Friday, June 27, 2008

Zombie, House, rap, Zap!

Sometimes life is funny. Everything
is all calm and serene for weeks on end and then suddenly.... WHAM!!!... a zillion things all happen at once and I hardly even know what hit me.

The first event in this crazy explosion of action was my friend Mandoline Clarke nabbing the (probable) first female ascent of Zombie Roof. This Smoke Bluffs roof crack testpiece was featured in my last blog post. I was lucky enough to finish my guiding day in time to give Mandoline a belay and watch her sail through the moves, making it look like 5.8. Unfortunately I don't have any shots of Mando climbing (taking photos while belaying on the redpoint is a bit of a faux-pas in my books) but I have this lovely portrait of Mandoline.

The next unbelievable event was that Evan (my mountain guide beefcake of a husband) and I bought our first home. Very exciting! Trying to hide my blood and chalk caked hands from bank managers, mortgage brokers etc. in meetings has been less exciting... but it's kind of like playing grown up. What a trip! No photos of our place because we haven't moved in yet, but there is a yard so I am predicting a summer of barbequed salmon garnished with fresh herbs grown in planters on the back deck! YAY!

Next stop on the tour of bizarre happenings was my day of guiding the Chief - FROM THE TOP DOWN!!! Yes, I guided my first rapelling tour of the 1700' face of the Stawamus Chief. Two very enthusiastic and adrenaline-seeking people hired me through Squamish Rock Guides. After doing a practice run in the Smoke Bluffs to ensure there wouldn't be any full on freakouts halfway down the Chief, we began slogging up the backside trail with two ropes, harnesses, helmets, belay devices and little else save my stash of emergency items (rack, webbing, quick links, etc.). We started off on the Roman Chimneys, an overhanging dihedral accessed by some seriously exposed choss-ledge scrambling. Two gut wrenching 60m raps interspersed by a cramped hanging belay brought us to the Dance Platform, a large treed ledge that is equal in height to the top of The Grand Wall. As my clients ate their lunch and relaxed, I nervously searched for the anchors at the top of Uncle Ben's, an aid climb that provides the most direct and steep path down the face. Five more 50 m + raps, including one nauseating free hanger over the Golden Throat Charmer brought us down to terra firma.

Last to report is that after repeating the 45 minute approach eight times, six times for climbing and twice only to be shut down due to wetness, I finally sent Zap Crack. It's a beautiful 12d overhanging flared finger crack on a gorgeous white-pink granite wall, deep in the woods and high above highway 99 in the Valley of Shaddai. I first saw the route two summers ago, and instantly wanted to climb it but never made it happen aside from a few toprope sessions. Last September, my friend Senja Palonen made the first female ascent of Zap Crack and really inspired me to get off my lazy ass and commit to the hike this summer. Luckily, my buddy Mandoline was pretty psyched to work on it too, so we have made our six days of work on it really fun. Part of me is sort of sad to leave this peaceful zone in the woods behind... my next project is mere meters from the highway and not nearly as peaceful. No more singing and dancing and yelling curses in the privacy of our own forested crag. The send day was warm and dry... most of my previous lead attempts had been done during a light rain (the crack stays pretty dry during sprinkles, but seeps if it pours). The photo is of me freezing my ass off at the end of Juneuary at Zap Crack, shorts on head, skirt by Glad.

Evan captured this video clip right before the send:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wanted: Used and annotated copy of Roof Crack Climbing for Dummies

There are many good things about rainy spells in Squamish: your skin never needs moisturizer, you don't have to work if you are a climbing guide and you have multipitch work booked, you have lots of time to fester on the couch and bicker with your spouse, and most of all, you don't have to deal with redpoint jitters if your project du jour happens to be a crack climb. I really missed the west coast drizzle when I lived in Utah... day after day of sun just seemed so tiring, so monotonous. But right about now I could really use a bit of sun on my face, hands cradled in some warm granite goodness.
At least rainforests are really, really pretty

The rainy spell began 2 weeks ago on a high note. I had projects at Cheakamus Canyon, one of the few crags in Squamish that stays dry in the rain, so part of me was a bit excited when the rain began; it was time to work on my sport climbing! I also thought it was great when I dispatched a few of my sport projects only a few days into the rainy spell... I was feeling stronger than I thought! As luck would have it all of my guiding work was instructional, so I still got to earn cash while biding my time setting up mock leads, mock multipitches and lecturing on the importance of finding that perfect zone between over and under cammed protection.

My first day off in a week arrived and the forecast was looking good... I was psyched! I hiked up to my current flame, a flaring finger crack located high above highway 99 just south of Squamish. I knew it was likely seeping, but I couldn't climb anywhere else without at least checking. Unfortunately my wise friend Jeremy Blumel was right, it would have been possible to fill a water bottle, albeit slowly, from the drips issuing from the crux of the route. Damn!

Optimum Squamish sending conditions

Please, please get dry little crack

Slipping and squishing down to our car, Evan and I hatched plan B: Zombie Roof. It's location in the Smoke Bluffs means that it is open to the wind and is west facing, meaning that if anything was going to be dry, it would be. Sure enough it was dry, and I tasted the bitterness of complete and utter shutdownedness while flailing around upside down. It was great to watch more able roof crack climbers go at it: my friend Jason Kruk euro blew his chalk and pink pointed with laughable ease, my husband Evan growled and yelled his way into the tight hand jams before the lip, getting very close to sending, and my climbing gal pal Mandoline Clarke burled her way through many one-hang burns making my heart swell with pride. Inspired but frustrated, I returned for a few burns today with Mandoline and Evan. Wow. Chossed hands, sore abs and I still haven't clipped the chains, ouch. Guess I have a smoke bluffs project now too...
In your heaad, in your heaaad, zombie, zombie, zombie ie ie ie

Here's a video Evan (AKA Rainy Rest Day productions) put together on Zombie: