Rock On => Squamish Buttress

1 August 2009

da butt Upper Squamish Buttress from high on The Ultimate Everything. The crux pitch follows the obvious vertical white streak that climbs from the left edge of the ledge with trees on it at one-third height in the photo. Mouseover to see where the route goes; click for a larger version. Two climbers are visible above the crux (and one on the crux) in the large version.

Ziff and I were going to climb the Stawamus Chief. After an enjoyable outing on St Vitus Dance and The Ultimate Everything last weekend with Ryan, the next lines on my list were Angel's Crest and some linkup with Squamish Buttress. The crux pitch of Squamish Buttress looked so striking from Ultimate Everything. Rock On sounded like a quality climb, so a Rock On-Squamish Buttress linkup became the plan.

A few alternative ideas were discussed, but the Buttress prevailed. Only one question remained. I'll quote Ziff:

As always, the earlier departure and return works better for me and given that I hate the heat, and potential for crowds, it also seems to make sense.

Indeed, let's beat the heat and preempt the critical mass of urban climbers.

Ziff arrived chez moi circa 5:20 am. We selected the day's rack from our respective toy collections, then had a lively discussion about Washington alpine climbing while I made a second cup of coffee for myself. The discussion must have been lively, because soon my roommate emerged with a request: "Could you keep it down, it's 5:30 am!?" Ooops.

After the short drive to Squamish, we were maybe the third car in the parking lot below the Apron. Several more arrived as we prepared for the climb. Ziff, having climbed it all before, knew the way to the route. This was a pleasant improvement for me, since I'm accustomed to an hour of wandering in the woods to locate a route. A sultry hike up the south gully had us at the base of Rock On in no time.

Rock On p1 Ziff leads p1 of Rock On.

Rock On p3 Ziff prepares to lead the awkward bit on p3 of Rock On.

Rock On p2 Ziff just below the belay at the end of Rock On, pitch 2.

Rock On p4 The fourth (crux) pitch of Rock On is stellar

Rock On p4 Ziff sends the pumpy bulge atop p4.

Coffee and rock climbing define synergy for my digestive-waste elimination. I thought my pit-toilet trip in the parking lot was adequate, but not even close. I took a nature hike while Ziff prepared to lead the first pitch. We were just in time: another party arrived with Ziff about thirty feet up the pitch. Two more parties appeared before I reached the first belay.

Last week I thought St Vitus Dance was the best sustained four pitches of cracks I'd climbed. Rock On probably supplants St Vitus. Squamish is the bomb!

The perils of beta, I

As I organized the rack to lead the crux pitch of Rock On, I asked Ziff if I he had any beta. He told me about an awkward mantle, "The gear is on the right but you want to be on the left to make the move. Just think about it." Hmmm, a mantle. All right.

After a few thin moves through the two bulges above the belay, I had a good view of the beautiful pitch before me: a long, steep corner with more bulges near the top. When I saw a small ledge to my left after some moves, I recalled Ziff's beta: mantle! I can mantle that. I mantled onto the anchored raft at least a dozen times while swimming at Jericho Beach the other day so I could do flips into the water.

I left the wonderful crack in the corner with two hands on the ledge and pushed with my hands until my waist was even with the ledge, then put my left foot next to my left hand. I felt above me with my left hand. Well, there was nothing but a dirty sloper. I attempted to stand on the ledge using the sloper, but the wall was slightly past vertical and it was going to push me off the ledge. So I had to reverse my mantle.

"Watch me, Steve!"

On both hands again and beginning to feel my arms, I managed to find a good place for my right foot on the corner's other wall and regain the security of the splitter. That was quite the detour.

My mantle shenanigans were more challenging than anything else I encountered on the pitch. I cruised through the bulges to the belay ledge. I was quite pumped at the top bulge, but I turned and found my footing just in time. This is a spectacular pitch!

We hiked up the trail to Squamish Buttress, elated to have cruised Rock On ahead of all those other parties. One short move of face climbing led to simulclimbing terrain. Ziff, a Squamish Buttress veteran, led the way through the simulclimbing for expediency.

Squamish Buttress Top of the Squamish Buttress crux pitch

I managed to mostly keep my head in good order leading the crux. I was happy to clip a piton, possibly placed by the illustrious Fred Beckey on the route's first ascent. I lost steam near the top and had to hang for a minute. Thanks for the patience and encouragement, Ziff. I was so pumped after the pitch that both of my forearms started seizing when I pulled the rope taut to belay.

Ziff led the awkward final ledges to the crest of the Chief's south summit. We were both pretty happy. I was ecstatic: that route gave me the perfect level of ass-whooping for the day. We took a refreshing dip in the creek next to the trail on the descent. A quick stop at a convenience store for cold drinks and we were on our way.

I was home in Vancouver by 3 pm and loving life. Thanks for sharing such an awesome climb, Ziff! Have I mentioned that Vancouver is a really nice place to live?