Category Archives: Canada 2011

A specific category for my Canadian trip in June 2011

Milestones: The Birthday Tradition

This is part five of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

The Birthday Tradition

The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone
The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone

In Spain, in September 2009, with Steffi and good friend Stu Goodfellow, we met two Italians. Now, if you’ve been on a climbing trip abroad, and met people, i would wager you’ve championed your home climbing areas while listen to others try and encourage you to visit theirs. It’s one of the nicest aspects to travelling like this. In this case, Super Paolo and his girlfriend Stef were from the North Eastern corner of Italy, and an area called Val Daone.

They convinced us (it wasn’t hard) to plan a trip to see them. The next question was when. Now, i can’t for the life of me remember how we came to the decision, and i think it took a lot of faffing with dates but somewhere down the line, we arranged to go for my 26th birthday, much to the dismay of my mother. (“But you won’t have anything to open on your birthday!” she remarked. My reply: “I’ll open the door of my tent to see a beautiful Alpine valley…”)

In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29
In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29

What began is a tradition that i have managed to keep going for the following six years and counting: to spend my birthday in a different country every year. To date, the list of birthday destinations reads Italy, Canada, France, Austria, Spain and Switzerland, with next year’s trip to Finland already in the pipeline.

It is now the highlight of my year and while everything else is very flexible, this summer fortnight is not. Finding places with suitable conditions in June is proving harder and harder, especially as flying to the Southern hemisphere where it’s mid-winter is currently out thanks to costs. I’m also running out of emergency i’ve-got-no-money-this-summer options, although Ireland still remains, as do a couple of others. Sooner or later, it’ll become “…in a foreign country” instead but for now, the tradition continues good and strong, with at least next year all good to go.

Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward
Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward

Milestones: 2011

This is part three of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

2011

Carefully placed pads on a rising traverse

They say your school years are the best years of your life. Well mine were shit. The best year of my life followed a slightly obscure path after the death of my Grandmother.

With Grandma on her deathbed, her youngest son, now living in Thunder Bay, Canada, came to pay his respects. Not I nor my cousins had ever met him and so, while tinged with some sadness, this event became a golden opportunity to forge a friendship with a distant relative.

In a weird way, i think it rekindled the relationship between my Uncle Andrew and my father and our two families kept in touch, predominantly through Skype. Before long, i’d managed (somehow, through the generosity of the family) to fenagle myself a plane ticket to Canada.

Wolf Mountain said they wanted to use this shot to show to their students to demonstrate good footwork!

Not content to wait for my summer trip, in March i made my now-annual pilgrimage to Fontainebleau, this time in the company of good friend Mike Pinches. Mike is a similarly sociable guy and on day one, at Cul de Chien, we made friends with a Canadian couple and a Swedish couple. Plans with Steve and MC were made to hook up in June, as they lived about an hour north of my intended destination of Vancouver, and Facebook details were shared with Fredrik and Karin. We then went on to have a stunning  week – my best to that point in the forest.

Canada was, as was hoped, the trip of a lifetime and to date, the only excursion out of Europe. Two weeks helped to forge a lifetime friendship and i will always be indebted to Simon for his kindness and generosity. While hard ticks didn’t happen, the experience was unforgettable and this in itself would easily make the list. The reason it hasn’t is what happened ten weeks after my return.

With two foreign trips already in the bag that year, and one of them to the other side of the world, i was quite content to stay in the UK for my Autumn week off, and was planning to go back to the Lakes for a bit of a tour. With a week to go, i had a look at the long term forecast and it did not look good.

Now love Facebook or hate it, it has it’s uses and i put a post on asking for suggestions for suitable destinations at short notice. Soon, there was a reply from Fredrik, championing his local area, more in jest i suspect in hindsight.

 

Bouldering on the fantastic island of Hönö I got home on the Tuesday and frantically messaged him to ask if he was serious. Wednesday, without hearing a reply, i sent another message to say i hoped so as i’d just booked my flights. Thursday i packed, Friday i left and Saturday afternoon, i arrived to a slightly shocked Swede and five days of bouldering bliss.

It spawned what has become a tradition: an exchange, if you will, with one of us visiting the other annually, taking it in turns, with the fifth visit due later this year. In 2014 i even had the privilege to attend their wedding.

The latter trip would also easily make the list on it’s own but the fact that all three landed inside the same calender year (if you’ll pardon the hypocrisy from the opening paragraphs in the intro) combine to make 2011 the one i will always remember.

Canadian Conclusions

After weeks of blogging daily, not to mention a few months of hectic travelling adventures, i have finally managed to conclude my blog entries for my Canadian trip. You may have to skip back a few posts to find out where i was up to…

23rd June 2011, and year three on my attempt to “spend my birthday in a different country every year” continued with success, although it may be difficult to follow next year. The day itself, though, was less so. You’re probably getting a little tired of this sort of report, but it began with a difficult walk before i quickly decided to hail a taxi and get a lift to the airport. Thankfully i wasn’t there that long, before boarding a plane to Edmonton, coincidentally the hometown of my host in Vancouver. However, my lay over in Edmonton was a mere two hours; far too short to head in to town and explore, but plenty long enough to allow me to sit outside the airport and get well fed up, feeling sorry for myself for being alone and bored on my birthday. I killed a bit of time making a phone call: collect call to Thunder Bay, to my Uncle and Aunt. Thing is, i’d never met my Aunty Helen, or their three children, Leejah, Paul and Ian, and even my Uncle Andy had only been introduced to me twice before when my Grandma was sadly ill the previous September. As such, i was a touch trepidatious as i finally landed in Thunder Bay, my birthday having been spent entirely either on the way to airports, in airports or on a plane, and i walked out to be greeted by five smiling faces. Such trepidation was short lived, as the family i was meeting for the first time turned out to be typically Canadian: friendly, approachable and generally lovely.

The lads helped me with my bags and we headed back to the house a mere five minute drive away, where we stayed up for a good few hours, chewing the fat and me explaining about my incredibly long birthday (as birthday messages started coming in at 4pm on the 22nd and it was now 2am on the 24th). This wasn’t a climbing trip, it was a family visit so activities to be planned were a bit different to usual but i thought it would be nice to sample some of the things that North America is famous for. The first day was simply some sight-seeing with my Uncle Andy and Leejah, where we went a few miles up the road to nearby Kakabeka and it’s famous falls, although me being me, i couldn’t help but marvel at how good it would be from a climbers point of view when frozen… We grabbed some ice cream, some fries and spent the day ambling aimlessly around the city before the evening, when i was taken (very willingly) to a family party. Andy had made every effort to try and get me worried about some of the food about to be served, only for me to throw myself at it with gusto. After all, new types of meat weren’t going to weird me out when barbequed, and the deer sausages in particular were delicious! My birthday cake was also really nice, and my sixth or seventh beer was just as nice as my first one…

Despite having been drunk on two of the previous three nights, i awoke fairly perky, and was taken out firstly in Andy’s truck (a GMC Sierra SLT) and then in the Ford Mustang, both of which were stunning to drive, although again typically me, i think i preferred the truck! We took a quick spin up the road, Andy showing me the power of the Mustang which really was phenomenal and a joy to feel. We headed back, and i met up with Paul and his friend, where we headed out in to the bush. We had with us some firearms, a shotgun and a .22 rifle (along with the relevant permits and paperwork of course, as checked by a road block and half a dozen cops) and i got to do some shooting that back in the UK would’ve been nigh on impossible. We started with skeet shooting with the shotgun, but our accuracy with the rifle was substantially better, especially once we tried both kneeling and lying shoots. God it was fun. The evening started at a party for Leejah at her house, but when Paul left to go home, Ian invited me to another party on the far side of town. It was “on the reservation” but still they were as friendly and accommodating as anyone else in the country i had met.

Throughout the whole of Canada there is a mild underlying resentment to the indigenous people there, due to errors made by the government over the last few decades, although on a personal level, they were as pleasant as anyone else i met, and seemed the most impressed by my accent, despite not having to try at all. While two out of three nights didn’t have too much derogatory effect, three out of four meant the first thing said to me on the Sunday morning was “Man, you look rough!” which made me feel even better. We all went for breakfast, the family all together again which was always nice throughout my stay. More local food went down, and the hangover slowly subsided before Ian and Paul took me up “the mountain”. The quote marks aren’t there for derision, but from the fact that there was some mild debate over whether it was a hill or a mountain, but as an expert in such matters, it was over 1000ft and thus, definitely a mountain. It is fairly straightforward to drive near the top, but the walk was still nice, the weather stunning and the view breathtaking. It was on the summit that my hangover finally went.

We headed back down to town, bound for a local skate park to watch Leejah’s boyfriend, Frank, compete in a BMX competition and try not to injure himself. Success at one task often takes it’s toll on another and while he managed to win the first event, he also managed to break his ankle on the third, although he did become the first man i know to draft in first-aiders from abroad… In truth, the treatment wasn’t that tricky, but the constant heckling of people claiming it was “definitely broken” probably wasn’t ideal. Anyway, Frank was lifted into Leejah’s truck, his bike thrust in the back, and i jumped on the running boards on the side to get a lift back to Ian’s truck. Leejah left us to take Frank to the hospital and we headed off to camp, roughing it as Andy was keen to point out. However, i think we both underestimated what the other meant, as while i was a bit shocked at the size of the trailer, i think he was more than a little surprised when i rigged up the tarp to have a play, having it about 9″ from the ground…

Still, the trailer was enormous, akin to that owned by Steve and MC, with TV, DVD player, gas hob built in and at least two sofas, not to mention the double bed and porcelain toilet! We sat around, chewing more fat, watching the fire do it’s thing late into the night, before turning in to watch a film and go to sleep. Next day was spent on the lake, being pulled along the water by the small speedboat, “tubing” and generally getting very wet. It was my last day in Canada, and the constant activity of the last two-and-a-half weeks had become a bit much to bear, leaving me exhausted and grateful to be going home, yet not wanting to leave my new-found friends and loving relatives. We dried off, cleared up, and drove home, spending a relaxing day with barbeque and general chilling out. We went out for one last beer that evening, it feeling like i’d been there for weeks, much as it felt like i’d been in Vancouver for months. I’ll be completely honest, there was a huge part of me that did not want to come back (and not just due to the crippling travel arrangements i had in store…), almost to the extent that i was trying to find ways to stay. Still, my life here is often quite incredible, and while i will always look back on this as one of the bet trips ever, it did feel nice to get home.

I must leave you with a note of thanks to Uncle Andy and Aunty Helen: you were warm, loving and welcoming, letting me into your home like an old family friend. I will always be grateful for the help you gave me this summer, and one day will hopefully be able to make it up to you. Thank you again, and hopefully see you soon.

Running Out of Time

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!

Highball with rocky landing...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.

The impressive and imposing Stawamus Chief from it's base

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

Anatomy Lesson V3 - another great line

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.

Farewell to Squamish, a phenomenal introduction to North America

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.

Breakfast in America

I’m getting a little behind on the blog (i’m writing this in Toronto Airport, heading home…) but we’ll catch up from where i left off, which was a rest day in Vancouver. While i went into detail on the scenes around the Bay in my last post, it is worth mentioning that the day also involved getting a beer and a sandwich in Gastown, and heading to English Bay to enjoy the somewhat annoyingly nice weather over the Pacific Ocean.

The Sunday was similar, but did involved one of the activities i wanted to get done while in Canada: a day trip to the States. There had been talk of heading climbing in Washington state, to a crag called Leavenworth, but this fell through for one reason or another, and we were left with Plan A: go to Seattle. What i didn’t realise when i originally drew up the complicated plans for Plan A (which involve: go to Seattle for the day) was that Simon’s brother recently moved there, as did Victoria’s cello, so we managed to combine several birds with one stone.

The bulk of the day, while thoroughly enjoyable, was rather uneventful, as we cruised the Pike Place market, and had a gorgeous pizza and beer in a small bistro just down the road from Chris’s apartment. After deciding that we would stay, more beer flowed and films were watched, before i exchanged one sofa for a different and more comfortable one. However, it is worth mentioning how impressed i was with Seattle, and how much i would recommend it. It is primarily known for it’s coffee, and being the home of Starbucks, but there is plenty going on to entertain an excitable traveler. My main piece of advice, though, but be to head just off the water, and find a nice small bar to grab some impressive beer and some food. If you want more info on the specific places we visited, leave a message and i’ll try and find out.

In truth, we were back in Squamish on the Monday around the same time we would have been were we to have stayed in Vancouver, and we headed for the Grand Wall around Superfly. Superfly V4 is possibly the best problem in the forest, with a fantastic alternative version running out right known as Superfly Lunge V4 and a nice little slopey-rail arete on the left. There is even a tiny little problem (pictured) which while not making it into the guidebook, is almost definitely a classic of the forest; just please don’t take it with you!

Wolf Mountain said they wanted to use this shot to show to their students to demonstrate good footwork!

Sadly, the miniature boulder, while not taking too much effort, took it out of me somewhat, and a couple of strained aductor muscles left me pouting for the rest of the day as i found myself needing to rest them for the morrow. However, this wasn’t before my hidden beta-detector seemed to appear once more, as Simon showed me a fantastic V3 slab (whose name escapes me) which was quickly converted into a two move wonder. The day ended as with Simon working the stunning Baba Hari Dos V7, another rising slopey rail, before heading back to Vancouver for some more beer…


Take Pride Canada

Part of the reason i cut short the last post on here was because i did not want the next passage to be a footnote. Saturday was a wet rest day, and we went Downtown… to the scenes of the rioting of Wednesday night. What we saw left a small lump in my throat.

Rioting is one of those things that i knew happened in the North American countries, but never quite believed it. When it happened, i was honestly quite shocked and appalled. It appears i wasn’t alone, and in the spirit of every cloud, and silver linings, the citizens of Vancouver decided that it was not the image they wanted for their great city. In the days following, a huge voluntary clean up operation took place, with normal people taking to the streets to sort the mess out. The store that seemed to have the most damage is known as the Bay, and it’s boarded windows soon found themselves vandalised once again; this time was tens of thousands of messages of support for the city and the authorities. A police car parked near Georgia Street also found itself a focal point, as it became plastered with sticky notes, again of support and messages of goodwill for the police and city, as well as shaming those who took the loss of the Stanley Cup too far.

The whole experience has really touched me deeply, and the reaction was by no means expected by anyone, as Simon and i have discussed since. In fact, we both agree that maybe the rioting and looting were beneficial if it brings out this character in people, and this reaction. It has not only rekindled my love of these people, but has reinforced my belief that this is a fantastic country. My hat goes off to the Canadian citizens, and to any of those who may be reading this, please take pride in the whole situation; you have really shown your true colours and shown the world of the way to act in times of difficulty.

Busy weekend in the Pacific North West

Right, it’s been a busy few days, and getting near a computer for long enough just hasn’t been possible, so here’s your warning: this is going to be a long post…

Thursday morning, which seems an age ago, began with going for breakfast with Victoria, Simon’s lovely girlfriend. Waitress service still confuses me, as does the whole tipping malarky, and i’m sure i seemed flustered and disorientated as we went to a local coffee shop for eggs Benedict, and a nice relaxing start to the morning. I’ve been saying lately that i’m a little disappointed not to be bumming around the campground for a couple of weeks, as i usually do on these sorts of trips, but staying with friends in the middle of Vancouver has given me a different opportunity, one to do things like this and experience the life of a local in North America. It’s definitely something i’ve never experienced before, and has been a fantastic trip for that if nothing else.

Steve and MC's trailer/home - it was HUGE!!!But of course, i’m here for the climbing, which is exactly what we did on Thursday afternoon. Back in March, when i went to Fontainebleau, you may recall i made some friends, named Steve and MC, and i’d been eager to head up to Whistler to say hello. A couple of phone calls, and we found ourselves at their trailer/house; an abode almost as big as mine back home. We chilled out there briefly, before heading further North to Pemberton. As it turns out, Steve was the first ascentionist of many of the boulder problems up there, and it was interesting to get the beta from the guy who put the climb up in the first place, and of course, meant that we only hit the good classic problems and ignored the dross. After a quick look round and a play on the other side of the tracks, Steve led us down to have a look at some classic lines: In Your Face V3 being the first, and possibly best, line. I’ve deliberately not been grade-bashing on this trip, and it has been immensely refreshing, allowing me to just tick off some of the Top 100 climbs in the lower grades. Sometimes, i think, it’s an aspect i, and many people, miss on these sorts of trips, and Steve allowed me to search out quality rather than difficulty.

Simon on Pimp Slap V7That doesn’t mean we didn’t try harder climbs, and Give Her the Chickens V7 saw a few attempts, although avoiding the heinous first move with a jump start, before we ticked off the equally fabulous Pimp Slap and Into the Light V5, both of which really enjoyable climbing. The day was rounded off with McDonalds in Pemberton proper: a town seemingly set up as a film set for old Wild West movies! Still it was great to see Steve and MC again, and i hope i can catch them again today.

We headed back, and made the long two-hour drive home, ready to come back the next day. In some respects, camping would’ve made more sense on some occasions, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and we’ve simply been playing each day by ear, so next morning found ourselves taking the Sea to Sky Highway North again, this time with Victoria joining us. We chose the Clean Boulders of the Grand Wall area as the scene for our continual rise and fall, and sent the various text messages to people to hopefully meet up with the elusive Sasquatch. In the meantime, we again searched out the best the area had to offer, although i decided that my

Reacquainted with old friends on In Your Face V3

skin would appreciate me taking it a little easier. As i type, i can feel the keys press the tender pads at the end of my fingers, but with only today left to climb, i’ll really go for it. Last Friday there was still another week to go, so after quickly ticking off some nice easy slab problems, and the fantastically named The Masturbation of Climbing V0, i decided to… get on a V7! Not the best idea really, but best laid plans and all that jazz. The heinous problem in question was Close Shave: beginning on an appalling sloper and moving awkwardly up to a small crimp. Not liking the look of the sloper, i dropped down slightly, making an entirely different but bigger move from two crimps to miss the abomination entirely. Sadly, the two available footholds were both in exactly the wrong places; the large ledge causing me to be massively stretched out, and the other that Simon subsequently used being too high. He got it, i was forced to leave it to mock me.

Suddenly out of the woods came a strange hairy creature: and his brother. After much back and forth between us, we had finally managed to get both of us, (along with climbing shoes, pads and time) in the same place and at long last i was able to socialise with my good friend. Simon went to try Kung Fu Fighter V4 and we dossed around the forest, doing what we do best (not a great deal) for the rest of the day. We did have a look at Outrage V3 but i realised my skin wouldn’t cope with the fierce crimp at the start, so relegated myself to non-climbing photographer. Nevertheless, i am very glad i got chance to see Stu again, and i am sure it will not be the last time.

The elusive Sasquatch - great to see old friends as well as making new onesAs the day wound down, there was time for one more outrageous double dyno; a showman’s climb, as it was really just a fun jump on a large lip traverse. We returned home, saying goodbye to my friends from Calgary, and came back to meet some of Simon’s mates down on the beach. It really was a great night, getting to know local people, and socialising in the city for a change. It gave me a chance to really meet the people from the culture i had been chastising in my last post, and to discover that the Canadians, as i expected at the beginning of my trip, truly are fantastic people. Although this only takes us up to Friday night, i think seven paragraphs is more than enough for now, so i’ll put another post on in the next couple of days, from wherever i find myself! In the meantime, one more day of granite bouldering in British Columbia awaits.

In search of the Sasquatch

Legend has it that in the Pacific Northwest of North America there lives an elusive being, a man-like beast, inhabiting the forests of areas just like the one i currently call home. I believe i may have found him.

Admittedly, the scientific community may not be as sure, as with this particular Sasquatch, the meeting was arranged mainly by mobile phone, but the elusive nature of the creature did certainly seem reminiscent of the legend. He is truly incredibly hard to track down, and thus to photograph, and yet, at about 6:30 last night, through the forest towards us, walked a large mammal, seemingly towering over the surroundings, walking upright like a man, but some seven-feet tall, and four foot wide. Naturally, i ran off into the forest, keen to get a better look at this mythical creature, certain i may never get another chance. I jumped over logs, and dodged through boulders, running through foliage in order to get closer to the Sasquatch. Then, tragedy, and i was spotted. Instantly, the decision was made to confront this hideous beast, and i ran at him, arms raised aloft. He had by now clearly spotted me, as i him, and i made a direct run straight to him, closing in quickly…

Simon on the MantisThis is where the Sasquatch analogy ends, as i embraced my old friend, the jibes of a lack of existence of Stu from Simon and Victoria disappearing as i introduced them. I had been waiting all week and longer to meet up with Stu, a man with whom i had traveled around Europe on several occasions, and who had, in his short stay in North Wales, become, for a brief time granted, one of my closest mates. We had first met back in September 2009 when he was working at the Pen y Gwyryd, and needing climbing partners for a Spanish trip in danger of falling apart, he accompanied us to Albarracin, in the Iberian mountains in Central Spain. We had also hooked up in Reims, en route South to Italy last June, where we had enjoyed the Alpine granite, and his departure last December had left me sad, in need of a new bouldering partner and travelling companion. Needless to say, it was good to see him again.

This was not, however, at the start of the day, and it had already been a spectacularly good one up to this reunion. It began with sunshine and eggs Benedict for breakfast, before once again making the drive North, this time to the Titanic North area near the base of the Chief itself. Where the day before the sky was grey and brooding, today it was blue and inspiring, and smiles all around as Victoria joined us to finally show the forest what i could best deliver. After a two-minute walk in, i suddenly realised that not all the landings in Squamish are over pointy and jagged rocks, and we began to tick off the problems one by one, with The Mantis V4, Tweak Freak V3 and the classic Titanic V3 all falling with relative ease. Okay, so not massive grades, but a promising day after such abject failure the day previous.

Searching for a decent foothold/divine interventionWe moved on, Simon showing me the Made in the Shade boulder, with an excellent sandbag mantle problem, with hidden beta that i managed to see, and on to the Thighmaster Area. We looked at some classic hard problems, although sadly the energy seemed to have been sapped from me into the open handed slopers this destination seems to love so much. Finally, we headed down to check out Airtight Garage V7, to really drag out the last of my energy before heading off for food and hockey, but while in search of hidden foot holds, i fell and bounced my ankle around in a small group of rocks. With more than my bones rattled, we dropped down slightly to Black Mark V4, another classic up a small dyke, but when again my foot ping-ed off the hold, and my knee smacked into the rock, i decided it was time to call it a day. Still, a great day, in the sunshine that broke through the canopy of trees, with the incredible Stawamus Chief always standing tall over us. The reunion tipped off a great day.

That is until, sadly, the final whistle of this years Stanley Cup, between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. I feel slightly awkward reporting this, but nevertheless, it is what happened, and while the city had been set up to allow hundreds of thousands of fans to watch the game along some of it’s major routes, the final score of 4-0 to Boston sparked scenes of rioting, fighting and looting. While this was obviously pre-planned, and has been denounced by all of those associated with both the hockey and the city itself with whom i have spoken or read of, it is still a black mark on the history of this great city, and of these great and friendly people whom i have praised since my arrival. People have been talking of the reasons for the riots, not being freedom, or protest at extortionate expenses for education as two examples but for the loss of a hockey game, but as i read more online, and trawl Facebook for photos of the true extent of the damage, it seems this is more rioting for rioting’s sake. While we do have plenty of other problems, and foibles back home that no-one can be proud of, we can grateful that we do not feel the need to riot and loot when a sports team loses, perhaps our British propensity not to make a fuss overriding our natural agressive instincts that these people seem to give in to. I will now, sadly, be spending the rest of my trip trying to prove to myself that those whose pictures currently circulate on the internet are the minority.

Touching the Rock

Anticipation can be a bitch, especially when it’s built up over a period of something like 9 months! Not that I’m comparing going to Squamish to having a baby, but surely it can’t be that different? Anyway, after a morning trawling some outdoor shops, and buying doughnuts, a blue Ford, erm, car turned up outside, and my host stepped out. Within long, we decided that while it was still damp everywhere, that it probably wasn’t damp enough to deter an excitable Englishman from his first taste of Canadian granite; we were going and we were psyched.

Preparing for my first Squamish send

Now, I’m currently sat in said car, en route back to Squamish, watching the road twist and turn it’s along the West Coast of this fantastic country, but it felt more magnificent yesterday when it was entirely fresh and truly unexpected. Anyone visiting Squamish should either be warned, or skip today’s entry, as this certainly is one of the most breath taking approach’s I have ever seen. The forty-odd foot trees lining the road on the sheer cliffs on the right, the Pacific sitting calmly to our left, and the great mountains framing the view in every direction.

After a short hour we arrived in the town of Squamish proper; a logging town in the mountains of British Columbia, and stopped for a few minutes in the gear shops (I know, I can’t help myself and I do want to get a t-shirt from round here). The air felt heavy, and ominous, almost as if the imposing cliff known as the Stawamus Chief was displaying her awesome power by making the weather brood somehow. It had obviously done this in the days previous too, as the rock was damp and slightly sticky. Nevertheless, we’d come this far…

I was given the tour, checking out Superfly, Animal Magnetism Area, and the unimaginable climb of Dreamcatcher 5.14d and the surrounding boulders, before going down to the Apron to start climbing on what would hopefully be dry rock. Simon had been keen to tell me of Squamish’s poor landings, and difficult grades, but assuming he was embellishing his local crag somewhat, I remained unperturbed. Sadly, he was right, as I quickly found myself struggling on a pair of tricky V3s. Bollocks. Oh well, stiff upper lip, blame conditions, carry on to the next area, Gibb’s Cave.

We worked some moves on a V8 for Simon for a while, before heading back, stopping briefly for a brief check of a now sodden Murrin Park. An early night and home cooked dinner beckoned, which is exactly what we treated ourselves to, and now we are heading back for another go. At least today, the sun is finally shining, and conditions seem a lot kinder, but that may just mean I need to find another excuse…

Vancouver

So where did we get to? Ah, Vancouver airport, and a distinct lack of planning certainly made itself evident as i collected my bags from Baggage Claim and realised Simon and myself had neglected to arrange somewhere to meet, or even exchange phone numbers… Thankfully Simon was more than up to it, and as i sat outside smoking a much needed cigarette, he appeared. A train journey and short walk and we arrived at his flat, a small-ish one bedroom place in the suburbs, surrounded by bars, pubs and coffee shops. We met a friend of his for a beer and chatted into the evening.

Simon, my host for the week, and Victoria, his girlfriendSimon is working in the mornings, so i have a few hours each day to relax, rest and post on the internet. This morning, i’m gonna head down to the world famous Mountain Equipment Co-op, a short walk from here, and have a good look round. We popped in yesterday, but it’ll be nice to really explore round there, albeit strange to see DMM stuff that has made the long journey from the same place as me! To be honest, though, there are plenty of other shops on that strip, and while it is a bit of a bus-mans holiday, i do need some souvenirs, and will undoubtedly head Downtown too.

Vancouver is a fantastic city, busy and vibrant, and while maybe not quite as culturally diverse as Toronto, is a hustling and bustling hub on Canada’s West coast. Then again, i may not have picked the best time to get an insight into what Vancouver is usually like; the final of the Stanley Cup is currently on between Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins. Yesterday was game six of the best-of-seven series, with the Canucks leading 3-4. The final is played more in the vein of a snooker match, as opposed to a cricket Test series, so once one team gets that fourth win,Throngs of Canadians, all cheering for the Canucks they’ve got it. There was certainly excitement around the city, with plenty of blue jerseys wandering around, and seemingly everyone getting involved. After much uncertainty as to where we were going to perch to watch what could turn out to be an historic match, we decided to head Downtown, to enjoy it on the big screens installed by the city on some of the major routes through. We weren’t alone, and literally tens of thousands had the same idea. The atmosphere surely should’ve been amazing, but for the fact that Boston took a few early goals, and by 4-0 the crowd weren’t really that psyched any more. Vancouver pulled two back, but also conceded again, so now we have to look to Wednesdays final decider.

But this isn’t supposed to be about ice hockey, it’s a bouldering blog! Well, as is too often the case, the rock was neglected yesterday, due to rain. I’ve come to accept this more in recent years, and learned to deal with it. It happens, and i’m here for plenty of time, so a single day isn’t going to bother me too much. Today we’re heading up to Pemberton, further North than Squamish itself, as the forecast looks a bit better (and i’m told the landings are much better…) and i’m hooking up with Steve on the way; the Canadian we met in Fontainbleau back in March, and mentioned below. Even if it was to rain today, i’m certain we’ll find something that will go, some rough granite to run through my hands, the tourist in me rearing it’s camera intruded face desperate to make the most of the short time here, the climber in me itching the palms of his hands desperate to get off the ground.