Monday, May 25, 2009

Cheating Is Where It's At (Day Two)

I called Napoleon a couple of weeks after my shin-ripper, and the answer was "Can't. I'm taking this girl out climbing." Which raises a number of questions best left unanswered. However, being the consumate social animal that he is, Napoleon hooked me up with one Kasper Podgorski, a more recent Ontario transplant.

I picked up Kasper, along with his micro-rack and bloated Southern Ontario vowels, and drove up to Squamish. The poor fucker had been nicely misled by Napoleon into believing that he was actually going crack climbing on clean impeccable Squamish granite. Heh heh heh...

After our thrash to the base of the route, I realised that tactics wussier and uglier than ground-up would be required. When the going gets tough, the tough hook and nail, but I jug other folks' ropes. The original plan had been to hook our way up the first pitch to the base of the handcrack, drilling bolts along the way. But it was harder and way steeper than we originally had thought. So, we would approach from the side.

We snuck down to the fixed blue ropes that are about 20 meters away from out first batch of bolts and started to jug. We made it to the first set of anchors on these ropes and I realised that this would be a good 5.9 pitch. I then led up and right, through a tree, past a layback flake, and up onto a ledge. I brought tree-cussing Kasper up, and then began delicately, or so I hoped, moving out right along a mass of ledges and choss. In reality it was more like a roped elephant trying to tiptoe through a potter's studio. The only thing louder than my screams and whimpers of fear were the crashes of 200-pound boulders and flakes bombing the forest below. The aim was to get to where the direct version of our route would end its first pitch, at the base of a long and amazing handcrack.

I hooked and hammered in a few pieces, and then got to the base of the handcrack. It was about fifty meters straight down to the deck. I put in one bolt and clipped into it. Then I started peeling off flaky outer rock so I could drill a decent second bolt for our station. I felt a rumble, and then heard a deep CRAAAAAACK. In front of me was a piece of rock about the size of me. It toppled about three inches forward and I lurched in, and found myself with about 500 pounds of rock pressed against my chest. I had myself attached toa bolt on my right with a sling, a seven-foot, 500-pound boulder balanced on me, and the rope going from my harnes off to Kasper on my left. If the boulder peeled, it would rip the rope in half and leave me hanging fifty meters up with no rope. I maneuvered one hand off the rock, flicked the rope over top of the boulder, took a deep breath, and jumped up. The rock kaCHUNKED where my feet had been, and blasted down the mountain. I breathed out and drileld a second bolt.

Kasper came over, dislodged a few hundred more pounds of stone, and we installed an old rope to be our fixed line. Before leaving we looked see an impeccable finger and hand crack, a loooong pitch. The crack started out as surprisingly clean fingers, then passed an odd block and became hands, disappeared from view into a corner, and then broke through a micro-roof and into a tree. I was sweaty, tired and frustrated with the slow pace of things, but this one view reconfirmed that we had a cool project on the go.

We rapped down and tried a few of the would-be direct start moves on top-rope. I couldn't do most of them even minus the drill and the aid rack. The thing was impossible. But we now had a fixed line to the top of the first pitch. And the handcrack beckoned.

"Is ALL of Squamish like this?" asked Kasper, wiping dirt off his clothes and rock dust from his hair, "I'm fried! Climbing is really HARD here!"

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