Sunday, May 25, 2014

Easy Street (5.6), Yamnuska

For my second and Liam's first climb on Yam, we decided to try out Easy Street, a 6 pitch 5.6 route that makes its way up the west end of the iconic wall. From the parking lot, our route looked much shorter than the ones that travel up any other part of Yamnuska, but according to the guide book, it was still over 200m of vertical climbing, and that doesn't include the hike up to the base! We left Calgary at 5am and it was already bright. The sun was up shortly after and it was amazingly warm when we left the car at 6:10 to head up the steep switchbacks to our climb.
Beautiful morning (6:30 am) for the hike up to Yamnuska
 We came to a fork in the climbers approach trail and chose to take the one that continued up rather than across. This proved to be a good idea as we discovered later in the day that the left fork is the trail for the hikers that have descended the huge scree slopes below Yam. That would have been a terrible way to get up to our route! Upon reaching the base of Yam, we took the scree traverse all the way over to the West end. It was easy going after the steep trail, and we were the first ones there!
Scree traverse below the face. Helmets required here in case of rock-fall
 We reached the bottom of the climb at 7:25, not bad! I am definitely going to have to come back and climb unnamed after seeing the bright orange pumpkin painted high on the wall. Liam took the first lead which actually is the first pitch of the Windy Slab route. It sure was windy! By the time I started climbing, my hands were very cold and it was nice to get moving. I found this to be the most difficult pitch of the route, maybe because my hands weren't working so well, or maybe because of the airy moves that have to be made back and forth around some large corners. Either way, I was happy to be following rather than leading!
Pitch 1 - 5.6 
 I lead the next pitch (5.5) up to a set of bolts. It was mostly a traverse and very easy. There were also pitons galore up there which made route finding a bit less challenging if you read the route description carefully. This route bypasses the King's Chimney which is another route I would love to come back and try.
Route-finding at the 2nd belay
 Liam took the next lead which was supposed to be a 5.5, but he took the more direct way up a bolted slab which was actually very fun. The wind had died down at this point and the climbing was much more pleasant than earlier in the morning. After consulting the topo and route description, we realized that we were at the wrong anchor station, but the correct one was about two metres below us. 
Liam leads pitch 3 - 5.5
 I decided just to downclimb to the lower ledge and then continue on up the route. Pitch 4 was a 5.4 and I was able to move up it quickly without placing very much gear. All too soon I arrived at the bolted belay and decided to link the 30 m pitch with pitch 5 (also 30 m). With centimetres to spare I topped out on the BBQ ledge and was able to use the bolts and a long anchor to set up a belay station in the sun. The rope drag was pretty terrible.
More route finding for the last pitch
Selfie on BBQ Ledge
I can see why they call it BBQ ledge!
 Instead of taking the bail out route, we wanted to go all the way to the top. Liam chose the left-most variation (5.8) as our top-out route. This involved a deep, narrow chimney that had good face holds, and could be used to stem your way up the pitch. When I reached this chimney, a draw that had been used to sling a chockstone deep in the crack got stuck and I had to worm my way into the hold to rescue it. Unfortunately I was not quite big enough to fit in forwards and my pack prevented any side-ways entry. I was not leaving my draw behind so I finally shimmied my way down to it, getting my hips very stuck in the process. I had to do a lot of wiggling and grabbing onto questionable holds (the rope) to free myself. Although the entire ordeal only took about 5 minutes, it felt like I was stuck for hours and would never be free! After that, the climbing was really fun and it felt great to top out just before noon.
Topping out after the chimney climb
 At the top, we had some celebratory chocolate and other lunch type things. Kelly and her friends had been hiking the peak that day and we were pleased to find out that they were just approaching the summit from the East side (couldn't have planned it better if we tried). After lunch and a bunch of photos, we left our packs at the side of the trail and started hiking up to the true peak to meet the hikers.
Long way down!
 We met them just below the summit where they had just finished lunch. Liam and I quickly ran up to the peak, snapped a few photos then raced down the scree to catch up with Kelly and friends. The descent was really fun! Most of the steep down parts are scree slopes that can be descended very quickly with relatively low impact.
Liam looking stoked
 Once we came around to the face of the mountain, we descended the large scree slope below the west end of Yam. This is when we discovered where the left hand fork of the trail goes. It was pretty easy going all the way back to the car, and much quicker than I expected. We got to the cars at about 2:15 and decided to go to Cochrane for ice cream on the way home. 
Kelly and Liam under a cool little waterfall
The clouds that had been moving in all day finally started to rain as we got our ice cream. Perfect timing!

Monday, May 19, 2014

May Long Weekend - Stone Hill Climbing

For the long weekend, we escaped the rainy weather in Calgary by heading south to Montana for a weekend of climbing. We arrived late Friday night and set up camp in the dark after picking up some cheap beer at the gas station. We spent Saturday at Hold Up Bluffs North, a crag with lots of good trad and top rope options. The ratings down at Stone Hill are pretty difficult, and it can be a bit demoralizing to have trouble with 5.7 routes, so we let Liam lead and set up some top-ropes for us on some of the harder climbs.
Elizabeth flossing the crack on dental floss
With 3 ropes and 6 people, we were able to get lots of climbs in throughout the day. Jen and Cody met us later in the day and checked out some of the sport climbing in the area. Ticks were a big issue, we all found some on ourselves and we had to do periodic tick checks because they liked to crawl up pants!
Belaying from the side of the road
Kyle on Fantasyland
  Upon recommendation from a fellow climber, we relocated our campsite to the shores of Koocanusa. The water level is very low at this time of year, which made the shore a lot bigger than usual. Jen and Cody's tent would normally have been under water!
Amazing camping location!
On Sunday, we had a lazy start with pancakes! Once we got moving, we headed over to the Lizard Slabs where we spent most of the afternoon leading most of the routes on that crag. It was a good confidence boost! At the end of the day, we moved over to Room with a View (5.8), the iconic tower above the lake, so that Liam could give it a shot on lead. Although the route is bolted, there are several sections that are pretty airy, so Liam took a few cams to add to his protection on the way up.
Liam getting ready for his lead on Room with a View 
Liam made it look easy, climbing up to the top without issue. After his success, we all gave it a try (on top-rope!). It is one of the hardest 5.8's I have climbed, and definitely one of the most interesting. The move out of the little room is very committing.
Starting the climb
Liam in the room

Me moving out of the room and around the corner
Another group showed up just as we were finishing and saved us the walk up to get the anchor by leading it as a sport route. Unfortunately for him, he had the peanut gallery watching and giving advice, but he made it up after having a moment of questioning his decision-making. 
Great viewing area of the climbers
Back at camp, Kelly managed to get a hold of a kayak from another camper and went for a paddle and swim in the lake while we made dinner. After two hard days of climbing and late nights around the campfire, it was early to bed. We got up early with the intention of climbing, but it was cool and overcast. Cody and Jen left early to head home, while Kyle, Liam, Kelly and I packed up after breakfast and made the decision to go ride our bikes that we had left in Fernie. It had rained overnight so the climbing wouldn't have been so good anyways. Thanks for the awesome weekend everyone!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

West Coast Road Trip

At the beginning of May, Kyle and I headed west to escape the lingering snow. We spent 10 days riding and climbing all over the "best coast". The first three days were spent on the Sunshine Coast for the Coaster XC and DH races (for me) and camping, shuttling and beers (for Kyle, and me a bit). I raced both the Marathon XC (4th) and the DH (3rd) on the same bike - my awesome Specialized Enduro Carbon Expert, and won first in the Overall category. It was wet and muddy out there, and boy was it a blast! A highlight was going to the "codfather" for a codfather poutine at the end of the weekend. Fries drenched in seafood chowder and we of course had to get some fish on the side.
Sunshine Coaster DH race - I raced the Works Category (XC marathon and DH on the same bike) 

After the weekend of racing, we had a late start as it was still raining. We rolled into Squamish just in time for lunch, dropped off the climbing gear at Dan's (thanks for letting us use your place as a storage locker all week!) and went for and xc ride in the highlands.
Trailhead lunch
Hiding out from the rain
Tracks from Hell
Mossy loam fest 
The sun was drying everything out so we went to check out Diedre on the Apron of the Chief. It was soaked. Instead we went over to Smoke Bluffs and climbed a few routes at the Neat and Cool crag. Got to love multi-sport days!
Gearing up to be rejected on Diedre
Climbing at Neat and Cool - our first trad leading of the year 
View of Squamish from the crag
Looking down Cat Crack
 The next morning we got up at the crack of 9 and went to climb Star Chek, a 3 pitch sport route above the Cheakamus River. We met some VOC'ers on the rappel down which was quite exciting. I have been wanting to climb this route for a while, just because it looks so amazing. After Star Chek we climbed a bit a Murrin (Kyle lead the World's Toughest Milkman) and then went up to Whistler to ride with Landon.
Rappel down to the river
Kyle following up the first pitch (5.8)
Me following up pitch 2 (5.7)
Selfie on the last pitch (5.9)

 On the Wednesday, we finally got our chance to go up Diedre. It was still a bit wet, but good enough for us! We also added on 2 pitches at the top - Broomstick Crack which I thought was the best climb of the entire trip! The top of the chief looks so close from there. That will be the next big project I think.
Even the approach to diedre takes some skills 
Kyle making his way up the crack
Belay station on Broomstick Crack
Great day on the apron!
Rappel down off Broomstick Crack. Anyone know why this orange rope is fixed there?
 We took the afternoon off for a well deserved nap in the sun at Alice Lake before meeting Dan for an XC ride in the highlands. Then he made us dinner! Yummy.
Sleepy time for Kyle
Alice Lake in the sun
We kind of took over Dan's house with our bikes...
 Thursday was supposed to be a rainy day so we went to climb early(ish) at Octopus' Garden in Smoke Bluffs. After leading a very scary 5.7, we switched to top-roping for the rest of the morning and had a great time crack climbing until the rain started. 
Arriving at the Octopus' Garden, the farthest crag I could have picked
Kyle leading Edible Panties (5.7)
After having such an action packed week, we decided against another ride in the rain and instead went to the Britannia Mine for a mine tour. 
Kyle in his element with a hard hat on
I always wondered what was inside that huge building, now I know!
Steep steps!
Friday, we went back to North Vancouver to visit with my parents and our friends. We met Denton early and got a few shuttle laps in before he had to go to work. That afternoon, we took Rozzi up Fromme for a quick lap on the new and improved Espresso. So much fun!  
View from the Cypress lookout
 Saturday was a bit more of a lazy day and we got to sleep in. In the afternoon we did a big ride on Fromme with David, Tyler, Ashley and Rozzi, followed by dinner with my parents.
Seventh Secret with some NS fog
Rozzi loves to come biking with us
On Sunday, we were able to spend mother's day with my mom before packing up and heading home. What a trip!