It was interesting to see the improvements of the Sea to Sky Highway. Although there did not seem to be many. But we did notice the signs were now in English and Salish, to which Matt said Squamish has a seven in it. Indeed it does.
When we arrived we set up our tent at the Chief camp ground. And, like last year there were no envelopes, so we couldn't pay, even though I actually had the ten Canadian Dollars needed. We opted to check out Murrin Park as our first destination, and hit the Sugarloaf area to warm up. There are some easy four star routes there, and since we both didn't sleep well, we wanted to warm up easy. When we arrived at the cliff, ropes were on most routes, but no one was in sight. I led Little Spark first which was a wide crack followed by super easy blocky steps near the top. We found a group getting instructed up top, and walked off for our next route.
Matt led Lieback Crack, a three star 5.7 which we both awkwardly liebacked higher up. It didn't feel right the way I did it, but I could not figure out another way to do it. We watched a pair climb it on top rope later, but neither really did any liebacking on it.
I then led Magnet, another four star 5.4. This route was really easy, but really fun. After we both climbed that we set the rope up above Power Smart a fun 5.8 slab that didn't look like it protected well. (And our top rope laps convinced us of it.) After that we opted to head to Smoke Bluffs to see what we could find.
At Smoke Bluffs we ran into Bram and his friend going to climb Split Beaver, a difficult .10b offwidth. We headed to Neat and Cool in an attempt to climb Cat Crack. However, the Neat and Cool crag was overcrowded, and probably an instructional group as is typical of Smoke Bluffs on weekends. We looked through the book and found Laughing Crack which is above Zombie Roof. Since it had a fixed line to reach, we figured not too many people go up to climb it. Upon climbing the fifth class rock with a chain, we reached the route to find another party just packing up. We geared up for the route and Matt led it. This was an awesome five star crack route that had a nice position and was a joy to climb. (Except for the pain it inflicted on my feet as I jammed the smallish crack.) We rapped off and then climbed down the chain to find another objective.
Over at Penny Lane, we found Quarryman, another five star route. It was later in the day, and I wasn't feeling too much like leading, so Matt once again led. He climbed it well, and brought me up. This route was noticeably harder than the previous route and had some interesting moves exiting a corner and going around another to finish with a crack. We briefly toproped Popeye and the Raven, a .10d slab before calling it a day and putting our sights on tomorrow.
At dinner we made a plan to wake around 6am to be climbing by 7am on Sunday. We expected this to be a good time for the light to be on the rock. When we awoke at 6am, we snoozed twice to 6:30 and then decided to stay in until 7, as it was still dark and damp outside. We figured we needed some sunlight to dry the rock out a bit. After our multiple snoozes, we awoke at 7 to a very cloudy damp day. We prepped for our climb and eventually headed off toward the Apron, walking from the campground.
Everything around us was wet, and this was more apparent on the trail up where some of the rocky scramble sections were dripping. We arrived at the base just as the second of a two man rope team left the ground to start the first pitch of Over the Rainbow. We spied the route, and decided to stick with our original intent of climbing Sparrow. We geared up and Matt led off. The first pitch had only four pieces of pro in around 40m of climbing, including a traverse over somewhat easier slabs. I followed and headed up the second pitch which had some run out before a cam could be placed and then up to a bolt. A bit above the bolt was what I felt was the crux of the pitch. A short steep bulge that required careful footwork to get atop of. After that I wandered the slabs eventually reaching the belay tree. I brought Matt up, slipping at the crux. I belayed him down the next very short pitch to a tree, and followed shortly afterward.
By now we were feeling wetness in the air. We were in a cloud, and it appeared to be getting wetter. From the belay we could see what almost looked like rain on the pitch above us. It was a fine mist surely getting the rock wet. Matt set out and chalked his shoes in hopes of drying them out from standing in wet needles and mud from the short down climb. He climbed a crack and then set out on a short slab. I followed, but the rock got more wet by the time I arrived at the slab, and I slipped. I slipped again just hanging on the rope. I dried my feet and quickly scampered to the ledge. We made a quick gear change, and I started out on the next pitch.
I continued on the ledge before slinging a tree at the base of a line of bolts. The first bolt was ten feet or more up on a slab that was now quite damp. My first moves on the slab were slippery. I had a foot slip out just standing on the lower angle portion of it. I couldn't imagine reaching the first bolt. I kept drying my shoes on my pant legs. I chalked my hands, but they became wet when contacting the rock. I tried to wipe away the wetness on the holds, but it didn't help. Then I got the idea to hit my chalk sock on the holds I was going to use to dry them off, and perhaps keep them dry. After every move, I'd take the chalk out and chalk more holds. Mostly this was an issue for my feet, as my hands did not need as much friction to keep me on the rock. I eventually made the first clip, but the rock was so wet I could not continue up a friction slab. I hung. I discussed with Matt what he thought. I watched him rub his foot on the slab below him, and he said he could not do better. He wondered if I could aid through the section. I couldn't, but thought I could attempt to stand on a bolt and then clip the next (about eight feet apart.) But there was a big stretch of lower angle terrain that did not appear to have bolts, how would I reach it? Plus there were two more pitches of 5.8 slabs above the 5.9 slab I was attempting to climb. Finishing was looking impossible. I thought about waiting out the clouds, but who knew what would happen? I finally conceded to being lowered and climbing back to Matt. [After looking at the guide book Sunday night, I realized I was trying to climb the a .10b pitch from "One Scoop" that was wet, and that the 5.9 was a less bolted route to the right. Not sure I could have got up that either.]
We discussed the option of rappelling, but it did not appeal to us. Especially considering we would have to retrace the Apron approach trail. Matt asked if there was another route we could get on, perhaps Banana Peel? I looked at our topo, and sure enough Banana Peel shared the ledge we were on. And the remaining pitches were mostly 5.4 with a small bit of 5.7, much easier to climb in the wet. I led out through some trees and bushes and connected with Banana Peel in about fifteen feet. I continued on the Banana Peel's fifth pitch. We swung leads from there on easier ground before reaching Broadway, when the rain started in earnest.
We scrambled off Broadway to the woods and donned our approach shoes for the hike out. The dense canopy kept it a bit less rainy in the woods, but the two locations with fixed lines on the hike out were super slippery and a bit sketchy. We eventually came back out to the trail unscathed.
We did a little poking around to find Dreamcatcher. It is almost in a cave surrounded by boulders as big as houses. There was a climber working on it and we watched a bit before scrambling back out of the area and onto the trail for our drive home.
This was a fun trip, although not as productive as I would have liked. We did get in some four and five star routes and did make it to Broadway even if we had to finish on a route I had done before. Matt and I discussed trying to get the rest of our crew to come up for a long weekend and really have fun.
My pics are here.