for me please.
Hey should you go back for a return engagement on that second roof, rather than the barn door lieback, I suggest you try getting a good right thin hand jam as high as possible, plant those feet square to the slope, yard up and lo, the pretty good finger lock appears -i am 5'10" and this works for me, beats that lieback to hell.

Social climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  May 31, 2011 - 05:53pm PT
I was thinking about Hon Solo climbing some of those spots unroped. Without any real holds and stemming on a very slick and tiny dike (5th pitch) I felt like I could peel off any second without a warning. Many pitches had similar cruxes.

Greg (I assume?), thanks! I'll try that. I can't imagine not going up there again. So many other variations to try!

Oakland, CA
  Jun 7, 2011 - 02:43am PT
So good! So, so good.

under a coconut tree
  Jun 8, 2011 - 03:23pm PT
Steve Seats onsight free-soloed the route.

Not sure if he did the Alaskan Highway to Northern Lights??

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  Jun 8, 2011 - 03:44pm PT
Great pics....You guys really scored on the weather too......Good job.


Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jun 8, 2011 - 03:59pm PT
sweet shot on "daylight crack"

man I wanna get up to BC someday...

thanks for fueling the stoke!

Trad climber
new paltz, ny
  Jun 8, 2011 - 04:58pm PT
my friends tom gibson and rob rhon put this in

great article and photos

Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Jun 8, 2011 - 06:24pm PT
Hey Eagle, them's my friends too. I was there when they put it up. Who might you be?

Great read!

Social climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jun 30, 2011 - 11:50am PT
So, I got the story about the FFA from Lindsay today. It turns out it was his initiative to free the Freeway as he climbed in Squamish for a few years during his graduate studies and wanted to contribute something to the community. According to him, the route wasn't free climbed during the first ascent not due to the lack of talent of Tom Gibson and Rob Rohn (who freed the crux 11c/d roof in 1979), but rather due to dirty cracks on the bottom half of the route.

Lindsay and Dean Hart spent a month cleaning it up and cutting the trees that grew out of the cracks in 1989. Then about a day before LE had to leave for his post-doc in Germany, they got on it and sent the two long pitches in the big dihedral under the truck stop cave that have been aided during all prior ascents. LE said he did the first 11c pitch first try and was so excited (and probably stronger than he knew) that he thought it was about 10c in difficulty. DH wasn't in the best shape at the time and ended up falling in a few places, obviously disagreeing about the rating. Because of DH, they ended up raping off from the truck stop and not doing the entire route, even though the upper pitches have been previously free climbed.

DH ended up coming back when he was in a better shape and climbing the entire Freeway with Randy Atkinson for the complete FFA a year later.

  Jun 30, 2011 - 04:02am PT
The year tom and rob climbed freeway i spent my high school summer vacation taking the ferry over from van isle whenever i could scrape funds together for a little cragging. I remember seeing the lads airing out their sleeping bags after a night at the truck stop -a powerful motivator to become a better climber and have the chance to experience routes like this.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
  Jan 12, 2012 - 06:46pm PT
Come on and take a free ride on the Freeway bump.

  Oct 29, 2012 - 08:12pm PT
Squamish bumpity for an awesome TR! Can't wait to do this climb!
Keep TRs on the front!!

  Oct 29, 2012 - 08:16pm PT
Somehow missed this the first time around. Great TR. thanks,

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Aug 9, 2013 - 10:57pm PT
Bump for fun times in Squamish!

Social climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Aug 9, 2013 - 11:03pm PT
Did you get on it, Luke? If you haven't yet get on Northern Lights. 2nd pitch off the big ledge in the middle is one of the best dihedrals ever.

Mountain climber
San Francisco, CA
  Aug 9, 2013 - 11:32pm PT
This is such awesome psych for right before I head there! Thanks for posting this TR (and for bumping, Luke)

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
  Aug 10, 2013 - 12:47am PT
beautiful, beautiful. thanks for adding psyche to my day!

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Aug 10, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
Yeah did freeway yesterday. Rad route! Sadly I punted on the amazing corner on The Calling. Was still too pumped from P1. I'll have to go back for the proper northern lights linkup next trip.

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