Squamish Rock - Stawamus Chief
Snake, St Vitus Dance, and The Ultimate Everything

18&25 July 2009

McLane's introduction boldly proclaims

Squamish is the world's leading urban climbing centre.
Taking that at face value, Ryan and I took the bus there two weekends in a row to jump on the rock like some cash-strapped (scrappy) city kids. We had such a great time taking the bus to climb just Snake on the Apron, it was irresistible to return the next weekend to summit the Chief via St Vitus Dance and Ultimate Everything. Ryan deserves more carbon-credits than me: he took the bus from Seattle; I was Jonny-come-lately on the short ride from Vancouver to Squamish.

These photos on the Squamish Rock Guides site show these routes quite nicely:

Snake p2 Ryan leads the second pitch of Snake.

Snake p5 Ryan leads the fifth pitch of Snake.

On Saturday the 18th, we took the second bus of the morning from the train station to Squamish. We arrived at the Apron after 10 am. We were originally thinking of Angel's Crest, Ultimate Everything, or Squamish Buttress, but none of those appeared to be in the cards given our late arrival and queues below the popular Apron routes.

We waited a long time to get on Snake. The route was excellent. It was my first time to climb rock in close to two years, with the exception of two or three days last Fall. Sections of face climbing on Snake threw me for a loop. It was difficult to make the mental adjustment to being on lead and I was rusty. Ryan was definitely the hero of the day. I was happy to lead the fun lieback on the final pitch, for a finish that felt very positive (for both my hands gripping the flake and my head enjoying the lead).

Snake p5 crux Ryan moves into the cruxy section of the fifth pitch of Snake.

We finished Snake just as the sun set and hiked to the Howe Sound Brewery, drinking delicious Perrier with whiskey on the way. After a meal at the brewery, we briefly considered sleeping in a silly location, until a bothersome tweaker convinced us otherwise. This guy stumbled by us in the bushes, tightly clutching a pipe in his left hand, using his phone as a flashlight, and acting generally creepy. I don't trust tweakers unless they're much farther from me than I can throw them, but he didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Ryan and I reluctantly moved camp to a better location. We enjoyed a good (albeit short) night's sleep and caught the first bus of the morning to Vancouver.

In classic form, I had a shift that night from 4 pm to midnight at the lab. It was difficult to get off my bed to catch the bus, but I managed. I took the McLane guide with me. What really caught my eye was St Vitus Dance. Four consecutive pitches of 5.9 cracks? Yes please!

We took the bus to Squamish on Friday night and camped in the woods. With an early wake-up and plenty of confusion in the forest before we located the route, we were on the rock around 8 am.

St Vitus Dance p3 Ryan follows the super splitter of the third pitch of St Vitus Dance.

St Vitus Dance p3 again Urban Rock Climbing, eh?

St Vitus Dance had the right beat for my feet. "Just stuff your foot in the crack, Ryan!" Ryan is more comfortable on faces and I'm much more comfortable in cracks, so we decided to try some of this leading in blocks that I've heard Colin extol so many times over the last several years.

I was in heaven with St Vitus. Below Broadway, we discussed taking the bonus direct pitches of Karen's Math and Memorial Crack. We declined, in an effort to start The Ultimate Everything relatively early and keep things cruisey. Good to save some delights for later trips to the Apron, too.

St Vitus Dance p4 Ryan climbs through the bulge on fourth pitch of St Vitus Dance.

St Vitus Dance p5 Ryan jams the awesome steep handcrack on the fifth pitch of St Vitus Dance.

Posse on Broadway, Ryan and I sauntered past two young ladies on the ample ledge. They were doing something with their rope. They asked where we were headed.

"Boomstick?" I asked, not sure of the name.

"Shoot! You just scooped us."

"That's all right; we'll probably walk by the route. We're really bad at that."

About 30 seconds later, it was clear that we had walked by the route. The ladies were getting ready to climb Boomstick. "I thought you were kidding about walking by the route. You can go first."

"No, that's all right. We're not in a hurry."

Ultimate Everything p1 Ryan leads the crux of the first pitch of The Ultimate Everything.

Ultimate Everything p5 Ryan leads the flake on the fifth pitch Ultimate Everything.

Ultimate Everything p7 Ryan follows the traverse on the seventh pitch of Ultimate Everything.

We had to wait in quite the queue to climb Ultimate Everything, but it was well worth it. The climbing was varied and fun throughout the ten pitches. Ryan led all the more difficult bolted portions. I led the 10b finish with liberal hangdogging.

What really blew my mind, besides the 16 pitches of awesome climbing on the best rock I've seen, was the scenery. From atop the Chief, the Howe Sound was shimmering below, while glaciers and high peaks accentuated the landscape in all other directions.

A big thunderstorm soaked everything shortly after we finished the hike down the Chief. We ate and drank liberal quantities of pasta, pesto, avocado, spinach and whiskey.

In Vancouver again, two interesting incidents occurred. The 99 on Broadway was packed. There was nowhere good for me to sit with my huge (stuffed with camping and climbing gear) pack. So I stood by the door. As we approached the Cambie stop, a short Asian lady jockeyed for position at the exit. Her slim frame easily slid by me, ready to exit immediately. I didn't fight it at all and she had already managed to get as close as possible to the door. But she added, in a tone that seemed to imply I should make more effort to obstruct her less,

"Excuse me!"

"I'm getting off at the next stop, too." I replied.

I was pretty sure I heard a "Fuck you!"

I wasn't paying any attention, because I wanted to stop to hoist my pack onto my back ASAP. Ryan stopped next to me and said, "Did you see the stare-down?" It turns out that feisty little female had walked backwards, flipping me the bird and marking me with a laser-like evil eye. I got punked by a little lady who probably weighed less than my pack.

As we walked to the intersection, highly amused, a very chill lady with silver hair and big sunglasses, smoking a cigarette and talking fast, asked, "Do they still have free coffee at the drugstore?"

"I think that was just for the grand opening," I replied.

Then she stepped close to us to confide, in a conspiratorial tone, "These cities are fucking crazy... (much more that I wish I could remember, something about fascism).... They got the whole love-hate thing. I recommend you get some land and get back to the country. These cities are fucking nuts." She was holding a neurology journal. Maybe Ryan remembers more. But she was a good crazy.

Thanks for an amazing weekend, Ryan!