Dates of Trip:
Our background & rationale for the trip
We all met through MITOC and have been climbing in the Whites together but had been talking about trying to do a trip to explore some larger multi-pitch adventures. It so happened that we were all in the Pacific Northwest on other personal trips, and decided to meet up for three days of rock climbing at Squamish. Squamish is known for its crack systems and grippy granite. Squamish offers climbing not unlike that found at Cannon cliff or Cathedral ledge, but on a much grander scale. In particular, we wanted to climb a rock formation called the Chief, a granite dome which rises 2,297 ft, towering over the nearby Howe Sound.
Chris, David, & James’ portion of the trip
For three days we enjoyed long multipitch trad routes in the 5.7-5.9 range climbing as a group of three. The first day we got a late start and did Calculus crack (5.8) and boomstick crack (5.7). The first climb offered pitch after pitch of hand jams and finger locks, and the second climb went up a unique diagonal flake that offered solid jugs but a dubious connection to the cliff. While climbing calculus crack we were feet from the shear drop off which is the edge of the Apron (a wide rock formation which sweeps half way up the Chief).
The second day was our longest and we made it to the top of the Chief. We started on Diedre, which offered several fun 5.8 pitches of finger locks in a beautiful corner. We repeated Boomstick crack to get to the upper buttress and Chris led the crux, a newer 5.9 route up the squamish buttress that started with a heady slab pitch, followed by easier scrambling and a fun 5.9 crux pitch up a face to a ledge system that led to the top. By 3 pm we were standing on top of the Chief! Getting down took slightly longer than expected (Note: if you repel when descending the Chief you're doing it wrong. Yes Chris, you were right rapping was a bad idea.)
The last day we did Skywalker, which featured another fun corner followed by an airy traverse, and Klahanie crack, a cruiser handcrack that felt reminiscent of Reppy’s crack on Cannon. It was such a perfect hand crack that our entire rack for that climb was 2 #1’s and 4 #0.75’s C4s!.
James + John’s portion of the trip:
The first couple days we climbed mostly sport in and around an area called Chek in the the Sea to Sky Corridor slightly north of Squamish. The most notable of the sport climbs we did was Star Chek (5.8+, 3 pitches) this route climbs a 400 ft. arrete which rises above the rushing Cheakamus River. For this climb we did two raps to arrive at the base at feet from the river where we then ascended some fun face moves along the edge of the arrete the entire way up. The rushing dark blue water was incredible.
We also climbed quite a bit at the “Main Event” area which was only a 10 minute walk from the Chek campground. Some of our favorite climbs in this area were Sacrilege (5.10a, 3 pitches), Kigijiushi (5.10c, 1 pitch), and Dark Don’t Lie (5.11a, 1 pitch). Of there three we found Sacrilege to be particularly enjoyable especially for less experience multipitch climbers. The rout was well bolted. In particular the 3rd pitch of this climb was cool as you are belaying from a ledge over a large overhanging sport area, it involved underclings and ballency moves. After the 3 pitches you are on top of the rock formation with great views!
The incredible thing about climbing Kigijushi is that looming over you is a tremendous over 45 degree overhanging section of rock with a couple small cracks running diagonally across them. This rock is known as “The Big Show” which contains the hardest climbs in Canada (3 climbs which are in the 5.13 range and 6 climbs which are in the 5.14 range). While we were there a climber was projecting Pulse a 5.14a and actually sent it while we were there! The incredible thing about topping out on this climb is that after you climb to the anchor your too high to lower with a 70 meter rope. So to get down he had to unclip the anchor and jump (‘taking the king whip’) falling into free space.
The last couple days we spent most of our time climbing at the Smoke Bluff Area where there is excellent single pitch trad climbing. This was particularly fun as there is a vast selection of easy to moderate trad climbing and the occasional top rope. John did his first trad leads on this trip. Squamish was a particularly great place for this as the granite just seemed to take gear particularly well. Some of our favorites were: Pixie Corner (5.8-) a climb noted for having two almost ski track like cracks running perfectly parallel up a corner, Quarryman (5.8) an interesting dihedral which ends with a balancy hand crack, Popeye and the Raven (5.10c) an excellent example of the grippy squamish granit as you make slopy moves with your hands and slabby moves with your feet in ways you did not think the rubber on you shoes could hold, and lastly Neat and Cool (5.10a) know for the reachy start and the crucks which is an overhanging hand crack.
Overall we had a great time, learned a lot about rope management with a party of 3, climbing granite, and want to go back! This was especially exciting for James as it was his first time on a climbing trip outside the North East. It was great to be with experience multi-pitch climbers to practice the systems.
Logistics: July or August offer the best weather. Ideally one would be comfortable leading 5.8-5.9 trad since there is not much easier than that and many of the best routes are 5.10. The most popular campground is the Stawamus chief campground, just a few minutes walk from most of the climbs, but it is often at capacity, as we found it. There is plenty of other camping in the area though; Other campsites that we stayed at were the Squamish municipal campground and Chek Canyon Climbing site. There are likewise plenty of food options in town, and one we can particularly recommend are the giant chicken chimichangas at Mag’s 99 restaurant.