Hey Taco gang, this is an overdue report from last summer but since I have the time now I thought I'd throw it up since it was a special time for me. Hope you all enjoy!
All I've ever known about rock climbing has been taught to me on Vancouver Island. The rugged bushwhacks, the chossy basalt faces, the irregular and often awkward cracks, these are the tools that have molded me as a climber since I began just over 3 years ago. Near the end of the summer of 2012 I felt strong and confident, I had climbed all my objectives for the summer and more, ticking moderate classic cracks and alpine scrambles. I felt a ravenous hunger for rock and I knew it wouldn't last as any day I expected the legendary fall rains to drench the wet coast and bring a screeching halt to the climbing season.
Sitting on the side of the creek in camp as the sun disappeared over Strathcona Park, "You still haven't been to Squamish?!" The other Heathens laughed incredulously, little did they know I had never even climbed on granite before. The holy stone, the most solid of solids is hard to come by here on the Island where the predominant rock is basalt, with pockets of stellar limestone, only a scant few obscure granite peaks litter the whole of the Island and I hadn't been to any of them. It was a pilgrimage, a rite of passage and an insight into a bigger world of stone, yet season after season plans failed and changed and I had yet to make the trek. Friends who had seen the promised land reccommended going for a few days, "crag a little at the Smoke Bluffs and then if you're up to it, climb the Chief" but I wanted more, and I retorted saying what an experience it would be to have the Chief itself be my first ever granite route.
Yet as the days grew shorter and colder I was beginning to think I would go another season without my pilgrimage to Mecca, so when I received an offer from Heathen rope gun James Rode to make the trip I jumped on the chance! This would be the last opportunity for either of us this season. We caught the last ferry off the island friday night and pulled into the Chief parking lot in the dark to sleep in the van. We sat in lawn chairs staring up into the blackness and started to make a plan. James had climbed a lot in Squamish already and we knew there was only one way to pop my cherry and make the dream a reality. Tomorrow we would awake at 5am to beat the crowds, the plan was the classic Diedre to Boomstick Crack, to Squamish Buttress to Talking Crack and the summit of the chief. I barely caught a wink of sleep that night, feeling like a kid at christmas.
6:00 am at the base of Diedre, fueled by Tim Hortons coffee, gear racked, food packed, weed sacked, lets hit it. The plan was to swap leads the whole way and since James had done the route he gave me a few of the money pitches. We scrambled past the lowest part of the slab and climbed quickly to gain the corner system.
2 pitches of superb 5.8 dihedral climbing and I knew why this climb was a classic! Easy climbing and great gear, I was already feeling at home on granite, the friction and the solidity gave confidence with every step.
A couple more easy pitches had us into the forest where we hiked over to Boomstick crack 5.7 to add a unique pitch in, this crack is formed on a detatched flake and as you mantle up onto it you realize its only about a half inch big. Easy climbing but kinda cool. A little more scrambling had us soon at the base of the Squamish Buttress. the first 5.8 pitch was mine and I climbed up over a small roof to a bolt then up to a tree belay.
A few more easy pitches had us on the large ledge below the 5.10c crux pitch, and it just so happened to be my lead. I was about 4 hours removed from being a granite virgin and looking up at this pitch at the end of a long climb had me feeling nervous. I hadn't climbed a ton of 10c pitches anywhere, much less on unfamiliar rock after numerous pitches. The pitch looked stellar though and a real test for me. James saw my nerves and stated "Look at it this way, If I lead the crux, everyone will say you were dragged up the Chief, but if YOU lead it nobody can EVER give you shit" we smoked another one and the decision was final, I was going to go for it!
I led off, placing a few pieces early to keep me off the ledge, as I pulled into the final moves I could feel my arms bulging, the strain of the day was taking its toll, I pushed onwards, plugged in a small alien, reached for another finger lock then another, the rim grew closer, just a few more moves and....POP! I fell onto my last cam exhausted.
I knew the crack could easily be french freed, but the thought never crossed my mind. It felt good to fall and be so close to on-sighting, I knew I could do the moves, and after a moments rest I fired it to the top.
James followed the pitch with no falls and climbed very strong.
We quickly scurried over to Raven Castle and up Talking Crack in our approach shoes and topped out in blinding sunlight with a conga line of tourists. This was a weekend after all, but our plan to beat the crowds worked brilliantly and we didn't see another soul on the entire route, except for one early morning soloist who passed us near the top on his way up the Butt-Face variation.
We were done so early we even ran down above the campground and tagged on the classic 2 pitch Slot Machine 5.8 as our warm down.
Fate has an interesting way of coming full-circle, a year ago when I made a joke about the Chief being my first granite route in Squamish I never even fathomed turning it into a reality but the world has a way of working things out. I felt like the climbing I had done up the this point had led me into this adventure and it happened when the universe knew I was ready. It felt great to just get it over with, climb the big stone, get the monkey off my back and clear my vision for bigger and even harder goals. The Squamish Bug now lives inside of me like a rat, gnawing at my insides, waiting to be fed...