Tuesday, July 30, 2013


After two weeks in Squamish it was finally time to move on. Our next stop was about as far removed from the convenience and crowds as we could get, in the heart of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, outside the small town of Darrington, Washington. Camping and climbing for a few days the only other people we saw were two forest service employees who had backpacked in to count mountain goats.

Here is Kristal atop the first pitch of Silent Running 5.9+ on Three O'Clock Rock.

It was clear from hiking through the forest that some enormous trees had been logged here many years ago. There were countless stumps that were easily 15 feet in diameter. Here's Kristal in front of of a huge dead tree that escaped the logging.

We were also camped near an awesome river, which provided some great post climb swimming.

We had originally planned to climb Dreamer on Green Giant Buttress. Unfortunately it was directly east facing and despite being a pleasant 20ish degrees Celcius in the shade, it turned out to be near intolerable climbing in the sun. We set our sights on the more manageable west facing Blueberry Route III, 5.8+ on Exfoliation Dome.

With a pre-dawn start we figured we could climb most of the route before baking in the sun. Here is Kristal coming up the second last pitch, just as we were getting into the sun.

A view of the crazy overlaps of the upper washbowl.

And Kristal on the summit.

We were stoked to have completed the climb with only minimal sun exposure. Unfortunately we now had to make it down 11 rappels and 1500 feet of steep slab hiking while frying on the rock. Here is Kristal nearing the end of the rappels, with the steep granite 'sidewalk' below.

 And starting down the sidewalk, with the route we just climbed in the background on the left.

After 11 1/2 hours car to car the post-climb swim never felt so good!

Friday, July 26, 2013


It's always a bit of a shock for us when we first arrive in Squamish. We are so used to climbing in more out of the way areas that the sheer number of people is always a bit overwhelming. There is a reason for the crowds though. It is just so convenient to be here. The ease of access, being so close to town, the toonie swim at the rec center (with hot tub). Not to mention the large variety of exceptional climbing.

Of course the advantage of it being so popular is that we always seem to run into friends from Ottawa. This trip was no exception, and it was great to see some familiar faces. And, as much as it pains us to wait for people ahead of us on long climbs, it's always great to meet new friends and share stories.

During this trip we ticked off a number of climbs that have been on our list for a while.  Here I am leading the second pitch of Exasperator 5.10c.

Kristal belaying me on the second pitch of Slot Machine 5.9.

One of our big days was climbing Angel's Crest 5.10b, which climbs 13ish pitches and follows a striking ridge line all the way up to the top of the chief.  Here is our early morning view north of Squamish somewhere around pitch two.

Looking down on the Acrophobes, which we had just climbed across, from pitch 10 or 11.

Kristal following up the second last pitch.

And me about the exposed crawl over to the last pitch.

Of course time spent in Squamish has to include at least some bouldering.  Here is Kristal on the classic Tim's Sloper Problem V5.

When climbing anything on the Chief you can't help but notice the ridiculous number of kite and wind surfers across the sound.  This trip we finally took a couple of hours to head over there and check it out.

We were pretty amazed at the number of people and the skills on display.  It looked like a lot of fun, but no less crowded than the climbing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Washington Pass

The iconic Liberty Bell in Washington Pass has been on our list for quite a while. After leaving Frank Slide, we drove through northern Idaho and the orchards of central Washington to go check it out. Over the last couple of months we've done a lot of bouldering, but haven't actually tied into a rope at all, so the first glimpse of the towers was a little intimidating.

Washington Pass has dozens of fantastic lines all in a beautiful alpine setting. Most of the well-known climbs are on a collection of five impressive spires.We set out early and decided to try and traverse across three of the five spires. Our first goal was the well-known Becky Route up Liberty Bell. Here I am on the third pitch.

And on the summit.

The approaches for all the Washington Pass climbs are long and steep, but despite this there seems to be no shortage of climbers willing to hike up the mountain even on a weekday. By the time we got back to the notch between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower, there were at least three parties on the route we had just climbed and two others waiting. We were thankful to have avoided the chaos.

We then followed a wandery, lesser traveled route up Concord Tower. We stopped to appreciate the view before rapping into the notch between Concord and Lexington towers.

The final pitch up Lexington Tower included an exciting ridge traverse. Here's Jason gingerly climbing onto the top of the Stegasaur fin.

And me on the summit, with the North and South Early Winter Spires in the background.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Going West

I guess we left the blog dangling a bit at the end of our spring trip. Rest assured we made it back to Ottawa in one piece at the end of April, after Kristal unexpectedly landed a job teaching. With the end of the school year looming we were anxious to hit the road again and decided to head west for the summer.

As usual the long drive wasn't all that interesting, although we did manage to stop for a nice swim in Lake Michigan and saw this cool sunset in North Dakota.

Our first stop was at Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan, where Kristal's family were congregating to enjoy the Canada Day long weekend. The weather was awesome and we enjoyed a weekend filled with good food, good company, a mini beach volleyball tournament, fireworks and a lot of fun on the lake.

One of the highlights for Kristal and I was paddling around on her dad's stand up paddle board. Super fun.

After a week of driving and hanging out at the lake we were anxious to do some climbing though. Our first stop was some bouldering at Frank Slide in southern Alberta. We spent a few days there and were stoked to be joined by Kristal's brother Mark and his wife Beth (we also enjoyed the luxury of staying at their place in Lethbridge for a few nights).

Sitting around after bouldering we were discussing the blog and it was suggested that we should have guest writers. And so, in a Ropeless blog first, Beth is hopefully going to talk about something related to the day they spent bouldering with us. Take it away Beth!

Thank you Jason! Mark and I are super excited to be contributing for the first time.

While Jason and Kristal were in Lethbridge we popped out to Frank Slide for a few days with them. Even though we have toured the area many times, K and J schooled us with their insider knowledge they had picked up in their few days camping there a few days beforehand. Pro Tip: The bathrooms at the Bellevue campground are much nicer than those at the local gas station.

On our first joint outing, we did a classic tour of Franks’ south side, starting at the brawny Snakebite boulder. After a few non-warm up burns on the V5, we decided that we should probably start slower and found the Tidal Volume boulder. Below is Mark pulling hard on the boulder’s namesake problem.

Also in an excellent showing, Jason snagged Serial Killer, the especially reachy problem on the same boulder which is nigh impossible to begin if your less than 5’10. Kristal, I, and even Mark can all attest to the lengthiness of that initial move.

The last boulder we visited at Frank was the super sloping Vlad Slab, which features a number of low-angle, fun problems. Shown below are Kristal and I scampering up the V1s and V0s.

Ice cream and hail capped the day. Pro tip: Bellevue has an amazing ice cream shop with dozens of flavours.

We managed to make it back to Lethbridge before a crazy hailstorm hit, raining down ping-pong sized pieces. From the safety of the basement, we watched the ice ricochet off homes and cars.