That (Sk)Aha Moment

If you are a climber, Easter weekend probably found you frolicking your little heart out in Skaha: scampering up lead climbs, hiding from the occasional hail storm under craggy overhangs and settling in for the night at a campsite along the lake. If you’re like me however, you probably naively thought that you would have the whole place to yourself. You had vivid dreams of running your hands through golden grass and singing the Sound of Music in the morning dew whilst birds harmonized… no? Having never actually made it to Skaha, I was unaware that it is considered a “Mecca” for climbing. Apparently I live under a rock, because pretty much everyone in the entire world was there. I heard someone say “thousands,” but in my world, that’s pretty much as big as it gets — my brain can’t fathom much more than that. Luckily we had the foresight to book a campsite ahead of time, after a tip off from our friend and fellow climber Alicia, hailing from Revelstoke. Excellently, we found ourselves at a highly sought after lakeside site with a fire pit, and gloated openly. We took advantage of our fire pit with great amounts of zeal, and overdosed on s’mores until I remembered why I don’t like marshmallows. I realize this is a contentious issue. IMG_5019 IMG_5052 The next morning, after a sugar-infused slumber, we found ourselves at Red Tail Wall, chatting with folks from Canmore and Quebec. My initial fear of being surrounded by mean people who would laugh at my climbing was instantly put to rest, and we all climbed amiably around each other for some time.

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The elusive Mr. Edward Nelles, he took a lot of these photos.

IMG_5118 I quickly realized why the Skaha Bluffs are so popular. Not only are the climbs bolted well for beginner lead climbing, but the general atmosphere everywhere we went was very inclusive and  friendly. Not to mention the excellent Okanogan scenery. IMG_5159 Partly owing to the relaxed atmosphere (despite the whole world gathering), I managed to have some of the best climbs of my life, as did Ed and Alicia. We came away from the bluffs each day feeling like we had made break throughs in our confidence, and I went from never really wanting to lead climb, to wanting to onsite everything. Kind of a big deal for me. IMG_5154 That being said, by the last night, we were all feeling a little crowded out of our campsite, so we went into Penticton and had fancy Greek food, looking a little wind burned and bedraggled in our chalk stained pants and puffy jackets.

A little windswept.

A little windswept.

IMG_5103 Sadly Lola, Alicia’s puppy, could not join us in the restaurant because of small details like “No Dogs Allowed” and the fact that we had tuckered her out with 3 full days of non-stop play time. IMG_5169 IMG_5166

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Heavy Onset of Coastal Sunshine: Making the Most of it

On Sunday evening on the first of March, Edward and I drove toward Squamish in his very dirty, somewhat broken Subaru Forester (Jimmy) laden with climbing gear, firewood and the random assortment of food gathered haphazardly from our cupboards.

In order to coordinate our food situation for the next 3 days of car camping and climbing, I texted my friend Jesse: I have a can of diced tomatoes, some rice, noodles, chicken bouillon, lentils, instant oatmeal packets, an unnecessary amount of coffee, hot chocolate powder, stale marshmallows from who knows when and a cauliflower well past its prime. Relying unfairly on her creative cooking mastery to help me make something out of nothing.

A certain magical cooking fairy friend.

A certain magical cooking fairy friend.

As we drove along the sea to sky, the wheel bearings ground disconcertingly but I blasted highly sing-along-able songs so it was almost like it was okay. The promise of pulled pork pizza at Howe Sound Brewery served as a beacon in the night. For us, and apparently the rest of Squamish: the pub was packed with plaid and hat wearing lumbersexuals. We filled our rumbling tummies and fled from the crowds.

When we finally arrived at Cheakamus Canyon, it was deserted and moon-lighty. After I tried, unsuccessfully, to take photos of the stars, we piled our gear into the front seat, cracked the windows and fell asleep quickly, disturbed only briefly by the crunch of gravel and the ping of my phone and Jesse and Matt arrived around 10 pm. Big night!

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After our crazy night of driving an hour, eating pizza and falling asleep, we woke up early to very full bladders and a caffeine craving. By 7 am we sat in foldy chairs sipping coffee with hot chocolate powder and nibbling on cheesy bread that we had grabbed quickly at the grocery store the night before, having anticipated not wanting to cook.

It was pretty much glamping.

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Or so we thought, until Jesse and her boyfriend Matt joined us, upping the ante by making (and sharing) oatmeal a la Jesse. Made with coconut milk, rather than water.

By 10 am, after 3 hours waiting for it to warm up, and fueled by coffee and a much better breakfast then I would have ever hoped to make, we went in search of morning sun and rock pitches that wouldn’t be too punishing to begin with. We made our way across the boulder fields towards “The Main Event,” a beautiful area with a variety of climbs. I for one, way over-estimated my climbing ability (again), and was shocked as always, by how different it is to climb outside. My stomach was a nervous, jumbly mess as I rushed myself up the first climb, and nothing felt right. The climb felt aptly named. “Boy Pie” made a mockery of me, as did it’s rating, which I do not care to repeat.

By the second climb I felt a little less wobbly, though still not entirely up to my delusional standards. I told myself it was because the climbs were rated in the ‘90s, but I’m pretty sure I just really sucked. That’s cool.

Day two brought more sunshine and more early mornings, which turned into late starts. After making our way to Murrin Park and finding a shady wind-tunnel, we huddled in the Adventure Center drinking coffee and then walked to Valhalla in search of hot pockets to put in our chalk bags and belay gloves (which weren’t in stock yet, apparently it’s still winter).

Once we had stalled enough to allow the sun to peak over the mountains, we made our way to the Smoke Bluffs and lounged and climbed slab at “Burgers and Fries,” which was a nice way for me to readjust to climbing. As the name suggests, it is comfort climbing at it’s finest, easy to set up top ropes, and a nice practice area for beginner trad climbing. So while the boys placed gear, Jesse and I played around on a friendly 5.11 slab, which was more forgiving then I expected, but also brutal on our cold-numbed fingers. Gecko-ing up the wall using tiny crystals, while oddly satisfying, was also kind of like torture…

By 3 pm, feeling confident, we went back to Murrin Park to climb at Seal Cove, and catch the afternoon rays. It was so beautiful that, upon arriving, I lost pretty much all desire to climb and decided to just take photos. Lapping ocean waves and the setting sun just set me a tither, what can I say?

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Hi Jesse.

Hi Jesse.

Of course, our day of climbing left us hungry and uninspired to cook, so we went back to Howe Sound and had more pulled pork pizza.

Over dinner we made false promises of having a fire and roasting marshmallows once we returned to the campsite, but came to a silent, unanimous decision upon arriving back at the parking lot at 9 pm that were tired, and went to bed. Because we are all 90 years old.

Morning found us chipper once more however, and we feasted on kale and pepper breakfast wraps and mini potatoes that we roasted in the fire. FIESTA.

We concluded our last morning by climbing a multi pitch opposing our camp site, and the air was filled with many colourful swears as i mashed my cut and cold hands against stupid stone. And seriously enjoyed every minute of it despite my belly aching.

The entire motley crew.

The entire motley crew.