Saturday, 9 July 2011

Oh Canada!

After 27 hours in the air, six airports visited, five cities explored, nearly three weeks off work and countless questions regarding the two enormous bouldering pads on my back, I have returned from a trip of a lifetime: I've been in Squamish!

This trip had been planned for months in advance, taking a very different approach to various other trips documented on here like my Spanish, Italian and French excursions of the last two years. I was met in Vancouver by my friend Simon, after travelling half way round the world alone, and he graciously lent me a sofa for the duration of my stay. Even though he was working in the mornings, every day we managed to drive an hour north to the base of the Stawamus Chief for some mild-core bouldering. I've left projects all over Europe before, and really didn't want another hard climb left almost done, so decided to tick off some of the Top-100 problems of V5/6 and under. I was not disappointed.

The first day or two were a bit damp, so mainly spent relaxing and heading Downtown to watch the hockey, although we managed to go and have a quick look round the Apron. Not an ideal place to begin, with poor landings and sandbag problems, but day three soon improved. The Titanic boulder was superb, and Titanic V3 remains one of the best i climbed in my time there. A quick glance at Airtight Garage V7 involving a tricky fall reinforced my belief to aim to concentrate on easier climbs, although my ability to read rock well soon reared it's head on a tricky V3 mantle whose name escapes me.

With the weather improving everyday and the venues becoming better and better, day four was spent a little further north again. Back in March, i went off to Fontainebleau and met a fantastic couple called Steve and MC who live in Whistler, so we drove that bit further up the Sea to Sky Highway and went off to explore the more remote climbing at Pemberton. Strangely, the rock wasn't quite as rough here, and again the climbing improved on the day before, with Pimp Slap V6 (i'll be honest, we missed the first move, making it better but slightly easier) and Into the Light V5 both excellent climbs worthy of their Top-100 status.

Now, it is worth noting the subtly rough nature of the granite in Squamish and by this point in the trip my skin was beginning to feel the effects (something very unusual for me and my leather hands!) so while day five was still a climbing day, I said at the start that it would be taken nice and easily, with no hard problems attempted. Next thing you know i was working on Close Shave V7, with my beta-cheater mindset on again, missing out the slopey rail in the middle of the problem! While i lacked the strength, my companion Simon quickly clocked up only his second Squamish V7, much to his delight, and my dismay....

Then out of the woods came a familiar creature: my old travelling companion, Stu. Regular readers will have read about Stu; my Canadian friend formerly resident at the Pen y Gwyryd who has accompanied me on several of my foreign excursions in the last couple of years. He's now living back in Calgary and made the 10-hour drive to come meet up. While it's always nice to meet up with old friends, Stu was a good mate of mine who has climbed with me all over Europe and it was really nice to catch up. Sadly by this point i had to forgo any climbing as my skin was about to start bleeding but another stunning day was had.

Luck with the weather seemed to be on my side for a change, too, as the first Saturday in Canada was a rainy one, tying in nicely with a much needed rest day. We caught a bus Downtown, and had a look round, examining the scenes from the riots following Wednesdays Stanley Cup finale, and the much-less documented aftermath. A nice relaxing day was ended with the great view over English Bay, and i was reminded of the geniality of the fantastic Canadian people. This was followed by another rest day and a day trip to Seattle (to acquire another stamp in my passport) and i found this to be as amazing a place as Vancouver, and another fantastic city to remember.

But this was a climbing trip, and there was more left to be sent. I'll continue at a later date, so as not to make too long a post, and will include some of the best photos from the trip too.

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