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