Thursday, September 30, 2010

Willkommen in Leavenworth

Ah Leavenworth, or should I say Little Bavaria. Yup, that's right, Bavaria. In the early to mid 1900s this place was much like any other small town, built up around the railway and lumber industry. Once those had moved elsewhere, it seemed the townsfolk decided that tourism would be the answer, so sometime in the 1960s, for no good reason other than because it seemed like a good idea, decided to theme the town Bavarian style.

It's pretty quaint to see everything (I mean everything - Starbucks, McDonald's, etc) themed in this way, and with Oktoberfest just around the corner the place is already starting to amp up. We managed to hit up the used book fundraiser downtown and picked up 6 books and a movie for a whopping $7.50, which should keep Kristal's voracious reading appitite satisfied for maybe a week.

On our way here we stopped in to visit my old friends from university Stu and Liz, now living in Seattle, whom I haven't seen since their wedding some ridiculous number of years ago. It was really awesome to see them again, reminisce about old times and meet their kids. They also graciously offered us to spend the night, which was a welcome change from sleeping in the rain. Thanks guys!

As we were reading the guidebook to Leavenworth bouldering, we were a little skeptical about its claims of being even better than Squamish. It's pretty common for guidebook authors to have a biased view of the climbing in their own backyard. Not that I blame them of course. I will always have a soft spot for McKenzie Pond in the Adirondacks, as a lot of people from Ottawa do, which view I'm sure is not always shared by visiting climbers. Even the bouldering guidebook to Squamish widly claims that all styles of climbing are well represented there, which is clearly not the case.

Anyway, it's always nice to be pleasantly surprised. Here is Kristal inside The Hueco Route V1.

The bouldering here is stellar, with an inordinate amout of quality problems, easy approaches, nice landings and an incredible amount of variety.

And the weather, oh the glorious weather! It's so nice to be out of the damp and dankness of the coast.

Every day so far has been sunny with a daytime high of low to mid twenties (Celsius of course).

We are also back to having an awesomely featured campsite, set up right beside Icicle Creek, with a nice little sandy shore to walk in for convenient bathing. Although, as I'm sure you can imagine based on the name, dips in the creek do not last very long.

The bouldering here is so good we have done nothing else so far, but next up we are going to jump on what is claimed to be one of Washington's best multi-pitch trad routes, Outer Space 5.9. We are pretty stoked for it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We've been in Squamish now for just over a week, and it certainly hasn't been without incident. To begin with, our ill willed relationship with local rodents is alive and kicking. There are mice all over the campground, which in and of itself is fine, they are actually pretty cute. Unfortunately they have figured out how to get in and out of our car, and freely do so, eating whatever we may have forgotten to properly put away. We were so annoyed we went to Canadian Tire and bought some mouse traps. We caught one of them, and relocated it far far away, but I feel it is a losing battle. They are everywhere.

More seriously, we were ancillarly players in pretty scary incident on The Chief.

We had met Alex and Rachel, both here on their own, the previous day. Rachel was camped beside us, so when we saw someone rummaging through her tent we were a little concerned. Turned out it was Alex. They had gotten together and been on the 5th pitch of Rock On, a route up the Apron, when Rachel fell. One of her pieces pulled and she ended up landing hard on a ledge, was knocked unconscious and was left dangling on the rope. Alex feared the worst, but she eventually came to, completely disoriented and not knowing who Alex was, or even where she was. Alex handled it extremely well and managed to get her to the ground and the hospital, abandoning much of his gear on the wall. With light fading and rain in the forecast, we offered to help him get his gear back. We had already climbed to the top of the Apron, so we knew the trail up. It wasn't quite as simple as that though, as none of us knew exactly where the anchors for the last pitch of Rock On were. Alex ended up having to lead a runout pitch of slippery slab to get up to the right set of ledges. We found a set of anchors that we thought were the right ones and left him to rap down and get his gear. Kristal and I then walked off in the fading light.

Thankfully, it all worked out in the end. The anchors were the right ones and Alex only had to rap down the last two pitches of the route in the dark. We were so releived to see him back at the campground. We were even more relieved when we picked Rachel up at the hospital the next day and, despite 3 stitches on her head and some nasty bruising and stiffness, she was in good shape.

On a lighter note, we have met a tonne of friends from Ottawa here. Our friend Travis just moved out to Squamish and we hooked up with him a couple of times to go climbing and bouldering. We also crashed at his place for a couple of nights when we arrived. Thanks Travis! There is also a crew of boulderers visiting from Ottawa that we seem to keep running into. It's pretty surreal to see so many familiar faces so far away from home. Out of the blue another friend, Matt, just happened to be in the area and climbing at the same crag as us. Small world!

On one of our rest days we hiked up to the top of The Chief. The views from the top were pretty awesome.

Oh, yeah, the climbing and bouldering here is pretty awesome too. At least when it's not raining. Here's Kristal on the 4th pitch of Diedre.

Unfortunately the forecast currently has pretty solid rain for the next five days. We were planning to spend a good 2 or 3 weeks here, but we can't handle the rain. We were too spoiled by the desert during the summer. Tomorrow we are driving to central Washington, to the other side of the coastal mountain range, where we will embrace the awesomeness that is the rain shadow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Since Kristal grew up in Alberta, we made several stops to enjoy the hospitality of her various family members. Although there wasn't much in the way of climbing, the awesome food and beds to sleep in more than made up for it. First up was her grandparents in Medicine Hat, which happens to boast the world's largest teepee. Yup, this is as exciting as it gets in the Hat.

We then made our way up to the small town of Oyen, where Kristal grew up, to visit her parents. On the way Alberta came through where Ontario failed. We spied a moose just off the road along the Red Deer River.

Next on the list was Kristal's brother Mark in Lethbridge. Thankfully Mark is also a climber and Lethbridge isn't too far removed from some honest to goodness climbing. Before we checked that out though we visited the Glenwood Erratic, another glacially displaced boulder sitting alone in an otherwise featurless landscape.

This boulder was actually pretty big and had quite a few problems. Despite the fact that it was a bit damp, and we eventually got rained out, we had a great time and climbed a bunch of cool problems. Here is Mark on one of our favourites, Sheep That Kick.

We then spent two days bouldering at Frank Slide. The bouldering is located in a large talus field that was the result of a landslide at Turtle Mountain in 1903. Approximately 90 million tonnes of rock crashed from the east face and covered 3 square kilometers of the valley floor. Here's a view of of what's left of the east face of the mountain.

It's a pretty unique area since the boulders were so recently created (geologically speaking). They haven't seen as much erosion as the boulders at most other destinations. The landings aren't quite as nice as we are used to though (we are spoiled), as there are rocks scattered everywhere, but with Mark along we had 4 crashpads, a luxury by our standards. Here he is on a couple of cool problems.

From there we visited one more galcial erratic, the Big Rock outside of Calgary, which has the distinction of being the largest in the world.

It's actually big enough that about half the problems are far too high to be comfortably bouldered. We just jumped on some of the cool shorter problems.

That night we drove to Calgary and stayed with Kristal's aunt Lana. It would be the last stop in our whirlwind tour of Alberta. The next day we hit the road and put a full day of driving to our first major destination, Canada's bouldering and climbing mecca, Squamish BC.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Prairie Bouldering

Manitoba went by in a blink of an eye, but we ended up staying in Saskatchewan for a couple of days.

Kristal grew up in the small town of Oyen, on the eastern side of Alberta, and knew of some cool places to stop. We camped out in Grasslands National Park. Being so far from anything, the sky was quite spectacular.

The next day we drove through the park and saw some of the wildlife. They re-introduced Bison there a few years ago and it was cool to see them wandering about.

There were also several colonies of Prarie Dogs. Thanks go out to my Mom for letting me have her old telephoto lens.

After Grasslands we headed up to the small (really small) town of Hazlet, outside of which is one of the few large glacial erratics in southern Saskatchewan. Despite the small number of problems it was pretty cool to be doing some bouldering in the middle of the prairies.

The next day we headed down to Fort Walsh and checked out the 'Mystery Rocks', which aren't actually that mysterious, nor very large, but we still managed to find a couple of problems to entertain ourselves.

We finally decided to shoot some video as well, something we didn't get around to doing in the summer. I'm not sure if we'll do this very much, as it does take up quite a bit of time, so enjoy it while you can!

Monday, September 6, 2010

On The Road Again

It was nice to be back home for a couple of weeks, sleeping in a bed and hanging out with friends again. I took a trip down to what is still one of my favourite bouldering spots, McKenzie Pond in the Adirondacks, with a large contingent of Ottawa climbers.

I also went up to Lac Boisseau, a cool little sport climbing destination in Quebec, with Mixa and Travis. Here is Travis leading the super fun Viagra Crimpy Monkey Slap 5.11c.

I made it out for lunch with the old 'Friday Lunch' gang from Corel. Here you go guys! It was awesome seeing you again.

I was planning to stay in Ottawa a bit longer, but there was a lack of manpower back home on the farm. I headed down for a couple of days to help take off the hay and extract some honey. Kristal was dying of boredom in London so decided to stop by a bit early. Little did she know she would also get roped into doing some work.

But the road was calling us, so, after an 18 day break from the last trip, we were off. This time we were heading more or less directly west to the coast, with our first major destination being Squamish, British Columbia. Despite the amount of driving in front of us, I managed to convince Kristal to take the long way north around the great lakes instead of cutting through the States. We also decided we would take our time and see some sights on the way.

Highlights of Northern Ontario included the enormous Geese sculptures in Wawa.

Kristal was also a big fan of the Winnie the Pooh display in White River. This was where Lt. Harry Coleburn purchased the black bear cub he named Winnie, which would later become the inspiration to the beloved children stories.

The north shore of Lake Superior is also quite spectacular.

We made quick work of Ontario, making it most of the way through by the end of the second day. One of the goals of driving through northern Ontario was to see a moose, but sadly, despite the taunting of hundreds of road signs, it was not to be.