If I haven’t mentioned it before, Lydia and I are moving to Squamish (the place we met), some time in early Aug. Looking very forward to it. It’s important for me not to have to commute to climbing, I would rather commute to work and have climbing in my back yard than walk to work and commute to the crag on weekends. But that’s just me. Squamish is the perfect place for us, I recall climbing over 15 days in February one year, and sent my hardest boulder problem in March – it’s ideal for Canadians who hate the bitter cold of winter, don’t mind the lack of ice climbing potential, enjoys the 17 hour drive to California every January or the possibility of surfing in Tofino on days off. Also, if you first ascents are your thing, bolting wars and too many trees then you too should consider it. Speaking of first ascents, I got a great e-mail from Will Stanhope telling me more about his latest SUPER climb on the backside. Paul Bride managed to go up and capture some razor sharp images. And they are both willing to share.
“Here’s the deal with the route: It is 5.13… I don’t want to split hairs. It’s sorta like the “Excellent Adventure” in Yosemite: full-value 5.13 without any desperate moves. It is classic hard granite trad climbing, the sorta route that leaves you sweating and readjusting the feet, pushing hard to stay in there. Meat and Potatoes crack climbing with a few long runners and a dozen cams or so.”
“The crux is entering the purple-tcu splitter. There is an enormous move hitting a locker jam. If you fell off there, it would be an unpleasant swing into a corner. From there, desperate thin fingers with good feet. After that, left-leaning underclinging, reminiscient of Pyromania in the Needles. After that, a beautiful yellow-lichen splattered arch, not too hard. There is a little crux at the end with tiny crimpers and mega rope drag. You end up at the ‘Boogie ’till you Puke’ offwidth belay station. It was wild being inside the yellow arch- I don’t think anybody had climbed it since the first aid ascent back in 1981 by John Howe and Blake Robinson.”
“The Cirque of the Uncrackables is the best crag on the Chief. There is big, old-growth trees nudging up against the cliffs. All of the routes are tall, some involve two ropes to lower off. The lines are big and bad-ass; nothing but man-eating offwidths and ferocious finger cracks. To me, the coolest thing about the cliff is that there isn’t a single protection bolt on the whole length of the cliff. For that reason, the cliff held promise for years and years.
I think the future of Squamish climbing lies in freeing the old aid lines without retrobolting them. The enormous sweeps of rock around the Grand Wall are a prime example of ‘what we have left’. Up From the Skies, Humpty Dumpty, Uncle Ben’s… These old aid lines bee-line straight up into psycho terrain, usually reserved for Leo Houlding and Alex Huber. Sure, it’s futuristic. And yes, we might not have the ability right now. But lives are long. Let’s take our time and skip the retro-bolting shortcuts. What’s the rush?
As always, it’s best to look at the past for guidance. Peter Croft, Hamish Fraser, Randy Atkinson- to me, these guys showed the right way to establish routes with a minimum of bolts. And more recently, Sonnie Trotter and Andrew Boyd have carried the torch.
I get most inspired when the outcome is uncertain. When Peter started stemming up the Shadow, he had no idea if it would go free, but he tried his hardest and hoped for the best. That happened in 1988, when I was two years old. I still see that ascent as the high-water mark of Squamish climbing.”