I nearly made it a year without giving Squamish a healthy ‘big-up’ but since the mention i made in the Siurana post about the granite bouldering capital of the world i felt i needed to air my views on the place.
I was perhaps, maybe, just a little bit, totally rash when i said that the Siurana trip was quite so much better than the 6 awesome weeks i spent out in Canada bouldering about in Squamish. It was probably post trip enthusiasm that made me say such blasphemic (?) things (though Siurana is still fucking (ooh matron) cool) and was probably just better in terms of achievements over a shorter period of time. What do i mean by that?? Well Squamish, in my experience, is the place to go to get your ass kicked, at least for the first few weeks, unless you’re a total beast.
I went there comfortably flashing V4 with the odd V5 and thought i’d be laughing, V8s were on the tick-list, fuck it why not throw in a V9 to project…..hmm hindsight is a bitch! It took more or less a solid week just to tick V6…and that was right at the end of the trip after i’d lost about 10 stone through our meagre diet of peanut butter and jam sandwiches washed down with gallons of chocolate milk (its tres tasty!).
Anyway all that came at the end of the trip, so what about the start? Every story has a beginning after all. Well it kind of started back in 2006 when my personal climbing hero Dom suggested coming over to visit him in the States where he had moved with his chick Laura after he’d graduated from uni. Sounds good, says i, where do you have in mind? Now i’d not heard of Squamish that much before, being relatively new to climbing and pretty ignorant of the States climbing scene (how ironic) but upon further research it sounded bloody good, so tickets were booked.
Dom lives in Washington state (a good 5 hours from Squamish) and also has/d a full-time job so he wouldnt be around constantly for the whole 6 months so i had to find a travelling amigo. He arrived in the form of Rob, my uni flatmates twin bro. All i can say is Rob’s a funny bastard, good climber and total nutter! Sorted!
We flew out to Vancouver at the start of June 2007 and met Dom at the airport where we got a lift up to Squamish in his pimped up wagon (a Honda i think), arriving with about an hour left of light to have a quick scan of the boulders…..wa-wa-wee-waa there’s lots to go at (you’d hope so too, cos 6 weeks is a long time if there was just 3 problems!). Massive aretes, rakes of slopey traverses, crimpy technical horrors and power-monkey dynos just about sum-up the place. We soon found out though that if you cant heel-hook you’re probably best hiring a kayak and pussying about in the Howe Sound cos 99% of the time if you can’t do a problem you’d just chuck on a heel and hey presto job done!
So anyway after checking out some of the boulders we went back to the tents and did what any self respecting Brit does when abroad….got royally pissed, cos we’re cool. This ended in us getting lost on the 10m walk back to the only tent in the immediate area (ours) and staggering through the rest of the site waking up all sorts of folk. The trip had begun!
Luckily not much happened the next day cos it rained, and rained, and rained a bit more for the next week at least, but of course we didnt need to worry about this cos we’d already sacked it off down to the US to go climbing in Dom’s local area. We stayed for a week sampling the delights of the finest sport climbing in Washington state (not sure about this but it was pretty good!) at exotic places called Exit 32 and North Bend. It was awesome meeting Dom’s mates like Micah and Tony, two totally psyched guys that were enthusiastic for anyone and everyone to do their best. Needless to say with this atmosphere some ‘shit went down’. I’d better start with Dom though cos from mine and Rob’s point of view ‘shit’ didn’t really start to ‘go down’ for a while into the trip! So it was that amongst the shouts and screams of EVERY fucker at the crag (the Yanks know how to get psyched!!) Dom dispatched a 7b+ project of his (see below) in fine style after taking one or two whippers from the crux.
When we got back to Squamish the weather had settled and so we decided to get down to business, checking out a place called Chekamus (?) Canyon cos we still had the sport climbing hat on. Canada does stuff BIG by the way, BIG food, BIG cars, BIG mountains and BIG routes on BIG boulders. BIG. We found a really cool route on a boulder in a place called the ‘Well of Souls’ (mucho coolo name) and topped out in time to watch some of the wads destroying some high 8’s on the ‘Big Show’ wall (and thats ‘big’ to a Canadian).
Its a pity we didnt spend longer there or indeed go back again given it was so close and so cool but then we didnt perhaps realise how frustrating the boulders would be and how much they would occupy so much of our time!
Again i can’t really be bothered going through everything that happened especially seeing as though its taken me 10 hours just to get to the end of week one!! So instead i’ll just try and remember the better parts.
Like i said before Squamish seems like a place to get served, but once you’re used to it (it’d be a whole lot easier if you’re used to climbing on granite before you go) its pretty damn cool! The style is very powerful yet subtle with no real footholds on the problems or indeed much in the way of proper incut crimps so its definitely a place to work your open-hand strength, which can only be a good thing and remember…..if in doubt, chuck a heel up. When we eventually learnt all this the problems started to fall into place. We were gradually learning that this wasnt a place to worry about the grades too much, at least for us, and that really the best thing we could do was have some fun….so we did. Some of the classics started to get lapped which was always good. Problems like Titanic V3, Easy in an Easy Chair V4, and Shots Fired V4 (see below) are truly world class (though you’ll have to hurry to climb Shots Fired cos it was due to get smoked by the bulldozers who were busy widening the highway ready for the winter olympics).
Living in the forest was awesome, the place was always busy and loads of dudes from all over the world would arrive all day, everyday to bring some fresh banter to proceedings. As usual the car park was the place to be on a rest day, not just for the chat but also to escape the muggy heat of the forest and the bloody mozzies! If there’s one thing Squamish has in summer its bastard mozzies, big, ugly looking fuckers that you definitely wouldn’t introduce to your nan! It got to the point where i slept in the car most nights just to get away from them. Which leads me to another point….Rob’s tent was shite so it basically became a one man sheet with sticks keeping it together meaning i opted to sleep outside for the remaining 5 weeks after it broke where i probably ended up just as dry as poor Rob who soldiered on inside.
The town is pretty small but has all that you need, really good thrift stores…like really good!! Got some uber-bargains that you’ll no doubt see on the catwalks in the not too distant future i.e. 5 t-shirts for a buck (10p each in proper money) and all the Hemmingway books ever written for the cost of bog-roll…..two birds with one stone and that. There’s a couple of book shops to get the boulder and route guides in, a library with internet to check up on what you may have missed on the porn side of things, cheap-ass supermarkets, the ubiquitous gear shops, loads of green spaces to chill on and slack-line (which is almost bigger than climbing over there), and two of the best food places in Canada (in my humble opinion) namely Big D’s Deli with MASSIVE sandwichs and another place i can’t remember the name of but it has a ‘motel’ style sign out front saying, and i quote, “the place ain’t much but the food worth it”. So yeah they’re obviously dumb as fuck but they do mean burgers called ‘mountain burgers’ that just ooze (literally) goodness.
Perhaps the most used place in Squamish, aside from the car park toilets, was the ‘Rec’ centre (swimming pool to you and me) with a nice 15m pool, monkey bars, a diving board, steam room (ooooooooooh) and an amazing jacuzzi to wash away the months of grime and rest day blues. And the best thing was if you got there before 11am you only paid 2 bucks (a pound!!) for the whole day! Res-tec-p!
As the weeks went on more and more Yanks would turn up (on the summer breaks i guess) bringing, in the most part and probably unfairly, a new focus for piss-taking from the rest of us. Some hardcore wads turned up too though, saw my best mate Sonnie Trotter there, Ethan Pingle (see below) was working Dreamcatcher (Sharma’s mama route), Ty Landman rocked up the week after we left, as well as loads of other ‘nearly-wads’ who ate V12s for breakfast!
On July 1st it was Canada Day and so to celebrate Canada’s freedom from the murderous Brit scum…us…we joined the locals in getting drunk as only a skunk can. The resulting chasing of 5 litre wine boxes each with all the beers we could carry made us all very merry. We were lucky to get a lift back with some highly cool dudes at the site, Dane and Devon, though they werent so lucky themselves when 20m down the road Dom piped up about needing to be sick. Unfortunately he couldnt wait till he got out the door so was sick right into Dane’s face! We didnt get a lift back to the campsite after that! Whoops. (Really sorry still guys if you just so happen to be reading this?!) Anyway we woke in the morning to find ourselves all just about there so at the end of the day it can go down as a successful night!
We did actually climb too, just in case you’re wondering, given that i’ve not really mentioned any for the last few lines! Like i said before everyone was cool, and everyone was psyched with a capital P. We met up with some guys from just down the road in sunny Edinburgh who were out there dirt-baggin for the long haul from May to September who provided some awesome banter and plenty of mats!
I’m now starting to lose interest in writing this just as you’re probably losing interest in reading it! So yeah basically we all climbed a lot and lived happily ever after. Me and Rob pottered around with V4s and the odd V6 (yeah baby), Dom and Micah crushed the life out of some V7s, Laura got her first V3s under her belt, Jerome, Sam, Andy and Dan just crushed full-stop and everyone went home happy. Like i keep saying Squamish rules, go there. You’ve got world class bouldering, big wall climbing, eating, DWS (thats a whole other story but basically dont buy a $20 inflatable dinghy meant for 6-12yr olds and squeezing 3 fully grown blokes in it before trying to row across a half mile stretch of estuary filled up with glacial meltwater in search of the rumour of an awesome DWS venue – though it was fuckin hilarious!!). You will really not be disappointed in the place, the locals are so friendly, the beer is cheap, food is good, sun shines most of the time and views are breath-taking.
Perhaps the last word though should go to this dude………