Friday, 29 July 2011

Squamish Select

OK, so I've not posted for ages AND I've been back from Squamish and been on TWO climbing trips in the UK!!! In this post I'll do a bit of a Squamish write-up and then crack on with UK blogging when I begin revision tomorrow...

30 days, 110 pitches of climbing, 100's of metres of cracks and a good dose of rain. Trip outcome: Success all round!

The main aim of the trip had been to learn to hand jam and not rely on face holds of any kind whilst doing so, I started out struggling on 5.9's (HVS), even falling off one, St. Vitus' Dance! I then moved on to falling off 5.10b (bottom-end E2). This, I feel is Squamish's sandbag grade, with routes such as Seasoned in the Sun, Centrefold, Caboose, and Hand Jive all being harder than many 10c's I did. In fact I fell off all of the above except Seasoned in the Sun, which I feel was the hardest pure crack I climbed, with steep, thin hands jamming with no foot holds outside the crack, with it being to thin to jam with your feet! Again I found myself finding a normal-width handjam as good as a jug!

On the routes front, the top ten include (in order of granite-ey goodness):

1. The Angel's Crest 5.10b - an amazing adventure and the biggest route I have done to date, almost every pitch is 3 stars!
2. The Exasporator 5.10c - wanted to do it as soon as I saw it, way before I even thought about going to Squamish.
3. Squamish Buttress 5.10c - the first route to the top of the Chief, the crux pitch is an amazing corner very reminiscent of the Grasper at Bwlch y Moch.
4. Peasent's Route 5.10c - Done on my last day in Squamish with Loz, a fellow West Country bey! Brilliant climbing despite being soaking wet!
5. Hand Jive 5.10b - Got pretty shut-down by this one... fell off the start when I climbed it the wrong way, managed to do the vertical hand-crack fine until a fall on the last hard move to the chains! A good spanking!
6. Seasoned in the Sun 5.10b - My finest moment of crack climbing, I felt like a real crack climber after this!
7. Karen's Math 5.10a - An amazing varied pitch at the top of the Apron; steep crack, massive layback flake then a tricky face traverse to finish... I felt like Leo Houlding!
8. Flying Circus 5.10a - Just brilliant finger-locks up a slabby wall, the first hard crack I did in Squamish!
9. St. Vitus' Dance 5.9 - A brilliant route up the Apron with 3 contrasting 5.9 pitches in a row!
10. Banana Peel 5.7 - Me and Flo ran up this one afternoon, just so much friction slab fun!

I also did some awesome bouldering and sport climbing, highlights of these include 3 classic V4s in an afternoon; Superfly, Easy in an Easy Chair and Sloppy Poppy. The bouldering in Squamish is awesome, and I wish I had done more, but it felt like a cop-out when the Chief just screams to be climbed!

On the Sport climbing front the highlights have to be; Dark Don't Lie 5.11a (6b+) A brilliant flowing route that would be an amazing E3 with trad gear! The Neutered Bovine, 5.11c (6c+) 1st Redpoint as the first route of the day, super-powerful but brilliant moves! Face the Music, 5.12a (7a+) Didn't get it clean, but a brilliant crux sequence!! Cheakamus Canyon was great when the rain fell as it stayed dry, the only problem was getting there, however I would have loved to get to the Petrifying Wall at Murrin Park, but only went there one evening for a bear (beaver) hunt with Will Stanhope... Yep the guy who broke the Parthian flake!

This nicely brings us on to the next highlight of the trip.... THE BEAR IN CAMP!!!! Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence, as one grey morning, Heather got out the tent, I decided to have a bit of a lie-in, as I'm a lazy bugger! Until suddenly Heather ran back shouting "If you want to see a bear come quick!" Quickly, I dressed and ran out of the tent to find a bear trying to get into the bear boxes. Suddenly it turned and began to walk in our direction... luckily it was small and there were a lot of us! Eventually it left but what an amazing thing to see!

Despite having an amazing trip there are a few hints and tips for Squamish:

1. Don't be intimidated by the Chief, by the time I left I had completely changed my outlook towards it and given another week or two would have got on the Grand Wall.
2. Squamish is a prime place to learn how to jam and crack climb, HOWEVER you will have a much more productive trip if you know how to jam and crack climb and will be able to get on harder routes!
3. Go to Zephyr's Cafe and have a Chicken and Avacado Burger EVERY rest day... it makes you stronger.
4. Only wash ONCE a week in the Rec. Centre, and spend as much time as possible dicking around on the toys the swimming pool has i.e monkey bars (perfect for climbers!), Tarzan swing (perfect for belly-flopping) also watch the rain fall from the toasty warm jacuzzi.
5. Try not to forget your swimming trunks, especially on the day(s) you were wearing Union Jack boxer shorts... Laughter from your 'friend' and the lifeguards echoes around the swimming pool.
6. Buy a pair of crack-climbing shoes. These must allow your toes to be pretty much flat, not like face climbing shoes. They must also be made from something durable.
7. If you can afford it, get a car/van/truck... it means you can drive to dry climbing places/fun non-dry weather dependant places, and sleep on something that isn't gravel... yes, yes I know I should buy a thermarest... they just seem a little gay!
8. Go and get used to finding routes at Tremadog... Squamish is just Tremadog on crack!
9. Don't get stressed, just roll with whatever happens.
10. Enjoy it! Try and tick as many of the 'Ultimate Squamish Routes' as possible :-)
11. Go with a girl who will be fancied by Will Stanhope, he'll do anything to win favour and you might meet Sonnie Trotter... a proper legend! In fairness, it was pretty cool hanging out with these guys, and we got lifts to places! But seriously now... never go on a Bear hunt with Stanhope... he'll be secretly hunting for Beaver!

All in all, we had an awesome trip, and although some face climbing fitness was lost, a completely new set of skills were developed, going from barely being able to jam to feeling confident at relatively steep pure cracks, without tape. Hopefully, this will eventually improve my UK rock-climbing! Squamish is a really cool place, I would whole-heartedly recommend it as a first North American venue, as I hear the grades in places such as Yosemite are a bit stiff, they seem fair in Squamish.

Get on it!