One of the most empowering things about road tripping is the sense of freedom that's present when all you need fits snug into a vehicle and you're always aware of your options. Your home, transportation, and storage unit are all one and the same- wanna move on?.. just turn the key and bounce. After quickly coming to terms with the aptly nick-named 'Squish' (a.k.a. Squamish, B.C.) and the depressing 10-day weather forecast, Paige and I made use of our freedom and pulled the plug. When it's raining in Squamish, it's RAINING. There is no hope of blue-sky hiding around the corner. There is basically no escape from the condensing, seeping, squishy nature of the granite boulders and cliffs- when it rains, you don't climb... you youtube, or facebook, or eat, or all of the above. Having just narrowly (but then again not entirely) escaped the rain during our week stay in Seattle, we were not motivated to try and wait it out.
Uma; looking laid back in Spokane
Before we did pack up and split, however, we did get a little taste of what Squamish has to offer. I got a long awaited tour of Arcteryx Headquarters in North Van. This new, very chic building is home to the great minds behind the leading innovation and attention to detail that puts Arcteryx at the helm of the outdoor industry. The building looks as cool as the products that come out of it and the employees were welcoming and stoked. Proud to be a member of the team!
They make maps for this place?
It was only suiting for us to drive directly from the Arcteryx headquarters to the base of the Chief. This is a huge chunk of stone, rising out of lush greenery to towering heights right near the water. Below this massive cliff lay hundreds of humongous, counter top granite boulders covered in glowing moss, exhibiting soggy chalk on edges and slopers above sometimes questionable landings. The Cacodemon boulder was the focus of my attention. This huge (biggest boulder ever?) detached block is home to the incredibly proud 'Dreamcatcher' 14d, a Chris Sharma climb that I had hoped to try a bit while in Squamish. This line is diverse, beautiful, begs to be climbed and, unfortunately, was soaking. It will have to wait for another visit I guess.
Thailand? Galapagos? SQUAMISH
On the semi-dry day we did have in Squamish, Scott and Sandra took us out to the wildly popular (basically only option on rainy days) crag, the Circus Wall- which features a nice array of 12s along with a large, super steep (and super seeping) visor called the Big Show- home to Sonnie's linkup, 'Superman' 14c among other B.C. test-pieces. It was great to get out, but this partially wet cliff hardly satisfied our desire for Squamish burl. The next morning we awoke to a downpour with no signs of slowing down. After some careful deliberation and frantic facebook chatting, we decided to bail and drove straight to Spokane, Washington. As great as it was to hang out with our friends Scott and Sandra, we were tired of waiting out the rain and ready for some dry stone- time to cash in our freedom tokens and hit the road.
We rolled right into the driveway of the long-time Eastern Washington legend and developer, Marty Bland. He and his wife Tana have generously put us up and showed us the gems that lay just outside of Spokane. Marty has been the driving force for Inland North West route development for many years, and you can tell by flipping through his authored guidebook on the area. Among a number of in-town crags, Deep Creek is perhaps the most impressive. This area is incredibly unique, like nothing we'd ever climbed. The water polished, overhanging blocky basalt induces a pump that is unparalleled- not even the Red can bulge forearms like Deep Creek in a matter of 50 feet. Although some loose rock does exist, and the crags are not the prettiest, this place rivals Little Si for the North-West's highest concentration of hard routes. The climbing is fun, athletic and often burly. First day out, Marty took us to the Main Wall, where we enjoyed our first super solid day of climbing in a what seemed like a while. I dispatched a flash through blocky edges and cool steep pockets on 'Quiver' 13c, an onsight on the thuggy 'Russian Arete' 13b, and a second-go summit on reachy and bouldery 'Left Bleeding' 13a. We left hopelessly pumped and super stoked. After a day of rain (what!? are you serious? more rain!?) touring downtown Spokane, we made our way to the Pit, a separate area at Deep Creek, to sample some of the hardest routes in Washington.
fighting the pump at Deep Creek
I had my eye on 'Problem Child' 14c, a Johnny Goicoechea route that had seen but two repeats. It took me a couple efforts just to suss clipping beta (lots of skipping bolts, long draws, etc.) and to create a reasonable sequence through the intensely thuggish mid-section. Once my beta was figured out, I invested a few more efforts making links on this beast, with my best performance yesterday- falling from the final move of the business, and 1 hanging twice with healthy overlap. All excuses aside, this climb is hard for me- it has already taken me more effort than any 5.14 I've done in the last year or more.. hopefully resting today will provide the necessary power to tackle the Child.
Motley Crux 14a
Paige deserves top praise for her efforts over the last few days. She has been working 'Motley Crux' 14a, a decade old test-piece that shares a common ending with Problem Child. On her 8th try yesterday, she exhibited her exceptional fitness with the first female ascent of this ultra-pumpy climb. Her rapid redpoint on such unique stone was super inspirational.. excellent work Paige!
wicked Andy Mann cover shot. yeah Kehl!
Lastly- Make sure to check out the hot-off-the-press Urban Climber Photo Annual, which is featuring a rad photo essay on Flatirons Renassiance that I authored an intro and photo captions for- always stoked on this area, and proud to have the chance to write a bit about it.