Archive for August, 2011

Lessons of the cracks

Day 2 in the Smoke Bluffs. Bit of a late start, I felt a little off in the morning, probably still a bit knackered by the day before. But we went up to do the Smoke Bluff Connection, 4 loosely connected pitches up through the different levels of the Smoke Bluffs.

First pitch as a 5.8 called Mosquito. Nigel took the lead, and apart from standing a little while below the crux move, it went much better than yesterdays ascents. I followed with a way too heavy pack, but somehow managed to get through it. I found getting off the ground to be the hardest part, probably because of a high step causing me more trouble than lanky Nigel.

For the second pitch we selected Rolling Stones, another 5.8. I took the lead, and struggled a little bit with a low crux before peeling through the top part. 95% of the time on the route was spent looking for gear placements… Lots to learn!

Third pitch was Jabberwocky, a gorgeous 5.10a fingercrack above a reachy bouldery start. Nigel got on the lead, and was looking good until the headgames started messing with him, and he spent way too much time stitching it up, and wore himself out so he had to do a couple of hangs. A little better technique on placing gear, and reducing the number of pieces by about 50% and he would have cruised it. I got on as second, again with the heavy bastard of a pack. Fell off the last move of the bouldery start 2 times before I stuck it, and could get up into the finger crack. Somehow I made it through without pulling on gear (except to get it out of the crack…). I was so stoked about it, it is hard to put into words how cool that crack was, and how satisfying it was to get up it with a 15 pound pack on my back. 2 grades harder than the other pitches I had climbed!

For the last pitch we selected White Rabbit, a short, brutal layback 5.10b. Nigel got on the lead, but rusty technique and difficult pro placements wore him out and he had to take a hang. But he got through it. I did it on toprope, and was so pumped by the time I reached the end that I did the “beached whale” topout, belly down and flopping onto safe ground… I would not have been able to clean it, much less lead it. But I was ecstatic to be able to get up it none the less.

Another fantastic day in the Smoke Bluffs. This time 4 pitches, and 2 of them much harder than yesterdays, so we were knackered, but very happy with the day.

A Subway sandwich on the way back to camp, and some sitting around shooting the shit with our neighbours over a few brews before bed. Tomorrow will be a rest day for sure!

And today is just that. A little internet surfing and blog updating at the local library, and giving my sore muscles and ragged hands a chance to heal somewhat before we head on to bigger and harder things tomorrow. Well, probably not harder. It is time to give me some mileage on lead, so we’ll probably do 5.6-5.8 for that purpose. But I am still really stoked about it. Cracks rock!

And finally a couple of pics we have so far. More to come, and hopefully some video too.



Intro to trad climbing in Squamish

Monday morning came quickly enough, and we had some good coffee, leisurely rack up, and set out for the Smoke Bluffs crag.

We wound our way along nice forest paths, up through the Smoke Bluffs, passing amazing lines on amazing rock every few meters, often just standing in awe, looking at them. So much to do! Our destination was a part of the Smoke Bluffs called Octopuses Garden. A crag with a good selection of easy routes around 5.7-5-9.

We got there, and had a look around. Things didn’t seem too hard but we decided to start up with a 5.7 crack called Edible Panties. Nigel took the lead, and struggled. Over a year since his last trad lead, and only conglomerate climbing in between, the crack, and the granite were both alien to him. But he got through it. I got on, and barely made it through as second. Thanked the powers that be for not having to lead it!

After a nice rest Nigel racked up and got on Octopuses Garden, a 5.8 crack starting on a gorgeous flake. Still struggling, but feeling better. I still flailed while seconding, but made it up.

Another long rest, and Nigel hit Call Any Vegetable, another 5.8 crack. Still struggling on the lead, as was I while seconding. But like the other two, it was a really nice line.

So a pretty harsh reality check for us, but we still managed to laugh about it, and joked about the day with the guys at the camp. “We did some wicked hard 5.8” was my line. Adam had done some “wicked hard 5.9s” so he had us beat there, but not by that much…

The rock was great, the lines gorgeous, and I learned a ton about crack climbing! A day full of WIN!

Arrival in Squamish

Stawamus Chief as seen from Valleycliffe neigh...

Image via Wikipedia

Sunday night we arrived in Squamish after a pretty hectic bit of gear shopping. MEC was sold out of basically everything, but a little browse of nearby stores got us almost all we needed (Climb On in Squamish supplied the rest).

Coming into Squamish and seeing The Chief rise up before me was incredible. Absolutely gorgeous rock face. Will post a decent daytime pic as soon as possible. For now you’ll just have to take my word for it, or google it. Intimidating as well, with the Black Dyke popping out as a spectacular black line of weakness spanning the entire wall. Rated a pretty hard 5.13, it will probably be a while before that route is in the cards for me, but one can hope.

At the campground we went and did a little bit of bouldering by headlamp, just to touch some granite and feel like we were really doing it.

We went into an area called Titanic North.

The nighttime bouldering tick list:

Twister, V1 – Nigel,

Stu’s Dyke, V0 – Paul and Nigel

Tumbleweed, V2 – Nigel

Moana, V0 – Paul and Nigel

The Telltale Heart, V0 – Nigel

The Ice Cube, V0 – Paul and Nigel

Iceberg Right, V0 – Paul and Nigel

Iceberg Centre, V0 – Paul and Nigel

Bouldering pretty new to me, and really hard. I have a lot to learn, and Nigel has a lot to tech me, so that works out great.

After the little bouldering session we wound our way out of the pitch black forest and back to the camp for a well deserved snooze. Both stoked about everything to come!

Blogging Nigel

My climbing partner Nigel has made a brand spanking new blog, and you can check it out right here.

Time to get serious

My time on Saltspring has been good. Relaxed, no stress, laid back, etc. Which I needed. Lots of pre-trip stress and tension, and this week and a half has allowed all that to melt away. Some nice climbing occurring as well.

And now it is time to get serious. Less comforts and distractions on the road will make it easier, certainly, but I have to be sharp and focused to get the most out of this trip. And I intend to get the most out of it.

A training schedule is in the works, as well as a diet plan. Nutrition, training, rest and recovery will all play a major role in reaching my goals for the trip.

I love climbing, so the fun will take care of itself. The gains in performance, however, will require constant attention and focus on the main factors. 5.12 is the target, and I have 4 months to move out of the 5.11 shadows and into the bright 5.12 sun. More than a full number grade in 4 months is ambitious, but I am nothing if not just that. But I will not be spending much time dogging a .12 redpoint project. It will come naturally from improved technique and strength or not at all.

Yeah, time to get serious. Game face on. Let’s roll!

Sunday = departure

We have finished the construction of the shelf/bed in the car, bolted our steel strong box to the floor, and done extensive shopping. Tomorrow we will pack the car, and probably discover some things missing, which we will put on our list. Then Sunday we get in the car and head on down the road to Squamish. I am really stoked about getting on the road and camping out at the crags.

It will feel like we’re finally out on the tour. And with a lot less comfort and distractions, it will be much easier to get serious about the climbing and the training. Two goals for the trip. Having fun climbing, and getting better at it. With Nigel’s company, all the time available, and barring injuries, I feel both are inevitable.

Today we did a little bit of bouldering. The steep approach felt really good, and I managed to work through a problem that I once again thought was beyond me from looking at Nigel do it. But it turned out to be hard but crankable, and a lot of fun with heelhooks and stuff.

I did not really want to do any hard stuff today, but I couldn’t resist. So after that I just relaxed and spotted Nigel working one of his projects. It is one reachy and ballancy bastard of a problem, with super thin holds. But he is getting really close to sending now. Just two more moves and it will be done. Inspiring to see Nigel pull heinous moves on thin crimpers and maintain control. I hope to get there as well.

Not a pose, I swear it!



Comic relief from Saltspring

Went climbing today. Suprise, eh?

Drove up to the top of Mt Maxwell, and hiked down a bit to a 5.8 warmup. Didn’t feel like a warmup to me, I got pumped and struggled mightily to get up at all. I tried it again, and it felt the same…


After the “warmup” I onsighted a 10b, led a 2 pitch route (first pitch was 5.10, the second 5.9), onsight, that felt a little exposed at times. This route was really good. Wonderful climbing, great moves, great holds, and gorgeous views of Salt Spring Island. So the day was getting better after a pretty depressing start.

As a finisher, Nigel led a 5.11 and nailed it first try. This guy is a strong climber, let me tell you! Then I worked it on toprope. And I pumped out before I figured out the crux sequence (Nigel has a lot more reach than I do, and he is much stronger on the crimps) so I didn’t quite get through it. But did all moves, save one, and it confirmed what I all ready knew: I am this (holding thumb and index finger about 1 mm apart) close to nailing a 5.11. Pumped out but good, though, so I finished the day with a great workout.

Odd how a day can start off with a desperate struggle to get up a 5.8 and end with almost being able to work through a 5.11.

In the end, a freakin’ great day of climbing.