Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Leprechaun's Wand

Here's a brief clip of Matt Hodgson right before getting the FA of the Stillwater project, which he's named The Leprechaun's Wand. He's decided not to grade it yet, and it may need another ascent or two to come to a consensus.

Of course, the video doesn't show the brutally small, fingertip sized slit that you start off in matched, and somehow Matt makes hopping on with the awkward backstep look easy - after a dozen attempts I couldn't even get off the ground into that position.
Being much shorter and not being able to start without a pad stack, I tried to find a different beta which will likely add a few moves, but I wasn't able to put it together.

It's great to see gems like this coming out of an area once thought 'totally tapped out.'

Friday, 8 November 2013

Support Your Local Developers!

If you've ever been to the Colin Arthur Dionne Memorial camp site in the Eldred Valley, you can't help but immediately wonder: "Wow, who did all of this?"  The climber's camp site, all of the structures and amenities, and all of the trails are the product of a very small group of local climber's hard work. Much of that original work was done by Colin himself, and the impressive scale and quality of the area is a testament to the man's unstoppable passion for sharing what he loved.

 Of course, no one can do it alone, and it takes a community of climber's who share that passion and love of labour to keep developing the areas, as well as to maintain them. This is no easy task, and everything is done for free. They spend their own hard earned money to purchase tools, supplies, the giant tarp, keep the out-house stocked, and anything else that's needed every season. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars it takes to buy bolts and hangers for routes...

 Every May, the Access Society ( helps to sponsor the 'Adopt a Crag' event where we band together to do some heavy labour on the trails. Other than this, it is the unseen and un-recognized devotion of local climbers that give us all the incredible opportunity to climb here.

 While in the Valley this summer, a group of Americans were so impressed with the camp, that they had trouble digesting the fact that it was free to use. They were adamant about paying something, despite repeatedly being told that 'There's no one to pay, we do this for free!' Finally, they just left $40.00 on the table and told me to use it for something. I realized that maybe other people would be inspired to generosity in the same way, and so now I've created the Donation button.

 Since this is not a business or organization, the donations go to my personal e-mail address. To ensure transparency, whenever a donation is made I will post the tally, and whenever a purchase is made will post what it was for and a receipt if I can. If you don't like that system, please donate to the Access Society. Though not as direct, the money will still go to a good access related cause somewhere.

Oh and PS, the $40 they gave me was going to go into a splitting maul for the wood shed, but Matt discovered an apparently amazing bouldering area across the river, so the money went to him to eventually buy a cable for a new crossing.

Donate now! The donation button is on the top right of the home page. Thanks in advance!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Khartoum Road Closure

The road to the Khartoum Valley wall has been de-activated.  It is still easily accessible, but for now, you must park your vehicle and hike an extra 45 minutes or so along the road. Unfortunately this detracts from the appeal of Khartoum having such easy access, though at least it is an easy walk.

The de-activation is just passed 19 mile on the 3rd lake road. After walking passed this, stay on your left when you come to the next fork - the next road is on your left after a few minutes and trends uphill. This is the '4x4' road as described in the above link.

You'll know when you're at the climbers camp site, as it sits atop a cliff with a great view of the side of the wall. Continue up the road (not through the camp/waterfall) for 40m and follow the trail at right to the wall. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Season Ending Injury + Hardest Problem in Stillwater

I've been in Squamish for a few weeks, bouldering and trad climbing in hopes to get stronger for the valley. After a slew of onsights in Skaha and Kelowna, I'm convinced the time in Squamish has paid off. Things were going great, and I arrived back in town stoked and ready to help Matt Hodgson finish his project on the West Main Buttress.

The new problem follows the thin right crack above the over hang.

Matt has been climbing strong, nabbing the first ascent of "the future project" in Stillwater, a boulder problem with strenuous technical moves on micro crimps. It had been walked passed for years, assumed to be too hard until Matt suggested I try it - and we quickly figured out the sequence. (You just never know till you try it!) After a few sessions Matt put it all together, though it's yet to be named or graded (though I'd guess it's around a 7...I originally thought it'd be a double digit until I actually tried it).

The day before I arrived, I had a gnarly fall while bouldering alone in Squamish. I felt I would flash the problem, a moderate V4, but I lost my focus and slipped. My foot blew off and I slammed hard into the rocks below me, a few feet away from my very poorly placed crash fact, it wasn't under the problem at all. Lesson learned - play it safe. I finished the problem immediately after, but noticed pain in my hand which became fairly severe later that night. 

Learning to be a lefty
After not being able to hold a tooth brush the next day or turn my car key, I thought I'd stop into the ER in Powell River. What I hoped would be a sprain turned out to be a fractured scaphoid, requiring a cast for 4-6 weeks. There goes my chance at helping put up the route in the Valley, sending any more projects, scrubbing new lines, bolting anything, and heading to California for November. Time to heal and reflect, re-connect with friends and focus on other things. This will also give me time to rehab a knee injury that's kept me from heel-hooking for 2 months. So, until next season, wishing you all great health - don't take it for granted.

In other news, a
great night bouldering session went down in August at Stillwater, which may have been the largest bouldering session in PR history.

Krista on Huff - V0+ during the first annual night bouldering party
Drinks and good times flowed, and I may have even ended up with a first ascent - though if it had been climbed in years passed by Colin or Rob and crew, I may have at least got the first intoxicated night ascent....though that's also debatable. At least I had spotters! 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Gripped Magazine's area profile on Powell River and the Eldred Valley

In the August/September issue of Gripped, there's a feature on the climbing here in town. Considering the crew had something like 3 days here and had mostly poor weather, the finished product is impressive.

It was cool to see some attention given to the three areas in town outside of the Eldred, and very surprising to see the article didn't publish a single photo of any of the big walls, which are generally the eye candy of the area. Most surprisingly, the Flickr photos don't include the standard shot of the West Main Wall - guess it's old news!

Hat Trick - a 5.9+ TR route at Stillwater. (Or a highball bolder problem)

The article is well written, and the photos turned out great. The only two published bouldering photos were taken in the Carag Dur area, which has hardly been developed, and is extremely dirty. Hopefully this doesn't give Eldred bouldering a bad image, since there has been so much work put into scrubbing good quality problems in other areas. At least it shows that there are quality problems hidden in the valley waiting to be cleaned, and will let people see that there is more to Powell River climbing than just massive isolated big walls.

Check out all the photos on Flickr!

A correction to the caption printed for the photo of the boulder with the giant cedar snag on it: I called the problem Hollow Cedar Skies since they needed a name for it, though it is actually an un-climbed project. The boulder is un-named.

All photos credit  Sean St.Denis

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Must Do Climbs - Volume 1

Anna working the rail

Instead of doing an area profile of each area in town, which would take a whole lot of time and work and people to photograph - I'm going to do a 'best of' list. This is the kind of project that will probably take several seasons to cover, but, it gives me something fun to constantly have on the back burner.

For the first installment, I'm going with one of my favourite climbs - Knobulator (direct) 5.9

Strechin' out mid route

Located in the Destruction Zone at Higgy land, it's the first climb you come to through the short trail from the parking spot.

This was the first route I ever top-roped, lead, and free soloed. It's also the route that many of my friends, and likely many other local climbers discovered as their first sport climb.  The rock quality is bomber, the opening moves follow a pure sequence, and the direct route through the roof is exposed and mega fun.

A grainy low light shot of Alyssa making the early reachy move

Monday, 19 August 2013

Powell River Climbing - Bouldering Guide Teaser pt. 2

Instead of rushing to get this done before the end of the season, I'm going to take my time and hack away at it over the winter months and have it ready before next season. Here's another sample, the first page/first area of the Stillwater section. This page comes after the driving directions and map on how to get to the area.

 A basic printable black and white 'quick guide' version will also be made available.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Eldred Valley - B Branch Boulders - Inverted Area. Just Another Project.

Matt H  - Just another project

This beauty was uncovered by Matt in what has become a cluster of problems I'm dubbing the 'Inverted Area', right near the beginning of the B Branch trail. This problem is a stone's throw passed the awesome Inverted Academics, which I fired the second ascent of before we started sessioning this project.

See the FA of Inverted Academics here.  This is a tough problem to grade...especially since I've never done anything similar to it with such a full on leg hook before. I agree with Matt's idea of it either being a softer V6 or a sandbagged V5. Matt and I are pretty different height wise, so our styles are very different, and my lack of reach made me have to be fully extended and move dynamically. Looks like it'll need a 3'rd opinion.

The new project feels like a V6 or even a V7, but it's so hard to say until it's actually sent. Our fingers were fairly destroyed, so maybe it's even easier. Matt came super close to cranking it during the session, and whichever of us gets back on it next will likely nab the FA.

Also in B Branch, to the left of the main boulder right by the parking spot, I put up a new easy problem called Communication Eater. Basically, the problem ate my phone when I was cleaning it. I love it when a problem name's itself.

On the same boulder, there's 3 cool dyno problems starting from the same hold. It's like a mirror sequence of the seaside boulder - all starting on the same good hold, one going straight up, one going left, and one going right. This is why our fingers were so shredded.

I (mostly) sent the very fun leftward campus problem, which will be called Doobie Sloth (V5/6?) though I kind of cheated and had some momentum from leaving the ground so need to go back and send it properly before I truly claim a first ascent.

We also did some exploring in the Buttress Boulders, and found what I think might be the best problem in the entire Valley so far. It was too dark to take a photo, and we only tried the first move. It's hard, starting with what may be either a campus or very difficult heel hook on a rail (exactly like the super classic 5 star Sunshine and Lollipops in Squamish). It's steep, and though the top out was quite mossy, it looks like it will involve a very difficult, fairly high mantle.

 I can't wait to get stronger and put in some work on it to see how it'll turn out!

Oh, I also found out the possible grade of the new route 'Against the Current' on the Buttress. I think I heard somewhere in the 11+ range. I hope I have time to get on it before the season is much to do so little time.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

New route at the Lake Bluffs + A short film spoofing Planet Earth

Hit up the lake bluffs yesterday, and lead up Christie Dionne's new route, which I believe is called Memories....or possibly Mammaries....but probably Memories. Beautiful route that starts up a massive flake then goes right up more of a face. Bomber gear and very good quality rock. Felt to be in the 5.9 range. Could be a classic. - Come to think of it, that might not have even been the route... Man I can't wait for the new guide book! So much less guessing...

I then attempted an on-sight of what may have been either Charged With Vanity (the old guide book calls this route both 11+ and 12+), or the aid line Perserverence (C4) which turned out to be a little too lichen covered. It was a beautiful, exposed arete split into 3 sections by two lower horizontal cracks, before continuing passed a bolt on what appeared to be bouldery face climbing.

It felt too difficult to be 11+, so 12+ would be likely if it were Charged with Vanity.  In the old guide book there is no route with a bolt in that area...This line also had a fixed pin, which is what makes me believe it was Perserverance. If that's the case, I think that if it were scrubbed, it could go free. Just another project to add to the endless list. However, the description of both of those climbs in the old book doesn't fit the line at who knows.

Whatever it was, it was really beautiful. There's a bail biner on a fixed pin up for grabs now, if anyone's keen.

In unrelated news, here's possibly the most original short climbing film I've ever seen. Granite Earth

I'm heading up the Eldred for a day, hopefully a few projects will go down - but it's been pretty hot out. Might be another lake day.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Yet another project, and, a side-project

Here's a little teaser of something I decided to start working on - a Powell River/Eldred Valley bouldering guide.
 A new guide book is currently in the works, by the person by-far most qualified to make it. I told her I'd help out with the bouldering part, and so far have only produced a hand drawn map...time to step it up! My recent trip to Squamish, and purchase of the new bouldering guide book got me super inspired.

The Stacks: SeaSide Boulder
1. Old School - V3    2. Middle School - V4/5    3. New School - V3

Since my budget is 0.00$, I'm attempting this project entirely with free software. So far the main challenges are creating decent maps without photo shop. I use GIMP, but I have a huge learning curve to deal with before getting good enough to illustrate decently with it.

My plans to head up the Eldred tomorrow may not work out due to car problems, but, here's a pic from my last time up there where some actual climbing went down. Matt H on the mega project, Dog Day Boulder, B Branch.
Projecting in B Branch

For the guide, I'm hoping to be able to use icons (crimpy, reachy, highball, etc) the same way the Squamish guide does, but may have to find away around that as well. I just want to make a printable PDF really, but of course want it to be quality. Wish me luck!

 I just found enough free-ware to build my own version of Adobe Creative Suite! I'm currently using BetaCreator to overlay images with lines and starting points, GIMP to add text/format images/edit photos/create maps, LibreOffice for text drafts, and Scribus for 'publishing' it all together into a book format.

 Thank God for all those people out there who want to make the world a better, freer place! 

Here's my first draft, trying to figure out how to use Scribus.  (*PF stands for personal favourite, I've decided not to use the classic star rating system, for reason which are explained in the guide) Also, the names and First Ascents in the sample below are likely to change, as I still have to do some research.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

First Ascent - West Main Buttress - Eldred Valley

I got back from a great bouldering trip in Squamish to this status update from my buddy Matt Hodgson:

"We started our climb @ 7 am. 
18 hrs later Brent & I we're enjoying the comfort of the ground!
First Ascent of the formerly unclimbed wall, The West Butress
Against The Current, 13 pitches"

Congrats to Matt Hodgson and Brent (last name currently unknown) for getting the FA of the Buttress.I know it took some serious work. This leaves only one wall left in the valley unclimbed - Caradhras.
Hopefully I can get some photos and beta from Matt soon. I've heard the 9th pitch was 'another overhanging off width' - sounds pretty rad! Ill post updates when I can.

The climbing in the Eldred Valley has started to gain momentum. The first few low angle slab pitches of this route will serve as an approach to the head wall, where many more climbs await.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Eldred Valley Camping Trip

The historical FCA (first chihuahua ascent) of Log Jam (V1) 
 Now that the climbing season is in full swing, I'll be posting a lot more sporadically. I work 4 days on at a Kayak place way out in Okeover arm, near Desolation Sound marine park, and camp near by. For my 4 days off I'll of course be climbing, so I'll mostly be living out of a tent for the rest of the summer.

 I was recently in the Eldred with a big group of friends on a camping trip. I learned that after several days of rain, the B branch boulders that are in the woods will still be wet. The exposed boulders were too hot, being baked in 25+ degree heat. We climbed on two of them, then headed to Goat lake to swim all day.

 There's been a massive rock slide on Carag Dur. A chunk of the wall to the right of the arch fell off, leaving an obvious dirty white scar. If you look close, it looks as if someone dragged their giant nails along the wall underneath, leaving behind chalk-board like scratches all the way down. The forest beneath was literally blown apart, and there is a massive cedar graveyard over a section of the trail. It has the appearance of a mini clear cut. The only tree left standing was a rotten dead cedar, which now has a hole blown right through it from shards of rock bombarding it. Thank god no one was on the wall or near the trail when this happened. A humbling reminder of the awesome power of nature.
Rock Scar,  scratches and debris

Carnage - The rock fall blasted a hole right through this cedar
I actually only took my camera out once, to snap a shot of the West Main Buttress' unclimbed vertical wall.  Here's a couple shots to check out. I still haven't hiked to the base of this yet, even though it's not far at all from the road. I've been on the only route on the Buttress, which is to the right, around the apron, which will open up potential to attack other lines on the head wall once it's completed. I have a feeling the vertical wall is going to yield some difficult, high quality climbing,

I'd also like to thank the group of Californians who were in the valley, and donated $40 to go towards supplies for camp! Thanks guys! A new splitting maul will be in the wood shed soon.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

New route going up, and a project going down.

Despite a whole lot of rain over the last few weeks, plenty of climbing has been going on in the area. For starters, here's a video of Matt H sending the John Galt project that was worked on back in 2008, which you can read about here. Matt and I worked the problem last trip up the valley, and he unlocked the beta just before the rain hit. 

New Problem:

First ascent!
Problem: Inverted Academics   Grade: V6 (unconfirmed)   -   Thanks to Anna for the video!

How cool is that massive leg hook? The micro crimps above it would be pretty much useless without such a solid set up.

New Route:
In other news, over the last couple of days I've been working on a new line immediately left of Major Attitude, in the Gappage zone at HiggyLand. The line follows the obvious arĂȘte, until it tops out on a ledge just below the end of Major Attitude.

Just passed 3/4 way up the line,  instead of following the arĂȘte you can go straight up the face to  finish on Major Attitude, and avoid the tricky ending of the new route. Luckily, this slightly easier finish in no way compromises the style of the route, as you still have to turn the final roof of Major Attitude. Both possible finishes are steep and bouldery. 

Grade wise, I'm thinking around 11c, but I'm terrible at grading anything, so who knows.
Hopefully I'll have a chance to bolt it soon, and maybe even get a photo up!

Speaking of photos, here's a random one of Mika sending Prince, before the power lines went in.

Open Boulder Surgery

And here's me cleaning a project in B Branch. Yes - that is a surgical mask that I'm does wonders to keep the rock dust and mildew out of your lungs.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

New Powell River Sport Climbing Crag - On The Fritz

 A few years ago, a new sport climbing crag in the Powell River area was discovered. One bay passed Higgy Land is 3 Mile Bay,which contains an over hanging calcite streaked basalt wall very similar to The Frayed End at Higgy Land.

  One bolted route is up, and there are TR anchors on another. I just ordered a whole bunch of bolts, hangers, and anchors from MEC, and can't wait for them to arrive so I can start putting up routes. The climbing looks like it will be mostly in the moderate to slightly difficult range.

I've been there after days of rain, and even during rain, due to the angle of the wall it stays remarkably dry. This is a huge positive considering how much rain we get here. (Same numbers of days with rain as Squamish)

A heads up for anyone going there to explore - there were lots of cougar droppings above the crag, so be aware. It's isolated there, and the only person within ear shot is an older fella named Fritz who lives in his floating shack. He's apparently quite the character, and currently the trail goes right through his junk pile, but he has no objections to climbers coming around. Also, since it's further in the bush, the bugs can get pretty heavy.

Smaller wall at 'Mid Fritz' above the main wall, below the big wall.
 To get there, drive to the end of Sutherland road and make a right when it turns into dirt. There is part of the Sunshine Coast Trail there, so you will see a very obvious trail wide enough to get a good truck down. If you can't drive in, park here and it is about a 10-15 minute walk in.

 Follow the trail for some time until you are able to see the lake, and make a left at the very last fork (if you go straight at this point, you will very shortly be at a beachy area at the lake, Turn around if you hit this area.). If you properly hit the left trail, it will bring you to an old tarp and some junk, the trail to On The Fritz is behind this, and will lead to Fritz' cabin. Just keep following the trail and the crag will be obvious.

 I'm told there's also a very large crag above the main wall with the potential for multi-pitch routes, which I could see the top of but never made the trek through the bush to find the base of.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Close up shots of The West Main Wall

I just came across some great quality photos of the West Main Wall for you all to drool over. I dare you to not stare at them and imagine putting up lines...Enjoy!

View Photos Here                     

Granite dreams - The West Main Wall and blue sky

  Also, a writer and photographer from Gripped Magazine are currently in town doing an area profile on Powell River, so check out the next issue (or the next one after that) to see the article!
  They're only here for a few days, and are learning the hard way that you need more than a few days in May to catch the good weather, let alone visit every area....let alone try and climb and photograph at each area - but let's hope they get a good scope for the climbing here and are able to get it some more exposure!
  If you had 5 days straight with no rests just to climb in the Eldred, ignoring every single area in town, you would barely be able to get a profile in on the Valley, so they have a challenging task - let's hope the sun comes out for them...! 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Funk Soul Brother - First ascent of Carag Dur: An interview with Matt Maddaloni

**Warning: This post contains almost no photos. To get your visual fix, check out Matt's website. **

Matt Maddaloni is a professional rock climber based in Squamish, B.C. His impressive resume covers first ascents in every single discipline of climbing. From big walls to boulders, mountains to deep water solos, Matt has been putting up hard routes all over the world for over a decade now.
Topo of the heinous Funk Soul Brother (VI, 5.10+ A4+)
 At age 31, he's still finding time to climb hard while balancing married life and his own business. He recently took the time out of his busy schedule to get on the phone with PRClimbing for an interview about the first ascent of the Carag Dur wall in the Eldred Valley.
 In the summer of '99, Matt and the late John Millar would spend 8 harrowing days battling the wall with pro level aid skills before claiming the legendary first ascent. Here's what he had to say about it.

PRC: Hey Matt, this is Kevan from the Powell River Climbing blog, do you have time for a few questions now?

MM: For sure, ask away.

PRC: Thanks! So first off, I'm wondering, How did you first hear about the climbing in Powell River's Eldred Valley?

MM: I had a friend who came to Squamish from Victoria who knew Colin, and who had been shown the valley. He told me about this mythical spot - I was just a kid then, maybe like 19 or 20, so without really any information other than Colin's phone number, we got on the ferry with all our stuff with the idea of climbing a big wall. We knew there were some to do, so without ever really seeing a photo or really having any information   we just took off. We didn't even call Colin before we left. We got to the other side, drove into town and called him up.

PRC: So you met with Colin?

MM: I was expecting a brief 'this is where it is, go check it out' - but instead, he came and found us, and let us stay at his place for 3 weeks. Living out of my van at his place, he would just drive us up the valley, and pretty much supported our expedition. Over the next few weeks, we had put up a new route, the first ascent on the wall,which was super rad.

PRC: On that note, how much work went into putting this route up?

MM: I think it was 8 days on the wall. We went capsule style, portaledge, the whole works - got
off the ground and climbed it the whole way.

PRC: So you went in there with the idea that you'd potentially be aiding the whole wall, or were you hoping to find more free climbing on the wall? Were you happy with how it went? Looking at the topo, the climb looks pretty intense - pitches of A4 and A3 right off the bat.  Did you expect the line to yield such hard aid pitches, or were you hoping for more free pitches/less intense aid?

MM: No, we were pretty stoked on aid climbing. I mean things have changed quite a a days I'd say climbers are hell bent on trying to find free routes. I think it was just, well, it's a thing of the times.

Back then it was like, you went out to look for the blankest face to be lead (aid)climbing on, and free climbing was just a different game. We were going down there for aid climbing specifically. The idea that aid gets us up the raddest parts of the faces... a lot of the aid routes that have
been done over the years, they may never get freed, they're literally on these features that could just not be done any other way.
I myself got more into free climbing as time went on, and looked at other objectives - I'd go after aid routes and try to free those...but definitely at the time, aid climbing was the biggest, raddest adventure you could have on the face of the wall.  It wasn't even a question. You wanna have the biggest adventure - you go aid climbing.

PRC: Do you think some of the pitches will go free?

MM: Oh yeah, there's pitches that'll go free for sure. Up higher on the wall where there's more features to hold on to for sure... but those first pitches are pretty blank... I'd be  surprised. Then there's obviously the pitches up higher that used a lot of aid climbing techniques
that'd be pretty tough to free, but it's also been a long time too and I'm a lot stronger now as a free climber. If I came back, it might be a little bit different for us.

PRC: What was your favourite pitch and why?

MM: There was one pitch that I remember that had the hook throw on it that was pretty cool

PRC: The what?

MM: There were some rivets I was bolting up, I think, to get to this huge flake that was sticking
out of the wall. Getting up to the flake I remember I could put some cams underneath it, but really the only options were to either go left or right for a long distance to get around this flake.  But then I realized that about 20 feet above me, the flake turned around and came back to create a big hook, like a horizontal piece of the flake coming back in the other direction. So I was like, "well, I could either bolt through the section, or I gotta put cams that go way to the left or right to get around this section. Then it occurred to me that I had this big hook with me, and maybe I could just toss this thing like a grappling hook, and try and snag the top of this flake.
So I thought I'd give it a go, and I freaking caught the thing with my hook! So I just jugged up the rope
for 30 or 20 feet and skipped the whole section. That became thee move of the route.

PRC: Sick!

MM: I was sitting on a #3 camalot underneath this roof, leaning back, getting a ton of rope in my hand
with the hook on the end of it, and whipping it up as far as I could over and over and over again
until the hook caught this ledge. When the hook caught I tossed my ascenders on the rope and just
jugged right up.

PRC: Did you run into any sketchy situations, say a really challenging pitch? Did you guys get stuck at all? What would you say was the main challenge of the route?

MM: It was just hard. Taking like 8-10 hour leads, everyday. We'd do a pitch or two a day. I don't remember anything particularly hard. We had the full arsenal, the wall box, the beer, anything you'd want to take with you on a big wall - so we had a lot of fun.
I do remember us blowing a tire on my van when were up there one time. And you know how far it is up there. (Roughly a 2 hr drive, 35 miles up a dirt road)
I didn't have a spare with me so we tried to drive back with the blown tire as far as I could, which
ended up ripping the tire right off the rim, so then we were fucked. We ended up walking who knows how far, kilometer after kilometer. Colin at one point said: 'I think a buddy of mine is climbing up in another valley, he might've taken his 4x4 and maybe he left his keys....maybe!
 We slpit up into two teams, Colin and John hiking up into some other valley to find this truck, and Christie and I kept walking down the road. It was most of the day hiking, till John and him showed up with the Jeep!*laughs* So I guess that worked out. We got a tire and got out of there, it was epic.

PRC: Lucky rescue! Did anything particularly crazy happen on the actual climb?

MM: Oh man... While we were on the wall, Colin and his buddies would come by to check us out. This one day, him and Christie and their crew were screaming at us - and we're 3/4 of the way up he wall at this point. It was starting to become evening, so we could just barely see them down there, and well...I guess they had dug some sort of a long shallow trench or something down the road...and they filled it with gasoline and lit it up! So like 1000 feet of logging road suddenly shot up in a wall of flame - from our point of view it was pretty awesome.

PRC: I heard about that, that was legendary!

MM: And then, when we got to the top of the wall, we hadn't seen anyone in days - and no one had ever been to the top of that wall before Colin (there was no trail), and he spent hours and hours pretty much all day slashing his way to the summit with a machete, met us up there and then helped us carry our bags down! Which was ridiculously cool. Of course he had found the easiest way to go and guided us down.

PRC: Sounds like classic Colin! And quite the epic adventure.

MM: And that's not it! Just to get to the base of the wall, there was no cable crossing at the time, so Colin decided to take his 30 foot extension ladder, figuring we'd lay it over the canyon and climb across.
We decided to set up our static line and make a tyrolean to get our gear across,
so we had the footing of the ladder on our side, and the other end strung with ropes so we could lower it. We lowered it across the river, but the closest piece of land on the other side was this moss covered slab that was also pretty wet.
I got on a rope, and got on the ladder to go was pretty sketchy. The water was raging down there so you didn't wanna fall in or your done. But I had to bring the rope across to set up the tyrolean. As soon as I got to the other side and stepped out onto that slab, the whole ladder started to slide towards the water.
I ended up getting on my knees, and that helped me stick to the moss and wet rock, but it wasn't enough... I ended up putting my arms down on the rock and then my chest, so I was fully star fished to try and stick to the slab and get as much material as I could against it, and that stopped me from moving. Then I meticulously suction cupped my way up the slab until I made it to the forest. It was a harrowing couple of minutes. And so that's how we got the ropes across!

PRC: So this is just the first attempt at getting over there then? Great start!

MM: Ha yeah - we hadn't even been to the base of the wall yet. So that was our first time crossing the river. We hiked to the base of the wall without our packs to check it out. Miraculously, there's this thin seam that comes down the centre of the wall, the blankest part of the wall, and it touches down at the lowest part. If you're standing at the base as you come out of the forest and standing at the clearing, the wall goes up to the left and right at about a 45, like you'd have to hike up hill in either direction, and at the lowest point where the rock hits the forest, this is where this thin steam starts. And this seams goes on for pitches, we're like "That's our line. Perfect. The most direct route, right in the middle.' Now this seam is so thin, that if it were on a totally vertical wall it would've been like A5 or worse, but it was on a slab, so we were able to high step.
 It just started off pretty hard right off the ground, micro heading and hooking and all tricks of the trade to get up it. But we were stoked, it was definitely the direction up the wall, and then that slowly turned into more features as we got higher and got to look at more splitter up on the higher wall.

PRC: That helps answer my next question - Was that the reason you chose that particular line out of
the entire virgin wall? Did you not hike around the wall to scout it out, or was it just so obvious
that 'this is the perfect line'?

MM: There was a big corner system to the left I think, but the thing about that seam is just that it was the most direct way, straight up the centre, the proudest line, on the blankest part of the wall. It had the best exposure. Everything about it said 'this is the classic of this wall' -
 I mean, as far as what we were looking for.... it could've been free climbing terrain, but we knew it was gonna take us quite a while and be a big adventure, so we were really prepared for aid climbing, and we were super into it at the time too, doing lots of walls in Yosemite and Squamish and around, so we decided to go for that, and yeah it ended up being a fucking amazing wall.
 It took the absolute most direct route up the centre of that wall and nothing else seemed to be...everything else was a compromise.

PRC: Do you have any plans to come back to the valley?

MM: I would love to. I think if I did go back I'd be looking around a bit more for free routes, since there's so much potential there. But not at the moment, there's so much to do out there, but I've kinda had my fun. I got to do pretty much the ultimate thing.

PRC: The first ascent?

MM: Yeah. I'm mostly tied up with my business and my family. If I had all the time in the world I'd go back for sure, I've wanted to go back ever since our first trip. Absolutely.

PRC: Cool man, I think that pretty much covers it.  Thanks for sharing your story.

MM: Right on, have a nice one.

PRC: Thanks!

MM: Thanks, see ya!

Carag Dur

The perfect line

In Matt's words from his website, the Eldred has "More rock than Squamish in its heyday"

The roof on a rainy day

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Pysche Slab: The most developed wall in the Eldred

The most accessible wall in the valley, it's host to 15 free multi pitch routes (from 3 to 12 pitches), and 2 single pitch routes. Pysche Slab is by far the most developed, most climbed wall in the valley. Due to it being a slab, though at times near vertical, it lends itself to easy to (mostly) moderate free climbing. 

Mika on the awesome first pitch of RacknoPhobia

You'll also notice that the view on the slab is stunning. The West Main Wall and Carag Dur protrude in the background.
Beer Ledge - Scattered Conditions (Credit John W.) - Carag Dur in back

Detailed route info as posted on the sign heading into the climber's camp:

From left to right:

SRI - 5.10 

Day Pass  - 5.7

Sanitarium - 5.9

Skitsophrenia - 5.10 *** A must do!

Racknophobia - 5.11

Never Never Land - 5.11b

Solstice  - 5.10

 The next 3 routes start on an alcove up a very steep trail that branches left directly off the main trail

Pyscho Path - 5.10

White Dykes and Dirt Barbies - 5.9

Decoy - 5.10b

Scattered Conditons  5.11d or 5.11-A0   - *Not in photo, between Decoy and Falkland Crisis. Starts on a very low angle slab just passed the steep Psychopath trail, at the time of writing this too dirty to climb but the next few pitches look fine.

The Falkland Crisis - 5.9+

Delusional Reality - 10.d   (Hard to find, you've gotta know what you're looking for to find the access pitch which is very bushed in)

Comfortable shoes that are good for smearing are highly recommended, unless you're a total masochist of course.

 Just remember, the climbing in the Eldred Valley is different than what you are likely used to, especially if you are used to climbing in Squamish.  Since the current guide book is over 10 years old and 90% of the routes aren't in it, it's understandable that there is little traffic. Many routes are vegitated or mossed over, particularly in the lower pitches. Once you get passed this (or find a cleaner route, - keep looking, they're there!) the climbing is top notch.  Bringing a brush is always a good idea.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Mainline (VI 5.11/A4+), the first ascent of the West Main Wall - A Teaser

 The other day I found myself staring at a rough topo for the mega project Rob and Colin put up on the West Main Wall in the Eldred ten years ago and thinking to myself, "Jesus Christ."

 This is a seriously bad ass route. There are two reasons for this. A) It was the first ascent of the West Main Wall.  B) It was done with style, and it's hard. We're talking pitches of A3 and an intimidating sounding pitch of A4+.  For those of you who don't know how Aid climbing grades work, A3 is right around where things start to get serious.

Unknown climber on Pysche Slab, West Main Wall in background - Unknown
Allow me to copy and paste a detailed explanation of the grade.
 'A3: Hard aid: testing methods required. Involves many tenuous placements in a row. Generally solid placements (which could hold a fall) found within a pitch. Long fall potential up to 50 feet (6-8 placements ripping), but generally safe from serious danger. Usually several hours required to complete a pitch, due to complexity of placements. Examples: The Pacific Ocean Wall lower crux pitches (30 feet between original bolts on manky fixed copperheads), Standing Rock in the desert (the crux being a traverse on the first pitch with very marginal gear with 30 foot swing potential into a corner).'

 But wait! There's more! Following is a slightly less strenuous A2 pitch, some moderate free climbing, and then the ominous A4+ pitch that brings them into The Arch of Time, the striking arch feature smack dab in the middle of the mainer.

Here's how A4+ is described'
Rob (or is it Colin?) leading the 5.10+ fifth pitch 
'A4+: More serious than A4. these leads generally take many hours to complete and require the climber to endure long periods of uncertainty and fear, often requiring a ballet-like efficiency of movement in order not to upset the tenuous integrity of marginal placements. Examples: the "Welcome to Wyoming" pitch (formerly the"Psycho Killer" pitch) on the Wyoming Sheep Ranch on El Cap, requiring 50 feet of climbing through a loose, broken, and rotten Diorite roof with very marginal, scary placements like stoppers wedged in between two loose, shifting, rope-slicing slivers of rock, all this over a big jagged loose ledge which would surely break and maim bones. The pitch is then followed by 100 feet of hooking interspersed with a few rivets to the belay.'

  And that's not all folks...immediately after this comes the last A3 pitch of the route, through the very steep looking arch of Time. A feature that begs to be climbed.

 Below is a teaser from an article I found written by the late Colin Dionne himself. I never knew this existed and am really excited to find a written version of his story. It can't compare to the times I've heard him tell stories of this epic over the fire in the Eldred, with such intense passion, re-enactments, sound effects, and rumbling laughter that came with all of Colin's stories - but it's detailed and first hand, and I'm happy to be able to share it.

"The classic first ascent of the formation The West Main Wall. This 18 pitch mixed aid/free project was completed capsule style by Rob Richards and Colin Dionne in 1993, following an epic retreat in 1992. The epitome of good style this hard core route still awaits a repeat. Only eighteen bolts were used, many of them quarter inchers. Definitely not a route for the faint of heart!

When Rob Richards and I set out to climb the West Main Wall, we were possessed with a desire to meet the wall head on. Our equipment and techniques were for the most part antiquated, having been cultured from the collected works of Royal Robbins and "Batso" Harding. The spring of ’92 had been fruitful, the Lake bluffs had already seen 30 new routes put up by Rob and I. We were strong. We had no Idea of the scope of our desire.

We began fixing ropes in mid May. The first pitch fell to Rob who easily dispatched the easy left facing corner (5.7). I climbed up to the large edge Rob was belaying on and called it an l-edge. I then set out on the second pitch, which was more left facing corner. This pitch found me lay-backing 5.10 while digging vigorously with the pick of my hammer to unearth finger locks. Occasional pro and no falls got me to the small sloping feature that became the second belay (5.10). I hand drilled the first bolt on the route to back up the scattered mank that made up the rest of the belay. The first two pitches fixed, we returned to town.
Shot of the Mainline - Mad buggers project now connects to  Call of the Granite

The third pitch started the fun, the corner became much steeper, and the crack became thinner. Many knife blades and RPs later Rob finally fixed the third with a two and a half bolt anchor (5.9A3). Two weekends were spent on this pitch, both involving rainouts on Sunday. On our next foray I sent the fourth pitch after a long day of..."(To be continued!)

 Stay tuned for the rest of the story in another post. (I found it on a site where I have to pay for the rest...which I can't do right now due to an issue with my PayPal account, but I will post the rest when I can!)

 Also coming soon, the story of the first ascent of Carag Dur...a very impressive, very hard aid route.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Island Adventure

Self portrait, unknown highball. 
 After partying all night and not sleeping a wink, we carried the heavy, fully loaded double kayak down to the beach, wrapped my crash pad in poly, tied it to the kayak, and paddled a short distance to this little island off of Scotch Fir Point. It has a name, but I never knew what it was called, just where to find it. If you're a climber, it's hard to miss.

 We slept in the sun on the cool granite rocks, woke up to eat, then spent the rest of the day climbing, swimming, playing music, and exploring the woods. It doesn't really get any better than that.

 There aren't a lot of problems, but just the location and adventure aspect make it worth checking out. I spotted a couple potentially hard lines that I was in no shape to attempt, but mostly just climbed up and down and across some very aesthetic easy lines.

Note: This actually doesn't work at all. Our pad got soaked. 
 I guess if you had more tape, wrapping a pad in plastic could potentially work. Either way, it really slows you down and can prove very exhausting in stronger seas. Strapping the pad to the kayak isn't an option either, as it will get in the way of your paddles.

Next time: a boat. (Or maybe a canoe)

 We also made the mistake of packing a blue cheese pasta salad as our main meal....which spoiled horribly by time we got around to opening the container. Another great thing about being on the coast is that when hungry, the ocean provides. We feasted on freshly harvested muscles cooked on the open fire, with a few cellal berries for dessert.

Two friends of mine recently paddled out to this island for a beautiful spring day of climbing, I snatched a few of the photos for the blog. Thanks for the beautiful shots Ari!
Full shot of the wall
Calm seas

Cool problem on this arret
Sunset really brings out the orange in granite

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Sport Climbing: Higgy Land, Powell River - Pushing your personal limit

Skeletons of Society (5.12) -  Photo credit Tara Trigg. 

 Skeletons of society taught me to have a much higher expectation of what I'm capable of.
Specifically, it taught me not to assume I can't climb something just because the grade is above what I think my limit is.  If you don't push yourself beyond your limit, you won't ever raise the bar.

 Many times I've caught myself checking the grade of a problem or route and automatically writing it off, like "Oh I can't climb that, too bad." I see people in the gym and outside so often saying "wow that route/problem looks so rad....but damn Vwhatever / 5.something is beyond me" - but how could you possibly know that without even trying it?

 Here I am, years ago, on my first 'hard' route - Skeletons of Society (5.12). The crag is called Higgy Land and it's Powell River's main sport climbing area. Tara Trigg captured this photo, which looks like I'm climbing hard - though I'm actually just about to fall, only a few moves in. Remember, photos can be deceiving.

 I remember putting SO much work into this route. I almost couldn't believe it when I was finally able to lead this route, it felt like doing a warm up. I went straight from top roping 11s (at best) to trying this 12, and was still generally in the 'beginner' phase of climbing. Attempting this route was a massive leap forward.

  It felt physically impossible at first. I could do a few moves, but was for the most part completely shut down. I didn't even know what to do. Realizing that a few moves were possible though, I was able to deconstruct it into sections and just had fun with working on it, thinking 'Well, if I turn it into 5 or 6 long boulder problems, I can do that, I just need more endurance." It became this epic puzzle of difficult movement, and I fell in love with climbing at my limit.

  After a few sessions, it's amazing how much you're able to accomplish if you push yourself. It wasn't long until I was clipping the chains on lead, though I will admit I pre-hung the draws as my stamina was still weak and my fear of falling on a clip still high. Also, I worked it out on TR first, which gave me the mental breakthrough from 'this is impossible' to 'wow, I just climbed this.'

 After sending this route, as well as the 12+  to the right, I was ready for a new challenge. I started working an unbolted line that went through the far right end of the obvious main roof...

 Expect a post about the new route soon!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Abyss - a totally non Powell River related climbing film

The Abyss - Still from the movie.

Well, I'm going to break from my regular routine of posting Powell River / Eldred Valley related content, and post a climbing video that I just watched instead.

 The Abyss is a short, very well done film about the development of North America's highest bouldering area, not too far from the already majorly famous Rocky Mountain national park in Colorado.

 It's often challenging for me to convey the exact feeling of developing an area: the challenge, the sacrifice, the love, and the reward that you experience are so unique that it can be very difficult to put into terms that climbers who have never had the same opportunity can understand.

 This video deals with issues like sharing a new area vs keeping it a secret - when and why to make the transition, and when and why an area will actually take off as opposed to just being 'some other area' that though beaming with potential might be entirely ignored.

Developing the bouldering in the Eldred Valley was at first a very solo project, because no one else in town was very interested in bouldering, and anyone from out of town didn't want to travel so far just to scrub boulders (or even clean big wall routes) when they could go to Squamish and climb a life times worth of classics. This film sums up the joys and frustrations of developing an area wonderfully.

Of course, it also has all the elements a good climbing film needs - beautiful scenery, and hard climbing!

Maybe this video will get people stoked to help me scrub more boulders this season....Enjoy!

The Abyss: America's highest bouldering - on Youtube
The Abyss: America's highest bouldering - on Vimeo

The makers of the film - Louder Than 11
"Theres always a few people out there that do the bouldering development. One percent of the climbing population does 90 percent of the devlopment. It's that 1 percent...they're wired like that, it's their lifes work. It's what they'd rather be doing than anything else"- John Sherman

Sunday, 24 March 2013

B Branch: The problem formerly known as prince

Sophie on 'Prince'

 The Open Canvas boulder, well featured, over hanging granite. A face of rails, slopers, crimps, and a giant random block - it's also home to my current favourite problem in B Branch - The Problem Formerly Known as Prince

Working a sequence

This boulder is exposed to the sun, is always first to dry out after rain, and stays remarkably clean. Three problems all start on the same low rail and move into the amazing block feature pictured here before branching into different sequences.

'Prince' is a short problem that exits left - it's the most obvious sequence of easier moves.

Here's a partial sequence of me on the first ascent of 'The problem formerly known as Prince" (V3/4)  Instead of moving left to climb Prince, establish on the rail, and move to a good hold on your right. 

Throw to the triangular feature in the center of the boulder.

First ascent

A series of delicate technical moves will allow you to establish a solid foot on the big low rail. Then you can pull a final crimp and stand up to a straight forward top out.

Matt on the FA of Open Canvas

Open Canvas follows the same first sequence of The problem formerly known as Prince, but instead of exiting straight up the face, you throw left to the same side pull that Prince uses and exit on the top left. Very fun, gymnastic style problem.

Note: All grades are unconfirmed.