So by now it was Tuesday morning, with my flights booked for Thursday; two climbing days left, and time to pull out all the stops. Next up on my Canadian tour was a few days in Thunder Bay with family, so plenty of time for my skin to recover, no excuses left, nothing to stop me really going for it hell for leather. Come on!
Except it didn’t really work out like that. We headed for Undertow with the intention of hurling ourselves at some more classic Top 100 problems. First stop was Child Abuse V4, which granted did look appealing, but with a poor landing, highball aspect and committing nature didn’t fill me with as much psyche as the large bag of Ketchup Chips i’d taken with me. Oh well, i thought, some of these lines just don’t inspire me as much as others, Undertow will be better. Watch Simon in action, chill out, wander further up the hill in a bit. Turns out the line didn’t get Simon going either, so it wasn’t long before we sacked it off and headed up the hill.
Deep in the forest now, with the light breaking through, we came across a rising slopey problem. With a guidebook description quote, “Did i mention “Slopers”?” this must be it. But jesus, it’s only supposed to be V7, not V17?! Yet this little four-move horrorshow was it: the problem we’d scrambled all this way to have a play at. Simon started (speculatively) working the moves with the precision and logic which makes him a Maths Professor. I admitted defeat before even pulling off the floor. Some problems do that to me. You often hear of people bemoaning being too short, or occasionally too tall, but what you have to remember is that not everyone is suited to every climb, and it quickly became apparent to me this was one of those problems. I’d had a similar problem on Close Shave earlier in the trip, where one foot hold was a bit too high, the alternative too low, and have the same issue in Wales with a V4 that shall not be named on the Barrel. I decided to instead savour the forest ambiance, enjoy the aspect, tick off a couple of V0/1s and wander up to the base of the giant Stawamus Chief that was by this point only a five minute walk away.
It really is a remarkable piece of rock, so big as to defy understanding as we gazed up and saw the size of the climbers only a quarter of the way up. From the base, i could see almost no discernable features to climb, but as i suddenly realised that those small green things up there are trees, it dawned on me that it all makes sense really. Still it was good to see it, and touch it, and i’m certainly glad i did.
So, last day. Yesterday was supposed to be pull out all the stops, and it went a bit wrong. Got to do it today, flying out tomorrow, last chance saloon, damn the pain, trash the skin, just really pull and get the ticks. We stayed low in the forest, so no long walk ins today, and went to Simon’s usual warm up area: Squamish Days. In hindsight, i’m so glad we did, as this summed up the trip nicely for me, with nothing at all to do with the very
pretty girl we ended up climbing with all day… Squamish Days itself is massively overgraded, and should be a V0 really, even by local standards, but is still a nice line, and with a lovely double-dyno eliminate, and another classic rising traverse out right. The whole point of the trip was to experience places and Squamish proper, not to get big ticks but to get lots of them, and this was apparent on the last day like no other. Anatomy Lesson V3, Fried Ant V0 (on which i once again managed
to conjure some new beta, apparently) and Sloppy Poppy V4 all relented to give a handful of Top 100 problems ticked on the grand finale; although the latter did leave it’s mark as all three of us (Simon and I now joined for the day by the gorgeous Jesse) missed the pad at some point, and i very nearly took a very nasty fall from the last move. It summed the climbing so far up entirely.
We looked at another couple of problems, but again the height put me off. It seemed justifiable, as Jesse seemed to be more than a little concerned on the delicate slab at the top of Old and Serious V3, and in truth it really would’ve taken some going to beat the moves on Sloppy Poppy. So the day was finished getting one last tick on Stu’s Fly V1 by Superfly and then seeing out the day on Baba Hari Doss once again. Heather reappeared again, my friend from back home who happened to be there while i was, and i played around on the slopey V7 until we both decided to call time on my North American climbing trip.
The evening being, well, the eve of my birthday, it was spent in the pub. The next day would be spent almost entirely in the air, so the celebrations happened the night before, and it was sociable and fun. A time for reflection and sad goodbyes, it certainly felt more like a few months than a couple of weeks since i’d first appeared in Vancouver. It’s a trip i’ll not forget for quite some time, the fondness of the Vancouver people and the stunning location of Squamish. I saw old friends, and made new ones. I climbed till my tips nearly bled, and made my first foray into the dreaded United States, which defied all preconceptions once past border control. But strangely, this wasn’t what was going through my (slightly slurring) mind that night, as next on my summer 2011 trip would be Thunder Bay, and a maiden meeting with some special people.