Squamish—Millenium Falcon
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Tuesday August 30, 2011 at 11:42 am)

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The tree belay at the end of pitch 8

This past weekend, we climbed Millenium Falcon , a wonderful route in the Dihedrals are of the Chief, that goes to first to Bellygood Ledge and then on to the summit.

We climbed only as far as Bellygood Ledge, and hiked down from there.  Aside from the usual excuses, such as that it was getting late, and we’d been delayed by two groups in front of us on the route; I must admit that I was tired!

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Pitch 2 - my favorite one on the climb

The climb started out easy - a 5.8 chimney, not too steep, or strenuous. However, that didn’t last!

On pitch 2, the holds got a lot smaller. We quickly went from a thin corner to a steep layback with tiny holds.  The good holds to the side, for stemming, saved me here - allowing a rest periodically.

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thin cracks on Pitch 3

Pitch 3 was harder than pitch 2, with a thin finger crack to a stretch left for the next foothold, followed by a traverse left, on to another thin finger crack.

Pitch 4 was the one rated 5.11, supposedly most difficult of the climb, but I found pitch 3 as hard.

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Chimney on pitch 5

After three difficult pitches, the wonderful chimney on pitch 5 was almost relaxing! No hands rests, good holds, what a treat! It brought us to a wonderful, flat, grassy and mossy ledge where we enjoyed a quick snack.

After this , we traversed left across “Trichome Ledge”, one of the numerous sloping ‘ledges’ that seem to consist of mud, vegetation, and moss, and criss-cross the Chief in odd places. I always worry that the entire ledge will fall off (one did, when Tristan and I were on the Squaw), but he locals seem to trust them.

I’d not looked at the topo before starting up the route, and was under the delusion that we’d done the hard pitches, and climbing would now be easy - a romp to the top!

Boy, was I wrong. Pitch 7 was another 5.10d traverse to a sloping ledge, followed by pitch 8, which I thought was 5.10a.

It wasn’t. It was a steep crack, starting with small gear (1″, or red Camalots) and increasing in size to 3″ - that part was ok.  But then it kept getting wider, and was wet. I could no longer jam the crack (too big) and instead, had to layback the very steep corner.

That crack was very burly, and my arms felt like limp spaghetti. Tis pitch ends with the magic tree, which may have been a lot more useful as a climbing aid prior to several year’s worth of desperate climbers grabbing it to pull themselves up.

The last pitch, a layback going to a chimney, seemed pleasant, and if I’d been less tired (like, if it started on the ground!), I’d have  enjoyed it. As tired as I was, reaching the top was its own reward.

The route has 4 more pitches. We’ll hike up to Bellygood Ledge someday and start on those well-rested!

Elfin Lakes, Mamquam Icefield, Garibaldi Park
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday August 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm)

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Mamquam Icefield from Elfin Lake, 2011


Mamquam Icefield, August 2010

photo by Andy Cairns
I’d heard that the Mamquam Icefield  increased in size during 2011.
On reaching Elfin Lake,  I could easily believe that it grew.

We hiked 5 km  to Red Heather Meadows on relatively dry trails, but past Red Heather Meadows the trail became mostly snow-covered.

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Sabine on “trail”; Diamondhead in back

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Trail map posted at trailhead

Last year, we hiked to the Gargoyles. This year, I wanted to hike up toward the Opal Cone and  on to Mamquam Lake, but excessive snow cover made this an unrealistic plan!

Instead, we enjoyed a pleasant hike to Elfin Lake and back. Some year, after a less snowy winter, and a warmer, sunnier spring, I’ll be back!

Murrin Park—sport, and other climbs
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday August 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm)


Tom on “Beers Are Not Enough”

The threat of rain prompted us to head to Murrin Park,  an set of crags south of Squamish featuring some of harder sport climbs  in the area.

We started out on a smaller cliff, of which I don’t know the name, to warm up. After that we headed to the Petrifying Wall.

Here’s the description by Mountain Project:

“a long crag of rope-stretching, dead vertical climbs on super compact fine textured granite. The climbs are mostly sport, but a few of Squamish’s best trad lines are here. The sheer number of high quality hard sport climbs on this one crag is impressive: at least 6 at 5.13, 25 at 5.12, 21 at 5.11. There are few 5.10s, but not many and they aren’t popular.”

Wemanaged to find at least three of the 5.10s, two of which are new I believe, and also struggled (me) on a climb called “Beers Are Not Enough”, which is not a sport climb, but is steep and long.

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Photo by Andy Cairns

The climb consists of a number of laybacks around steep corners and over slight bulges, providing plenty of challenge for me!

It’s on excellent rock and seems to have been recently cleaned.

Icy Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Thursday August 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm)

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Oh really? Swimming not allowed?

When Sabine and I hiked  to Elfin Lakes, I was surprised by the amount of snow on the trails—and the ice-covered lake.

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Elfin Lake, Aug. 19, 2011

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Elfin Lake,  August 2010

One year ago, we hiked in to Elfin Lake and then continued, on dry trails, on to the Gargoyles.

I’d heard that British Columbia, and Squamish , suffered a very cold, snowy winter  and wet spring into July, but experiencing the deep snow on what last year was a dry trail brought home the truth of that.

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Elfin Lake

I’d hoped that we could hike further in this year, but experiencing the deep snow quickly changed our plans.

Squamish: Slot Machine, Manana, Bulletheads
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Monday August 22, 2011 at 10:00 am)

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Tristan on pitch one of Slot Machine

Tristan and I hiked the short distance from our tent to the Bulletheads area—one of the things I like about Squamish: the campgrounds sits a  five-minute walk away from the climbs on the Chief and the bouldering area.

We climbed Slot Machine, a pleasant hand crack rated 5.9, but with a tricky, bouldering start. The first moves are definitely harder than 5.9, and not crack climbing, but on small face holds.  You can protect the move with a 0.5 (purple) Camalot.

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Tristan encounters the start of the tree root

After the first move into the crack, the size varies from 0.75 Camalots to #2 Camalots, with occasional nut placements possible.

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Surmounting the root

“I don’t like this,” Tristan commented, when committing fully to the root.

“I didn’t like it either,” I replied. “You have a toprope!”

We both found climbing the root at the tree belay the most insecure. I placed gear before the root, but once on the root, you have to rely o the root for handholds (rounded and smooth) and very slippery footing.

The tree provides a nice belay spot and anchor. From here, one can either climb the second pitch  (we did) or rappel ( I don’t know if this would require more than one rope, since we did not rappel).

From the top of Slot Machine, we walked across to climb Manana. Andy and I had climbed Manana, a thin layback and finger crack  before, but Tristan had never been up to this beautiful crack.


Manana, Bulletheads

When Tristan was leaving, I asked him what his favorite climb this year was.

“Manana,” he replied.

Since he’d come to Squamish unsure if could climb at all, after breaking his leg ski racing this winter, and retaining the titanium rod in his tibia, his lead of  the thin layback on Manana was a wonderful answer to that question!

Squamish: Europa— more about the climb
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Saturday August 20, 2011 at 11:42 am)

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Belay at the end of Pitch 5

I discussed rating in previous post.

Here, I’d like to give more information on gear needed, belays, and how to find the climb!

Yesterday, when we went  to climb Millenium Falcon, we encountered a party of three climbers on the first pitch.  However—they thought they were starting up Europa!

Europa starts uphill and to the left of Arrowroot and Rutabaga.

Millenium Falcon starts downhill and to the  right of the two cracks climbs above.
Overall, Europa felt burly for its rating. Many pitches were long, with steep sections of laybacks, stemming, and chimneys. Pitch one had two short crux sections—the first, I jammed and stemmed past, and the second required a bit of laybacking to switch corners. It felt insecure, and in the morning shade, the wall  and holds felt damp from the humidity.

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Pitch two — more corners

A flat, large belay ledge rewarded me for perservering. Andy’s next pitch started with a hand and fist crack heading up to a tree belay. My third pitch again required laybacks over blocks to another large tree.

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Our belay tree at the start of pitch 4

We simul-climbed the next two pitches, an easy traverse to the right, into the next corner system. At the top, we finally were in the sun— and also in the wind, which kept us cool.

Pitch 6 featured a short bolt ladder, which we climbed with our many slings.

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A short aid section starts pitch 6

And to top it off - a long chimney to the top!

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Last pitch to the ledge

Where we ended up:


Bellygood Ledge

Our chimney is behind the bush (left of the corner)


Pitch 1: big ledge, small nuts in crack.

P2: tree

P3: ledge with tree

P4 and 5: block at base of bolt ladder, chockstone

P6: awkward, in chimney

P7: tree at top


We brought doubles of Camalots 0.5 to 2, and one #3 Camalot. If you’re comfortable on hand and fist cracks, you can dispense with the #3. I placed it mainly to get rid of it,a nd could have done without it on my pitches. Andy placed it on the hand to fist crack on pitch 2, which is short.

We also brought Camalots 0.3, 0.4 and Aliens (green and yellow); plus many small to medium nuts and many long slings. The rock takes nuts  well, which saves gear weight. Bring lots of slings both for the bolt ladder and to avoid rope drag.

Squamish: Europa, in The Dihedrals,
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm)


Europa, Dihedrals, Squamish;  photo from V.O.C.

Yesterday Andy and I climbed Europa in the Dihedrals area of Squamish Chief— one of the most interesting, exciting climbs I’ve done here this year.

I really enjoy getting up high on the Chief - and this route goes as high as Bellygood Ledge—the long horizontal ledge that crosses the Chief from near the top of the Grand Wall over to the Dihedrals area.

From this climb, we had spectacular views of the Black Dike crossing the roofs, and looked down on various parties starting up on the Grand Wall.

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View from the top of pitch three

The rating of Europa, a fairly recent climb,  remains controversial. Kevin McLane, in his book  Canadian Rock, calls it 5.9 and rates pitches 1 and 3 as 5.9, whereas  Mike Teschke on Mountain Project rates both pitches 5.7. He also calls the final chimney 5.6, while McLane calls it 5.8.

I personally go with McLane’s rating, and wonder how many 5.8 (max) leaders have done this route?
The Varsity Outdoor Club of the University of British Columbia  gives Europa  the same ratings as does Teschke, but at least they admit that,  while “anyone capable of climbing sustained 5.7 with a bit of 5.8 could second the route”, they suggest that “The leader should be somewhat experienced.”

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Andy on pitch 1 of Europa

I felt that Europa pitches 1 and 3 (which I led) where much harder than other 5.7s, like Laughing Crack, Klahanie Crack,  or Davy Jones’ Locker; and somewhat more difficult than 5.8s I’ve led, such as Pixie Corner or Phlegmish Dance; and as hard as Picket Line, St. Vitus’ Dance,  or Snake (all 5.9).

Andy led pitch 2, rated 5.8 by Teschke and V.O.C., but I’d agree with McLane’s rating of 5.9. It seemed comparable to Slot Machine, which we climbed a few days ago.

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Pitch 3, where the next move involves laybacking left around the flake / block and then getting on top of it.

My goal here is not to merely be controversial, but to warn climbers who may venture on to this route after reading the description and then find themselves in over their head.  Check McLane’s description  in Canadian Rock.

We found  rappel anchors atop pitch one, which Andy said hadn’t been present a year ago when he last climbed the route.  Perhaps climbers have optimistically tried this supposedly easy climb and found it harder than expected?

In Teschke’s defense, his profile states that he climbs  5.11 on gear, and 5.12 sport, which is harder than I currently climb. It’s hard to rate climbs that are so much easier than one’s own level, when they seem so much easier than the 5.11 one climbed yesterday.

But — the climb is really fun, and if you’re comfortable on old-style, steep corners, laybacks, and chimneys, then I highly recommend the route!

Squamish Chief, Bullethead East
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm)

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Pitch 4 of “Bullethead East”
Morning dawned clear but cool with a biting north wind blowing from the glacier.
 “We can go to the Bulletheads to climb ‘A Cream of White Mice,” Andy suggested.
Andy thought that we needed only one wired nut and a few cams. We brought five small wires and seven cams – an adequate rack, Andy assured us, for the climbs, including ‘Stairway to Heaven’, a bolted route.
After our first climb, Fungus the Bogeyman, Tristan said he’d rather climb cracks than friction smearing. I agreed.
Andy remembered a newer climb that was about 5.9.

He walked along the ledge until he found a freshly-cleaned crack.
“This must be it!” Andy announced.
A roof about half-way up interrupted the finger crack. Andy led with our minimal gear. It seemed stout for 5.9, but I’m lousy at roofs, so I accepted the guys’ judgment that it was only 5.9.
Atop the first pitch, we enjoyed sunbathing on a huge ledge, with a spectacular view of kite surfers  on the Howe Sound. The next pitch looked harder, but I fell only once following.
“Maybe I’ll lead this,” Tristan suggested at the base of our fourth pitch.


Tristan leading the finger crack on pitch 4

Tristan set off with our meager handful of gear on a thin finger crack. Part way up, he tried to place gear.
We had  left behind all my medium and large nuts, so an entire range of sizes was missing.
Tristan normally places little gear, but this was his second day of climbing in a year, after breaking his leg ski racing in winter. He retained a titanium rod in his tibia, so any further accident would have serious consequences.
“ He can’t take any long falls,” I said, as Tristan again tried to place gear.
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While in a groove, the actual crack is quite thin

”I know,” Andy, a nurse, was aware of Tristan’s injury and the results of a potential fall. We nervously watched as Tristan inched higher. Finally he reached a hand jam, and placed our only large cam.
Once on top, we basked in the sun, and enjoyed the view.
“How hard do you think it is?” asked Andy.
“I’d rate the last three pitches easy 5.10,” I replied.
“The first is only 5.9,” both men disagreed.
I’m bad at roofs, I guess.
Andy summed it up: “A 5.9 pitch, then two 5.10a pitches.”
The next day Andy sent me a link to the newly refurbished route, ‘Bullethead East’, rated 5.10c.
That pitch with the roof was rated 5.10c, “sustained above the roof!”

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