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!