Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Grand Wall and General Summer Shenanigans.

Well, it's safe to say that this summer in Squamish has been absolutely fantastic. My Slesse adventure in July inspired a lasting psyche that has perpetuated to this very moment as I sit here on my laptop sipping a cider and writing this blog. If I were to go into precise detail and attempt to recapture the magic of each and every adventure I have embarked upon between then and now I would find myself typing for ages and ages and spinning a tale that fills multiple pages. However, I have to work tomorrow and my coworker Chris would likely prefer that I be coherent in the morning, so I will tell one short story, post some photos, and try to be in bed by 11:15 at the latest.

I have selected one story in particular to share for a couple reasons. First and foremost I have selected this story because it is short and I tend to be somewhat lazy when it comes to blogging. The other reason I have opted to share my personal account of this particular tale is because it seems as if rumor of this ascent has leaked into a 'climbing forum' or two and I would like to clear up any ambiguity regarding my climb and simply tell the story for exactly what it is.

Anyhow, yesterday I awoke in my humble stairwell, prepared a delightful bowl of cereal and began packing to work on a project on the North Walls of the Chief. As I tried to select the equipment that I would bring along I became fed up with the dilemma of 'what to bring and what not to bring' and decided that I would just bring nearly nothing at all and go solo some classics. Sometimes it's best to settle on simplicity.

I thought the historic 'Grand Wall' would be a good place to begin my day and soon enough I found myself standing at the base of 'Apron Strings' with my rock shoes, a harness, two daisy chains, two quickdraws  and a single length sling. I climbed up two meters and then suddenly thought to myself, 'I may as well time this' and reversed to the ground to check my watch/phone. It was 10:32, I waited for it to change to 10:33 but it was taking too long so I shoved the phone back into my pocket and began climbing instead.

I flew up Apron Strings feeling greeeeeat and realized as I climbed the lovely 'Merci Me' that I was making considerable upwards progress in a relatively short time frame. I decided to continue climbing at a fast but comfortable pace, and check in on my time when I reached Bellygood Ledge, 10 pitches into the route.

I passed a party at the start of the traverse to the Split Pillar, and as I hand railed along the right trending flake I noted that the stone was peppered with 'silverfish' aka 'rock lobsters' that were leaping from their nests in the crack onto my hands and arms and crawling up my bare arms onto my torso. While I would normally find this unpleasant, free soloing is no place to get 'grossed out' by insects so I simply carried on.

I swam up the perfect hand-jams of the split pillar, pulled the technical crux of the Sword and laybacked the thin finger locks to the beginning of the long bolt ladder. I used my daisy chains on the bolt ladder as well on Perry's Layback, then cruised along the Flats and up the excellent juggy 'Sail Flake' soon finding myself running along bellygood ledge to the start of the Roman Chimneys.

 I checked the time, I had 18 minutes to solo the chimneys in order to match the current speed record (59 minutes held by Alex Honnold and Mason Earle) This is where I actually committed to an attempt to break the record. I had never soloed the Chimneys before, so I climbed cautiously, particularly through the initial 5.11a slab crux. As I power laybacked a slightly damp 11a offwidth I thought to myself, 'even if I don't break the record I won't be trying this again', but soon enough I was racing through the gritty face climbing that avoids an 11+ roof crack and up the final 5.10 corner to the top. I checked the time as soon as I reached the ledge that marks the end of the Roman Chimneys, it was 11:30 bang on. I had taken somewhere between 57 and 58 minutes, juuuuust shaving a minute or two off the previous record!

It was quite spontaneous, I certainly didn't go to bed the night before thinking about breaking any records. In fact the thought didn't enter my mind until I was three or so pitches up the climb and moving steadily along. I never felt as if I was 'rushing' or throwing caution to the wind. I climbed as quickly as I was comfortable with, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience!

Great, woohoo. I got the record. Stoked. Okay whatever, at least its held by a Squamish local again and not some visiting yanks he he he.  I decided to celebrate afterwards by free soloing 'Borderline' into High Plains Drifter, making for a total of about 30 pitches of climbing up to 5.11c. Good times!

Now I will quit typing and post some photos from my Summer so far, complete with captions so you all know what you are looking at.

                                                       University Wall Pitch 1

                                                        The super sick nasty Shadow pitch!

                                                       Mt Garibaldi Glacier Type Stuff

                                           Not sure what I'm doing here but its amusing.

                                                                     Polaris Pitch 9

                                                                  High Plains Drifter!

                                                         Trying to Flash the Shadow, I fell.

And golly gee goodness its 12:30 AM! Time for bed. Over and out.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Slesse - A Solo Link-Up

Okay, so I haven't updated this page since Febuary. I apologize for that, but on the positive side the reason I have not been updating is because I have been extremely busy climbing, adventuring, training, sleeping and all the things that keep me permanently distracted from sitting in front of my laptop for any sustained amount of time. The exception is Facebook, you don't have to think to sit around on Facebook. Facebook is my most addictive rest day activity... anyways.

I have some serious updating to do, I should probably talk about my trip to the Valley in the Spring, but I'll do that later. I want to talk about a link up I did on a beautiful local peak by the name of Slesse Mountain.

Slesse is a very famous Canadian Mountain because in 1956 Trans-Canada Airlines flight 810 became disoriented in dense clouds and slammed into the eastern flank of the mountain, no one survived. It is also famous in the climbing world because its classic Northeast Buttress, first climbed by Fred Beckey, Steve Marts and Eric Bjornstad was included in Steck and Roper's 'Fifty Classic Climbs of North America'.

I first climbed the Buttress on my third attempt when I was 15 years old. My first two attempts were epic and frightening, and when I finally completed the route it was the biggest and most serious thing I had ever climbed, I was elated. A year later I was looking at the Crossover Pass descent route and noted that it would be very easy to traverse from the slopes near the end of the descent to the start of the North Rib, a route similar to but more sustained and difficult than the Buttress. I wondered 'what if'' a party was strong and fast enough to climb the Buttress, descend 'via crossover pass, and then climb the Rib in the same day. It seemed a bit ludicrous seeing as the Buttress alone took my partners and I two days to climb and I had been utterly exhausted by the end of it.

Fast forward 4 years. Now 20 years old and much more experienced as a rock climber I was beginning to really miss the alpine, the easily accessible rock around Squamish is a treat to climb, but I was missing that 'out there' feeling of adventure that goes hand in hand with committing routes in the mountains. Every year I would think about the 'Slesse Double Link' as I referred to it, but never truly considered attempting it. But then two weeks ago my friend Tony McLane and I left Squamish at 5am and drove the 3 hours to Slesse and climbed the North Rib together.

We brought one half rope and a few pieces of gear but ended up scrambling the entire route together unroped. We down climbed the summit tower instead of rappelling and navigated the Crossover Pass descent easily and were back at the car within 12 hours of leaving it. I was blown away by how much more capable I felt in the mountains compared to when I was a teenager. The three years of steady rock climbing in Squamish had made an enormous impact on my confidence and speed in the alpine. I felt ready to try the link up.

To prepare myself for my climb, and to ensure myself that I had the fitness required to do my link up safely, without exhaustion leading to poor decision making, I went for a training run. After getting off work early I jogged from my home to the 'Apron' of the Squamish Chief and proceeded to free solo 'Rock On', down climb Calculus Crack, jog to the base of Angels Crest, solo that as well, then run behind the Chief to Shannon Falls and solo Skywalker. After a swim in the beautiful pool below the upper tier of Shannon Falls I jogged back to the parking lot below the Apron and checked the time. It had been 5 hours since I left my home, I was pretty sure the Slesse mission would not be a problem. I was stoked!

I wanted to do the link up as soon as possible, while the approach to the Rib was still in good condition and before the pocket glacier approach to the Buttress deteriorated completely. But I had to work all week. I packed my bag Thursday night, and due to my lack of Vehicular Trasport Means I walked directly from work to a Greyhound Bus station and cruised to Vancouver. I always feel bad-ass taking my climbing pack on the Bus with my fancy technical ice tool strapped to the outside... the bright yellow helmet, not so much.

I hitchhiked my way into the Fraser Valley, and was pleased to get picked up despite the visible ice tool on my pack. Luckily I don't look like a serial killer, although most serial killers don't look like serial killers either according to my Mother who works in a Correctional Facility.

Now comes the embarrassing part of the story. Once I was in the Fraser Valley, my dear Mother drove out and picked me up and gave me a ride to the start of the gravel road leading to the trailhead. Sorry Mom, I'll get a car soon. I gave her a vague description of what I was going to attempt, not giving too many details that I could fill her in on once I was back down in one piece. I started hiking the road towards the trailhead at 11:30 PM.

This was the part of the adventure I was the most nervous about. Hiking alone in bear infested woods. I sang 'Hakuna Matata' on repeat to calm myself and to warn any wild beasts of my approach. If I could survive this approach the climbing would be of little concern.

I made it to the Memorial Plaque without being eaten and tried to sleep for a while. It was cold and I was still afraid of being eaten. I slept like a 5 year old child on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to come down the chimney. At the very first sign of light I packed what I would bring for the link up into a bullet pack and started up towards to propeller cairn. I was psyched and moving fast, I stopped briefly at the cairn to eat a bar and sip some hydrogen monoxide, and then boogied my way across the slabs beneath the east glacier to avoid being crushed by falling blocks of ice. I quickly made it to the 'notch' used to access the pocket glacier and assessed conditions. It looked good! So I climbed down to the glacier and made a spectacular maneuver in which I demonstrated extreme inner thigh flexibility as I did the splits across a deep moat in order to gain access to the seasonal ice patch.

The first two thirds of the glacier consisted of straightforward walking, with the spectacular East Face brooding above, the sun just beginning to light the summit snowpatch. As I approached the upper third of the glacier I got my first view of the horrendous icefall guarding the approach ramps to the Buttress. At first glance I thought my mission was over, and I would have to go home. But I spotted an intricate, albeit extremely hazardous line that would bring me to the next tier of the glacier. Go time! I tried to move as quickly and precisely as possible, stemming wide above deep crevasses, navigating steep terrain beneath leaning towers of ice and climbing some short steep seracs only to find myself staring at an even larger and more intimidating schrund blocking access to the uppermost tier of the glacier. It looked completely impassable, a gap of at least 60ft, near vertical on both sides and spanning the length of the glacier. I could see that there had been some serac activity at the far left end however and traversed the entire glacier to have a look. I found that a serac had collapsed and was now spanning the gap, acting as a bridge, completely unsupported from below. I nervously climbed to the lip of the schrund and swung my tool into the death bridge, climbed onto it, and traversed the gap with nothing but air and the empty blackness of the schrund beneath my feet. I was off the bridge and more wide stemming through some small overhangs brought me onto the final section of glacier. I was pondering how I would navigate the large snow finger at the start of the access ramp when suddenly there was a loud rumbling and the right hand side of the finger collapsed into the icefall. There were several loud explosion-like sounds and the glacier began rumbling beneath my feet. I sprinted faster than I knew I was capable of and quickly squirmed through a tunnel between the 'finger' and the rock below like a panicking marmot. I arrived safe and sound at the start of the ramp panting for air. I knew the crux was over and I could now relax and enjoy the beautiful rock climbing ahead of me.

I climbed the easy ramps and past a gendarme to the start of the technical climbing on the route. I quickly changed to rock shoes and continued climbing the steep buttress. The climbing went by very quickly and I found myself sipping more H2O at the halfway ledge and switched back to approach shoes for the several pitches of 4th class leading to the summit tower. After changing shoes once again, I began cruising up the steep and exposed final pitches. Some low clouds had blown in and were now sweeping up the east face and billowing up around me, the sun was shining directly through the clouds, giving everything around me the appearance of being painted in bright gold. I could see my shadow in the golden clouds as I climbed the crux pitches. This was epic, a very special time to myself indeed. I soon found myself on the summit, I had no watch but I suspect the Buttress took me about 2 hours. Compared to when I was 15, it had felt incredibly easy. Being able to relax fully during the climb and just appreciate the movement and position made it much more enjoyable as well.

The down climb off the tower went smoothly and I followed the same route along the Crossover ridge that Tony and I had taken a week earlier. I shared part of my descent with a beautiful mountain goat, a wild animal that I am fairly certain will not try to devour me. As I navigated the long alpine ridge my thoughts were filled with what lay ahead. Did I have to energy to climb a longer and more difficult route safely? How would I feel descending for the second time? I should have been more focused on where I was at, I climbed a couple sections somewhat sloppily and even slipped once on a snowpatch. "Be careful Marc, pay attention", I thought to myself after self arresting. Soon enough I was glissading down moderate snow slopes and began to trend back towards to start of the North Rib. I stopped to fill my water bottle and have a snack. I slurped back a revolting 'power gel' and drank an 'Emergen-C' electrolyte beverage. The combination of citric acid and whatever goes into those gels nauseated me so badly I had to sit on a boulder doubled over for several minutes until the feeling passed. Then I jogged to the toe of the North Glacier and made a quick and easy crossing, jumping the moat to a small ledge at the start of the climbing.

I scrambled the first couple pitches to get away from any objective hazard from the ice towers around me, and then changed into rock shoes and began climbing the long aesthetic arete. The climbing on the Rib is much more sustained and generally less secure than that of the Buttress. While the climbing is quite moderate it involves friction dependent moves and somewhat involved routefinding. It would feel as if I had been climbing for a long while, then I would look up to see that the summit still looked infinitely far away, and the glacier below discouragingly close. I had to stop twice to take my shoes off and let my feet breathe. The position on the rib is just spectacular, being there alone is something to really cherish. I put my shoes back on and eventually found myself at the Notch between the main summit of Slesse and the smaller 'Fraser Tower'to the north. This would be an easy place to bail, as this notch is part of the regular descent route. But with only 6 pitches of 5.8 climbing between me and summit, lots of daylight left, and some energy to spare, the choice was clear. However my feet were very sore after 50 or so pitches in rock shoes so I soloed to the summit in my Tennies to spare my feet some pain.

                    A photo from Colin Haley's Blog, showing the North Rib, Summit looming above.

I relaxed on the summit for a good 15 minutes, to recover before making the long descent for a 2nd time. I recorded my link up in the summit register, ate some delicious trail mix and then started down. I was concerned that I may be fatigued and climb poorly so I payed extra attention the entire time. In fact I payed so much attention that I didn't slip once, make a single mis-step or error and found myself home free on moderate snow slopes in what felt like no time at all. I was so focused that my recollection of this descent feels 'etched' into my memory. The only other time I have experienced this kind of 'etched memory' was when I soloed 'The Milk Road' in Squamish, it is an interesting phenomenon, such focus leading to a unique memory imprint.

As I ran down the mellow slopes I realized I was essentially home free, with only straightforward hiking left to get home. I shouted, and hooted and hollered and screamed something along the lines of, 'I LOVE ALPINE CLIMBING'. I was psyched, really psyched. I looked up at the mountain and imagined the North Rib stacked on top of the Northeast Buttress, it seemed unfathomably huge, approximately 6,000ft of steep alpine rock. The feelings of success and elation filled me with energy and I ran the trail back to the memorial to pick up my gear before hiking back to the road, and stumbling back to the 'Riverside' campground where I had been dropped off the day before. Every so often I glanced back at the summit tower of Slesse, knowing I had stood there twice that day. I made it back to Chilliwack Lake Rd around 9pm, it was still fully light out, but I passed out on the forest floor and woke up cold at first light. I made myself a small fire to keep warm and hung out and stretched my sore muscles until mid day. Tired of waiting for my ride, I began walking the road towards Chilliwack. After about an hour of walking my Mom pulled up in her car and gave me a big hug, happy to see me alive and well and I filled her in on the details of my climb as we drove back to her home in Agassiz and had a wonderful family barbeque. Like a true man, I drank some sweet cherry cider coolers, and passed out.

I haven't written a report like this is years, but this adventure was something special. The realization of a goal I made 4 years ago, that once seemed absolutely impossible. The amusing part is, it didn't feel particularly hard or outrageous. Aside from a moment or two in the pocket glacier, it never felt 'extreme'. I think this is how these kind of missions should feel, relaxed, comfortable and in control. I realize now how much I really missed the mountains and how happy I am to be back, I am looking forward to getting a few more missions in this season... who knows, I may even write about them...

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience :)


       The Northeast Buttress in Green, my descent to the start of the Rib in Blue, and the Rib in Red.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Awesome Week.

So the past 8 days were pretty sweet, I ended up spending a few days ice climbing around Lillooet and then this past weekend in Revelstoke trying my best to learn how to ski. I had only expected to make a day trip to Lillooet but after swinging my tools for an afternoon I booked a room and ended up staying five. All five days were awesome, conditions were quite good and I manage to climb several great routes I had never been on before. The three days skiing were also really fun, by the third day I was feeling substantially more comfortable but there were embarrassing moments. Perhaps having disproportionately long limbs would help explain why I found strapping even longer boards to my feet and then moving downhill at high speeds so awkward at times. The worst situation I found myself in all week was slowly sliding down the hill on my face, skis pointing uphill behind me, while children skied past effortlessly. I’m sure the people riding the lift directly above me while all this took place were enjoying themselves at that moment… not me.

Anyways, last Saturday woke up at 4am to drive to Marble Canyon, near Cache Creek, with my buddy Matt and his friend Steven who was going to be climbing ice for his first time. Matt also took me ice climbing for my first time when I was 15 and I was psyched, so it was cool to see him continuing to introduce others to the sport. Steven was psyched too, and killed it, climbing very intuitively despite it being his first day on ice tools. It was good to spend a whole afternoon climbing around on fat ice getting a feel for my new tools, a pair of DMM apex’s. Afterwards we crashed at a motel in Lillooet but Matt and Steven had to head home in the morning. I decided to book the room for another couple nights and had my friends drop me off on the Duffey Lake road near a route called ‘Sychronicity’.

I had never climbed ‘Synchronicity’ before knew it is considered one of the classics on the Duffey. It had appeared to be in nice shape on the drive up the previous day so I thought it could make for a good solo adventure. I walked in following some tracks and in an hour found myself at the ice and preparing to climb. I brought a rope to rappel, some cord to build threads, a couple screws and began cruising up the first easy pitches. The ice was good and the climbing went quickly and I shortly found myself below the final tier of the route. The ice on the left hand side looked good and was quite vertical so I decided to climb there rather than on the ramps to the right. As expected the climbing was great and the placements very secure, the position was also great with the valley floor a long ways down. At the very top of the route I climbed a delicate hollow tube which was more engaging then any of the more sustained ground below, but I found myself at the top of the route and rappelled back into the amphitheater below. ‘Synchronicity’ had not taken long and I had most of the day left, so I decided to climb another great looking route to the left called ‘Synchrotron’. The climbing was really fun, and being in a great head space after climbing one route already allowed me to move very fast. On the way down I noticed that the back of a beautiful pillar on the alternate ‘Mother’ finish looked to be in reasonable conditions so I soloed that as well. The climbing and position were phenomenal on the back of the steep pillar and at the top I found a narrow hole in the ice and squeezed through back onto the front to finish! After rapping back to the very bottom and hiking down to the creek I notice a frozen ice bridge spanning the river which allowed for a quick hike up to the road on the other side. Overall this was one of the sweetest ice climbing days I have had, soloing long moderate routes in a great setting! But I just realized how long that all took to type….. I seriously need to work on being concise so I don’t end up sitting on my computer ALL day.

                                      Steep ground on Synchronicity's upper tier.

                              The back of the 'Mother' pillar looking nice and fun!

                                   Soloing in behind the 'Mother' pillar.

                                          Super psyched on a rad solo day!

So the next two days I met up with my friends Francis and Lee and we climbed some nice lines in the Bridge River Canyon. The first day we climbed a route called Silk Degrees that doesn't form often. The first pitch was not touching down so we climbed moderate loose rock to the right and traversed back onto the ice for the 2nd pitch. After finishing Silk Degrees we continued up a gulley and climbed ‘Silk Worm’ right to the top of the canyon wall. It started snowing and got dark as we tried to find the descent and spent some time in a narrow gulley searching for anchors while getting bombed by spindrift. It was a quick reminder of what ice climbing is all about, adventure! After much down climbing and some raps we were back at the creek crossing and the car.
The next day we drove back into the Bridge river and plugged up the hillside to a small basin housing two rarely formed columns. The right hand line called ‘A Four Dressed up as Six’ looked to be in a good shape so we climbed that. It was beautiful! Not a long pitch, but steep and technical climbing with decent gear. Above that, we continued up the hillside then traversed back into the gulley below a classic route called ‘Capricorn’.  The crux pitch was long and much steeper than in appeared from below, with some funky ice on the vertical sections, totally awesome! We rapped the ice and managed to walk through the woods back to the car without having to rappel. Another amazing day that went perfectly smoothly!

                                      Leading 'A Four Dressed up as Six'

                                               Lee approaching 'Capricorn'

Lee and Francis had to get back to work in the city, but on Wednesday Chris Geisler drove to Lillooet and picked me up at the Motel, after a breakfast stop in town we cruised back up the Duffey to try an unclimbed route left of Synchronicity. I had noticed this hanging dagger feature earlier in the season and thought that it may be possible to drytool the rock to the right to reach the ice. We really had no idea what to expect, so Chris packed the hand drill and a few short bolts just in case. We crossed the ice bridge I had found on my solo mission a few days earlier and soon found ourselves at the base of the route. We ran up 3 moderate pitches of ice and mixed steps then began planning our attack to get to the hanging dagger.
I began drytooling up some very loose features on a slab, not hard climbing but insecure with absolute shit protection for the first 20m or so. I made my way to a steeper alcove with some better pro, and after a bit of thrutching around I found a sideways nut I could lean out on and bust out the hand drill. I had never hand drilled a bolt before, and it was ardous… especially using the hammer on the back of my ice tool. Chris laughed while I spent the better part of 45 minutes pecking away with the drill. Eventually I got the bolt in and fired the crux traverse to the ice, good hooking on slightly overhanging rock with an insecure crux move right at the point where a fall could become bad again! Once on the ice I ran up to a belay ledge then Chris led straight through to the top of the ice! It was so rad to put up this new route on our first try and for it all to go relatively smoothly. I will never forget my first hand drilled bolt either. We called our route ‘Duplicity’ (WI4, M6 R) as it two main pitches contrast each other a lot. The first being runout mixed climbing with some very loose rock, and the second being beautiful moderate ice climbing.

                                         Leading the crux pitch of 'Duplicity'

                                   Chris leading the last pitch of 'Duplicity'

Here's a video Chris took while I was hand drilling...

The next day I was off to Revelstoke with my friend Brette to attempt skiing for the first time. Brette is a bad-ass skier and I felt bad while she waited patiently for me as I fell on my face, lost skis, crashed into trees and whatnot. But after the three days I felt I improved quite a bit, not great by any means, but I could get down the hill without falling so I was psyched…. I could really see how skiing is an incredibly valuable skill to have dialed for bigger mountain adventures. I think I am going to stick with it and try to improve my skills so I can get into ski mountaineering in the future! Just imagine skiing into a sick route, soloing it, and then shredding a gnarly chute on the way out or something along those lines. The only thing missing is a base jump off the summit!
Anyways, I’m done talking now, definitely don’t want to type anymore. But it looks like Squamish is going to have some bomb weather for rock climbing next week, so the adventures don’t have to stop anytime soon! Psyched.

          Poser Marc still smiling, blissfully unaware of the face plant soon to come.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some Winter Adventures

Well... I've been meaning to update for a while but every time I sit down to write something I decide to wait until I return from that 'next adventure' so I have more to write about. Blah blah blah, just more excuses for being lazy. But anyways, I really have been having a tonne of fun since I last posted so I may as well say something about what I have been up to these past couple months.

It rained a lot in Squamish in November and December and there was not a whole lot of action around town as is typical of Squamish this time of year. But on one particularly clear and dry day in November I took a spin up to the Smoke Bluffs to check out a line called 'Smashing Windows' that I had tried earlier in the year only to get shut down by dicey smears and warm temperatures. Friction was excellent that day and I quickly unlocked the radical slabby sequence on the lower arete and sent the route on my third lead attempt. All I can say is what a sweet route. As soon as you leave the ground it's game on for the steep lower section and linking the crux in one go is a memorable experience!

Paul Mcsorley posted this shot of me on 'Smashing Windows' on facebook. So I stole it from there, thanks Paul!

After 'Smashing Windows' it rained... a lot... again... so I spent some time keeping myself sane by climbing in the gyms of Vancouver. Good times were had. There were some faceplants, spinning holds, I got in trouble for wearing street shoes on the mats and tried to find natural pro by tying off holds.

After a few weeks of tweaking out my tendons I decided to tone it down a little and check out a mellower zone called Helmcken Falls in the interior of B.C.

Helmcken is a 450ft waterfall in the interior of B.C, and spray from the waterfall blows back into the huge overhanging cave behind the falls and freezes to the rock creating 'alien like' ice sculptures. Will Gadd and Tim Emmett first explored the possibility of climbing these overhanging ice features and established the route 'Spray On' which was later extended to the top of the wall last year by Emmett and Klemen Premrl. Their route 'Spray On... Top' is more or less regarded as the wildest looking mixed climb in the universe, overhanging nearly as much as it is tall.

Chris Geisler spent some time climbing at Helmcken last winter and was psyched to go back, and I was psyched to check it out. So we drove straight from Vancouver to the falls and spent a couple days, along with Josh Lavigne, trying to establish another line in the cave. Unfortunately conditions were not quite ideal for climbing as the cone that usually develops at the base of the falls was not there to contain some of the wind/spray, so we were dealing with continuous high winds followed by raging spray and falling ice. We only climbed one short pitch of wildly steep ice features before deciding to high tail it out of there and wait for more settled conditions.

Can you say 'WOW'? Welcome to Helmcken Falls... Chris Geisler photo.

Although we didn't manage to climb a whole lot I am absolutely amped on our little adventure and cannot wait to get back ASAP. Hopefully we find the cave to be in safer conditions and can get some more climbing  done. I love this place and am more than happy to spend my time and $$$ to climb here in the winter. I can't imagine a more radical place to climb ice/mixed and the potential for new routes is endless. But there is a disclaimer.. this place is dangerous. You have to be in full alpine mode, always aware of what is happening around you, the objective hazard in some areas is some ways comparable to hanging out in a village with a sniper.

Here's some more photos to show how amazing this place is!

This last weekend was beautiful and very chilly here in Squamish, and great times were had chasing the sunshine with good friends. Conditions were perfect for climbing hard slabs, so I spent some time working on a new project of mine in the Smoke Bluffs. I did all the moves, and linked most of the climb clean but got shut down going for the send. Now my tips are cut up and bloody from pulling on razor sharp crystals. But this little route I am working on climbs really well, some very tricky and precise moves. But also dynamic and powerful on minuscule holds. It feels harder than any of the other slabs I have climbed in Squamish, but who knows? Maybe I'm reading the moves wrong? Always hard to tell with this kind of climbing. Looking forward to many more attempts in the near future, I am sure it will take a bit of work to get this thing done but will be well worth the effort. PSYCHED!