Trip ReportThe week of the Pink Moon, a Squamish TR
On monday I got off work early and hitch hiked back to Squamish to see the doc about the fluorescent green boogers in my nose. That morning Luke and I had made a plan to get on the Grand Wall since I didn't have to work at the brew pub that night so after my appointment I biked up to the Cormier residence to rack up. Luke lead the first pitch of Apron Strings and then I followed up.
I started climbing and when I reached the 2nd bolt of Mercy Me I placed a Wildcountry Ropeman as a fall-inhibitor and then continued onwards. The reachy step before the anchor of Mercy Me was soaked so I clipped the bolt and made the move, the rope drag was horrendous though and I realized I shouldn't have clipped so many bolts on Mercy Me if I wanted to make it to the base of the Pillar, I shouted to Luke and set up belay bringing him up and then flipped the rope before setting off again. We reached the Pillar and Luke continued climbing smoothly up the jams to gain the belay.
I packed up the anchor and was about to begin climbing when my phone rang; an unknown number was on the screen, so I answered it with suspicion.
"Hello?" I said,
I listened to my chef asking me if I was coming in tonight and looked up at Luke and then over my shoulder at the tiny light of the Brutal Pub.
"I never work mondays! and well; I'm in a bit of a situation, do you need me to come in?"
"Yes", Chef replied.
"Alright, see you in a few!" I responded before stuffing the phone in my pocket and climbing up to join Luke and tell him the good news. He laughed and I shrugged and we focused on the task at hand.
I grabbed the remainder of the gear and scrambled up the sword and then pumped through the bolt ladder to the chains before Perry's. Luke took over the lead and started clipping bolts before peeling off and taking a screamer, I followed him to the flats where we flipped the rope so Luke could lead again and give me a go at the Sale Flake. I spotted the gear from below but due to a mix of fatigue and not wanting to fall I took on a cam only to realize a good rest was one move away. I plugged in a #1 camalot and pulled over the flake and monkeyed to the top.
We simuled bellygood and then ran down the trail to the car and my impending shift in the dishpit. We started climbing at 4:45 and I was at work at 9, a massive pile of dirty dishes waiting for me. I was done the dishes and home just after midnight to catch a quick nap before getting up 6 hours later to go back to West Van to get some more work done. After the day of painting we arrived back in Squamish and I headed to the highway and began hitch hiking to Whistler for an event a group of buddies had organized. My friend Brad picked me up enroute from Vancouver going straight to the skatepark(where I happened to be headed as well) and we arrived to coolers full of brewskies and a DJ blasting tunes and a multitude of mountain folk partying in the sun.
The next morning I woke up face down and struggling to breath. The couch cushions we're suffocating me and the twisted tentacles of the blanket(which had comforted me so much as I drifted off) were pinning me down in a full nelson. I struggled and rolled; landing hard on the floor, The blanket was under me now and it didn't stand a chance as I swiftly tucked and spun, slipping from it's grip to stand victorious over it's lifeless form. The blood rushed from my head and I nearly fainted from the dizzying effects of standing up too fast. The pounding of my pulse in the top of my brain reminded me of the debauchery of the night before and I moaned but only a scratchy whisper of noise could escape through the tobacco scorched pathway of my throat. I called the kid to see how work was going and he mentioned a late return from West Van, the thought of hitch hiking to Van from Whistler and then back to Squam brought the taste of bile to my mouth and I politely mentioned I was too big a weenie to pull it off. Before he hung up Cormier told me to go climbing. My booze addled brain's connective neurons were oozing information as if transferring impulses through sludge but the word climbing somehow lit a spark and I fumbled through my phone to find my friend Kyle's number. He was eager and we made plans to meet in creekside to head south for the granite of Squamish. I hopped on my skateboard and pushed as fast as I could to the closest caffeine dispensary where I buried my face in a plate of eggs and veggies and desperately slugged back Xpresso shots(the X is for Xtreme) until Kyle showed up. With the new found energy I had acquired I suggested a multi-pitch and with no hesitation Kyle mentioned The Right Wing. I have never climbed on the Squaw and had been keen to get on the Chief's little Sister so I said "Hell Yes!"
We headed off at noon from the car and made it to the base shortly after. A perfect finger and hand crack split the low angle black slab that spread out before us, to the right a steeper wall with zig-zagging cracks and flowing bulges erupted out of the forest floor, and above the headwall reared up mimicking a tidal wave's curl and tongue just before it rolls over to crash on the beach. Kyle started up the crack while I smoked cigarettes back to back trying to ward off the throngs of spring mosquitos. The rope wandered up and came tight at my waste so I scrambled a bit to let Kyle reach the anchor and then gained a stance where I waited, listening for "on belay" and drooling over the endless jams and locks that lead up to Kyle at the belay. The next pitch was streaked with seepage but the edges and crimps looked dry so I started clipping bolts and working my way up, a bouldery sequence spat me off on my first go but a slight tweak of the footwork allowed me passage, only to shut me down a few moves higher. A closer look and a moment later I grabbed the top and mantled onto "Political Ledge". Kyle followed clean finding a sequence that avoided the wet foothold I used; he joined me at the ledge looking up at the "Filibuster" corner, jaw agape.
The first 8 meters were drenched although small islands of dry rock looked as if they would allow upward progress to gain the layback. After a moment of silent contemplation Kyle looked at me and said he would go for it.
He moved through the wet section smooth and careful and arrived at the stance without a hitch. He stuffed gear deep in the gaping crack behind loose rock before wriggling himself back out and eyeing out the moves ahead. The corner is wide here, too awkward to chimney but manageable to layback. He powered through 15 feet until a crack appeared on the left face of the corner where he slotted in a cam and continued to pull upwards to what he thought was a jug; the jug was an illusion and his hopes looked grim as he fumbled for a piece to stuff in the crack, he clipped the rope and continued clawing at the corner but after a handful of moves peeled off with a shout and came flying back down until the rope came tight. He pulled back to his piece and took off once again, placing gear and smearing upwards to reach the midway belay.
I scrambled up the wet moves to where the corner widens and realised the problem, although the feet were dry(albite shiny with a trippy lichen) the corner was seeping a thin stream of water along it's edge. I pulled out of the chimney and began laybacking, each hand hold wet but gritty enough to hold onto and I took my time placing the gear back on my harness to get a feel for the climbing. I arrived at the belay with soaked hands and a smile on my face and asked for the gear and gave Kyle props for making it up despite the seepage.
The next pitch looked spectacular. I clipped gear into my harness and unclipped from the belay to work my body into the crack and chimney to a bolt. A few moves gained a decent foothold where I plugged a handsized cam into the back of the corner and then jammed my way up to where the corner slams shut and small finger slots allow one to pull over a bulge which leads to more thin laybacking where I found another wet streak coming out of some sloppy finger locks. The wet streak was manageable although tricky without secure hand holds, luckily the slabby feet proved themselves to be sticky and my feet could pad around the streak. The next section was where the battle really began, the effort of pulling on my arms forced me to fully commit my weight to edges or smears which I helplessly slumped onto panting and placing gear. The moves felt endless, the rock passed under my feet in a blur of white on my left and black on my right and my eyes followed the contours of the rock to guide my feet. The sun had poked around the shoulder of the wing and it was glaring my view of the anchor but spreading long shadows over the foot holds unlocking some of the puzzle. The corner widens here, arching away from the slabs until one must rock away from the security of the layback and transfer to a few friction moves to a jug and the chains. I hollered to Kyle that I was secure and collapsed into my harness battle weary and happy. I let Kyle know I would be a second so I could drink some water and take a hit from the roach in my pocket.
Valleycliff sprawled below my perch; the little smoke bluffs poked out of toy trees, while miniature machines tore open the earth to make way for new toy houses on the hillside. For the common "white collar recreationalist" the signs might say. I yelled down to Kyle that he was on belay and he responded to alert me he was climbing.
I pulled up rope while soaking in the new perspective and spotted the brown backdoor of my basement suite where I had sat looking up at the line we now found ourselves climbing. Kyle reached the belay and we both laughed at how tired we were and looked around at our surroundings and the last pitch guarding the top out.
Our plan was to top out on the Squaw and then traverse west to the base of Sunblessed to have a super rad link up day so I had suggested we leave the #5 and send the 10c variation for the last pitch so we could hike light and Kyle had agreed with me. A fixed pin protects the opening moves on the 10c and Kyle clipped it, stemming upwards to find the moves but a threatening barn door caused him to reconsider his options. "I'm taking the 10d" he yelled down to me. I asked if he remembered that we did not bring a #5 and he said he did and with that he set off up the steep hand crack to his left. He grabbed a root and then mantled onto a good foothold allow a rest and a chance to stuff the #4 in and look at the giant beak of granite above. A foot wide and 10 feet long with nearly a foot of air between it and the rest of the cliff it juts out of the corner agressively. Kyle went for it, leading out left past his #4 into the undercling where he put a foot high and tried to go for the top of the flake but toppled off. I had fed out slack to make sure he wasn't sucked back into the corner to hard and despite the fall being quite large the impact was not excessive. He pulled back to his highpoint and scoped his line before committing once again; underclinging back to the good foot hold he swapped feet and then reached for the top once more. The last fall had left a scar though and Kyle found himself frozen on the crux gripped by images of the whipper. "Falling!" he shouted as he turned to meet the corner, slamming into the rock. I winced at the impact and yelled up to make sure Kyle was ok and he weakly responded that he wasn't hurt but felt like he was going to throw up. I lowered him back down to the belay and he clipped to the station and leaned against the rock catching his breath. I looked up at the pitch and it's threatening overhang and wild expando beak and I began processing how I would get us off of this rock.
We hung out and talked and let the electric buzz of adrenaline fade and then Kyle threw me on belay and I made my way up to the #4. From the belay it looked like I could reach the #4 and then downclimb while cleaning the gear to allow a pendulum into the 10c variation out right but I realized very soon that this would be impossible. With that I repositioned the cam and asked Kyle to keep some tension on the rope so I could traverse left to some crimps I had spotted just below and behind the bottom of the beak. The tension helped me control the risk of a huge fall and I walked my hands along the edges till I found a high foot to boost up and grab the top, quickly mantling and throwing my left leg into the security of the flake.
Looking back down I realized why the #5 was so important, a fall from where I was would end up in a splatter of brownie on the white wall of the Right Wing. I shimmied up the flake straddling it while a battle went on in my mind between the overhanging walls barndoor feel and the fact that I had my whole leg in the rock. Moments of security interrupted by flashes of fear and exposure accompanied my inching progress up the steepening offwidth until I reached a smaller beak of rock that barred my exit. I stuffed a cam on either side of the rock and equalized them so nothing could expand and shift and then with the last reserves of energy pulled up on the chock stone and began wriggling my way on top of it but I felt my strength dwindling. The gear spooked me and I knew I did not want to fall here so I down climbed and grabbed a sling from around my shoulders, slinging the horn and pulling up to jam my foot through it, a few wriggly moves and I had mounted the flake and squeezed into the opening above. I stared at the anchors in front of my face and clipped myself in before crawling to flat ground and collapsing, ecstatic.
Kyle followed up and reached the top looking spent and we high fived and smiled at the battle we had just barely survived.
A true classic of Squamish climbing, the Right Wing provides a challenge that is likely unmatched for climbs of the grade. A burlfest that will leave you satisfied and breathless and happy as can be. The finger crack on the right is the top of the 10c finger variation.
We drank the last of our water and munched on a granola bar and sat back to watch the blue sky day unfold before us. A big beautiful Raven soared from below and gave us a questioning look as it floated just over our heads before circling and diving and swooping away into the expanse of the Howe Sound.
I looked at Kyle and half-jokingly asked if he would still be into walking over to Sunblessed but I new he was pooped and he politely declined so we began the descent to the car and the sandwich we had left behind.
Thursday after work I took a friend up the chief for her first time via the rambles-banana peel-buttface connection and we got to check out the "Pink" moon(named after a flower that marks the beginning of spring) before descending headlamp-less back to the ground. The valley behind the chief was filled with warm and pleasant air and the glimmers of moonlight allowed us to find the trail without much effort as we stumbled down, down, down.
Spring has sprung.. go get some!
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