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.