Category Archives: Canada
I was expecting great views along the Sea to Sky Corridor (a road that follows a fjord into the mountains). Even though it was only a couple hundred feet away, I couldn’t even see the water. Smoke from forest fires in the north was obscuring everything.
After stopping in the gear shop to pick up a guidebook and info, I went to the “Climber’s Campground” to find a partner. As soon as I hopped out of my car with my pack, I saw three climbers heading off. Groups of three are great to join with since it is always easier to climb in even numbers. This group said I would be welcome to climb with them. One of them was Steve, the “Resident Dirtbag” along with Giam a strong sport climber from France and Sarah who had never climbed before. All of them spoke French but said it was great that I didn’t since working on English was something they needed to do.
We went to the Smoke Bluffs to introduce Sarah to the world of climbing on some easy stuff. Giam and I set up a top rope on a 10a. I went up first and had a little slip. I have very little experience at slab and this area is almost entirely slab/crack. After a couple more climbs, we went to an area called Neat and Cool.
Steve pointed out a 5.8 trad crack that he said I should lead. The highest trad lead I have done so far is 5.5. Also I my trad rack consists of hexes, nuts, tricams, and three cams. I got up part way, got off route, and got very scared. But I was able to get back on route and finish the route. I was very pleased.
I then top roped the route that the area takes it’s name from. A super amazing 10a that does a zig-zag hand traverse to a burly move exiting the traverse. Maybe someday I can lead it on trad.
Today I climbed with Ben, Kristen, Bob, Ralph, and Will. Quite the group. They were heading to the Grand Wall for a 10c pure crack called Exasperater. We did a warm up on a 10a layback. I followed on Exasperater (which is actually two pitches, but they tied two ropes together to top rope them in one pitch) and made it through the first pitch. By the middle of the second pitch I was pumping out. I was really fighting on that route (people on the ground mentioned they liked my “warrior cries”), and made it to the top with two falls. Very much a crash course in crack climbing.
I then went with Bob to climb a multi-pitch called Skywalker. It was a super amazing climb. The fourth pitch is a foot traverse that can almost be done without hands. Walking across the little sidewalk hundreds of feet in the air is where the routes gets its name. Since I am still so new to trad and multi-pitch, Bob did most of the leading. But I did lead the last 5.4 pitch, but it was so short, easy, and full of bolts that I only place one cam. It was good practice though.
I was climbing with the same group as yesterday, but Kathy joined us today. We went to Penny Lane in the Smoke Bluffs and did a bunch of awesome routes. I worked out a 10d direct start to one of the routes. A burly and balancy roof start onto holds-that-arent-there slab moves to the crack. Crack climbing is very new and foreign to me, so it was nice to get something more sport like. There was also an awesome 10a arete climb. This is one of my favorite routes I have done in a long time.
We ended the day on a 5.9 crack that is considered a super-classic. I struggled a bit, but sent the route.
Today I got on The Chief, the rock formation that rises about 2000 feet from the ocean. Steve, the guy I climbed with on my first day said we should do Banana Peel, one of the easier routes that go up the first part of the Chief. It turns out his putting me on the 5.8 was kinda a test to gauge my climbing skills. I think I passed because he said we would split the leads.
The first pitch I lead was low 5th runout traverse. I then went up a very short pitch, but it was slab with no protection. It was supposed to be real easy, but I got started on the wrong area and almost took a nasty fall. I started again in the right place and all went fine. I also lead a sweet 5.7 around a crazy flake and fun 5.4 up water runnels. And I built my first gear belay. This climb is one of the highlights for the week.
Between Banff and Squamish, I learned there was another climbing destination: Shaka. Some told me it was in the desert and too hot, while others said I should go for it. I made my way towards the area, but first I needed a rest day. I did some research and found there was free forest camping fairly close by.
Getting there was a little interesting. I drove for about 20 miles on a dirt road and the lake came into sight. There was a group of campers and many of them looked semi-permanent. It was very unexpected to find a neighborhood in the middle of nowhere. The road was very rough to find an available site. Some hills needed a running start to get up. I was glad I had my Xterra. One of the roads I went down kept getting narrower until I couldn’t push through the brush. Backing out of that was interesting. After a bit more adventure, I found a good spot.
After setting up camp, I went down to the lake to wash my clothes and myself. The water was much warmer than the glacier fed Lake Louise. But when I got out, I did need to deal with the leeches. After a nap in my hammock, I did some silversmithing.
Today I slept in a little and slowly made my way to Skaha Bluffs. After getting lost a couple times, I found the crags and other climbers. But it was about noon and everyone was leaving. They said that climbers only go in the morning and then in evening. So I went swimming (no leeches this time) and relaxed until dinner time.
Back at the bluffs I met up with Pablo and Alva, two climbers from Spain. We did a couple 8s, 9s, and a 10a. Two of the routes had some cool roof moves. My roof technique is slowly but surely improving.
The next morning I met Faisal and Dominique. We went to Fern Gully which is a perfect place to escape the heat. In a narrow cleft in the rocks, you almost always have shade and a breeze helps further. After a warm up, I lead Mea Culpa which is the most awkward 5.9 I have done. There were several overhangs you needed to scrunch up into and reach around. Being taller made it worse. The crux was in one of those spots, but it also was very exposed and had a bad swing if I fell. It took me several times of reaching out and trying to figure out the moves before I committed to a hold and went with it. Thankfully it worked.
The last climb we did that day was an 11b called Tilted Glass. The name is entirely appropriate. The face was almost featureless and the only thing that made the route possible was that it was slightly leaned in. Faisal set a top rope and up I went. Incredibly technical and difficult. But oh so fun. Some of the holds were the size of two stacked quarters. I had to take once, but I pulled all the moves. I was very excited.
Today it seemed no climbers would show up. It is called “Canada’s Desert” and is the hottest part of the country. It is dry and the temperature does get into the 90s, but I wouldn’t call it a desert. Regardless, most Canadians avoid it in the summer. Right as I was about to leave for Squamish, a lone climber pulled up.
He was going to do some top rope soloing, but said I could join him. He was working on an 11c which he described as “Tilted Glass that isn’t tilted.” It was in Fern Gully so it was nice and cool. After watching him go up, I gave it a shot. So hard. Long reaches to holds that are barely there. Precise footwork required. I fell at the crux and once further up, but it felt so good. At the top, I could barely call out that I was ready to be lowered. Once I rested on the ground, I belayed my partner again. And then I gave it another go. I missed one of my foot placements and fell early on. I should have started from the ground again, but I pressed on. To my surprise, I made it through the crux and to the top without anymore falls. So close to successfully getting my hardest climb yet. But I had nothing left so giving it another go was not an option. To Squamish I go.
I drove to Lake Louise, but it was too wet and rainy to climb. So I grabbed a rain jacket and went for a walk/hike. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I found myself at Saddleback Pass and just a little below the Fairview Mountain summit. If I made it this far, I was going to take it all the way.
In my hasty start, I didn’t bring up any water but thankfully there was some snow up on the mountain. There was also some very healthy looking flowers up there. Finding plants in barren rock is always fun and a little inspiring. Nothing else lives here, but this little thing pushes through with style.
The view at the summit is definitely worth the hike. Fairview is a good name for the mountain.
Today I got up and made my way to the climbing area at the back of the lake. After waiting a little, I saw a group carrying ropes come up the trail. Once they saw I had my gear too, they welcomed me into their group.
We started off with some easy 9 and low 10s for warming up. The rock here is quartzite and a little tricky. A couple of climbs in, and the rock started to make more sense. I followed two of the more experienced climbs over to an overhanging 11a.
I followed on top rope and was pretty close to “tronsighting” it. I blew it at the end of the overhang when I couldn’t see my feet. There was a foot pocket that I missed. The climb didn’t end at the lip of the roof though. There was a balance-y section past a flake. To help keep my balance, I jammed my head into the wide flake. Not a standard climbing move, but it worked and provided a good pun or two.
A couple my partners were on an 11b crack climb. I belayed them a bit and then gave it a shot. There is a pretty tricky move right at the start. If I could get past that, I could do pretty well on the route. Unfortunately I was not able to pull that move. I need to improve my hand jam technique.
I ended the day on a sweet 10b route. One of the more amazing climbs I have sent. It starts on a really thin slab, then pulls through two roofs leading you into an dihedral and then across the arete to face moves to the finish. Getting to experience so varied climbing on a single pitch is rare. 37 meters of awesome. Though getting down was a little interesting, even with a 70 meter rope. A great climb to end the day.
Today I met up with some trad climbers. Well, one of them was a trad climber and he was teaching his friends how it works. Perfect fit for me since I want to learn trad too. He lead up an easy 5.6 and we all followed behind examining and yanking on his gear placements to learn what makes a good piece. One of his cams wasn’t good and popped out when he was being lowered. I was very pleased to find a placement that held even through the lower.
The rest of the day was pretty chill climbing. The emphasis was on technique instead of pushing the grade. But then at the end of the day we decided to go for a 10c. I was given the first lead and if I could get it, I would onsight my hardest grade yet. I found the crux about three fourths of the way up. A roof with a reachy layback with terrible feet perched over a ledge. The ledge part is what scared me.
I got a little past my bolt and then blew my foot. Oh, I had also backstepped the rope. So I flipped upside down as I hit the ledge below me. Miraculously I was not really hurt, though I was pretty shook up. Climbers watching me from another route mentioned that they were scared just watching it. I tried again and fell again. I didn’t backstep, but the rope swung me pretty hard into the rock and my toes took the brunt of the force. I hope I don’t lose my big toenail.
I was in a bit of pain so I lowered to the ground. My belayer took over and reached the top. Once I recovered a little I followed on toprope. I was extremely glad to end the day conquering that route.