Dozens of tiny crystals molded the back of my hand like putty. I squeezed my thumb harder into my palm and gritted my teeth through the pain. I was leading my first ever granite crack, shaking worse than a chihuahua on methamphetamine, plugging in cams every meter, and making an easy 5.6 pitch look like a 5.ridiculous crux. I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that the more it hurt, the better the jam. And it hurt a lot; at least to a crack-virgin like myself. I was in the middle of a nine pitch route in the Bugaboos, which I think we can agree is a truly ideal setting for learning crack skills.
That was a year ago.
The temperature was almost 30C, and we were desperate to find a shady crag. Will and I were climbing in Revelstoke for the second day in a row, making a short stop to break up the 13 hour drive to Squamish. The climbing was steep and the quartzite was good.
Likely the day’s highlight was climbing the super aesthetic Blanket Arete (shown in the video above). There may have also been a dead vertical 30m crimp route where I learned that men, indeed, can have multiple orgasms (not shown due to the highly personal nature of that experience, and because it’s hard to simultaneously belay and hold a camera).
We rolled into Chief Campground weary from spending the day sitting in my beloved Canadian Recreational Vehicle, which on that day more closely resembled a mobile oven than it did a car. The weather would remain hot and sticky for the entire week, but at least there was no rain.
We spent two days getting familiar with jamming our hands and feet into the striking single pitch routes at Smoke Bluffs. Things were going much smoother this time around than the gong-show in the Bugs last year. Finding and trusting jams came quickly and we almost got used to the pain associated with bone-crunching foot jams. (The more it hurts, the better it is. Right…?)
Apart from the short routes, we did three multi-pitch climbs starting with a new route called Skywalker next to Shannon Falls. There were some epoxy-related technical difficulties with my climbing shoes (whose idea was that? oh yeah, mine) and during one of the pitches I began to resemble the shaking chihuahua from last year.
The route finished with a wonderful traverse, and we hiked for a few minutes to reach the waterfalls and dip our sore feet into the icy pools.
Next was Star Chek, a stunning three pitch arete near Cheakamus Gorge that you have to rappel into.
We climbed eight days in a row; two in Revelstoke, six in Squamish. All we wanted to do on our “rest-days” was to give our hands and feet a break from jamming. We found numerous sport climbing opportunities that threw us back on familiar ground full of crimps, edges, and side-pulls.
Will and I climbed Calculus Crack on the last day of the trip. I got the first half of the route that included a few jungle pitches. I hear that “the trees are in”, and I made use of many trunk-stems and root-jugs during my leads.
Since I got the money pitches on Skywalker, Will got the finger-crack pitch on Calculus, which I’d say he stitched up quite nicely!
Julia and Tobias were climbing behind us and I took a few photos of them leading the upper pitches.
Here’s Tobias on the finger crack.
There are forest friends at the top! (Photo center)
That evening we did some night bouldering in the magic forest and gorged on sushi.
To wrap it up, I think it would be fairly easy to get addicted to crack climbing, but at the same time it might start to feel slightly monotonous. On the one hand, the idea of climbing a totally even splitter for an entire pitch sounds really cool, but on the other hand, doing the same jams over and over for 30m can get a little boring.
The thing is, there’s no cracks in the Rockies, and variety is the spice of life after all.
More than anything, I think it feels kinda nostalgic to get your ass beat on a 5.8 again.