Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Climbing the Chief: Calculus Crack to Squamish Butt Face (Butt Lite)

The alarm buzzed and I pretended not to hear it. "Lets get a move on" Kyle urged. We were trying to beat the Saturday rush to the bottom of Calculus Crack (5.8, 7 pitches) and I was really glad we had pulled the plug on the little campground party that had been happening outside our trailer the night before at 10:30, evicting the boulder pad sitting beer drinkers into the night to find another campsite to occupy while swapping stories, meeting climbing partners and planning adventures for the days ahead. The Chief Campground is a temporary home for climbers from all over the world who have descended on Squamish with one thing on their minds, climbing the amazing granite and world-class cracks. Some are only there briefly, others manage to avoid the park wardens and stay well beyond the maximum 14 day limit, which occasionally means having to pack up and leave for a day or two before returning for a new 14 day stretch. Everyone dreams of showers and seems to talk about them incessantly, but nobody seems to have time (or money) to spare on this highly praised commodity. The days blur, scraped up hands turn to callous and the tick list never seems to get any shorter despite climbing something new every day.

My visit was a quick three days to meet up with Kyle who is most of the way through a three week road trip around BC, the majority of which has been spent in Squamish and Apex. He had already made a bunch of friends and had been pushing it hard all week with the Calgary crew occupying the sites beside him. My number one prerogative for this trip was to climb the Chief, a dream of mine since I started the weekly pilgrimage to Whistler and would drive through Squamish staring up at the huge granite face trying to spot tiny climbers clinging to the wall by what seemed like magic. I also wanted redemption on Calculus Crack, a route that had taken a chunk out of my knee in 2013, as well as my lead head. The former has since healed, but the psychological scars of the fall have stuck with me and have been a huge barrier to my climbing progression over the last three years.

We got to the bottom of the route at 7:30 and nobody was there. It seemed too good to be true. Sure enough a guided party of three showed up shortly after Kyle started up the pitch and there was another party on the direct start to our left. Despite the traffic, we made quick work of Calculus Crack and topped out in under 3 hours on Broadway Ledge. We made our way over to Broomstick Crack (5.7 - 2 pitches) and ran into a number of parties in line for the route. One of the groups had started up Diedre at 5:30 in the morning! We also ran into Tristan who had been soloing up Banana Peel, which I thought was quite the coincidence!
Waiting in line for Broomstick Crack - a typical Saturday on the Apron
The day slowed significantly as we found ourselves behind a number of parties. We were able to overtake one group by linking the two pitches of Broomstick into one long 58 m pitch, but caught another group at the bottom of the Squamish Buttress. We had to wait at all the belay stations from here on in, but it was warm, the other climbers were friendly and it gave us some time to eat our sandwiches and enjoy the views.
Waiting for our turn on the first pitch of Butt Lite
 We followed the Squamish Buttress route up until the 5.10c pitch, before heading out left to the Butt Lite/Squamish Butt Face route (5.9), the easiest route to the top of the Chief. There was far less exposure than I was expected and the climbing was true to the grade and protected by the occasional bolt in crack-free sections. It was definitely much less of an adventure than Europa which we had climbed the day before. Kyle lead most of the pitches and I helped out by carrying the pack with all our supplies for the day. There were a few times when I regretted this, especially in the chimney on the second to last pitch, but I channeled my inner Sherpa and carried on.
Kyle scopes out the crux, Courtney of the party ahead wonders what the hell she got herself into
Getting ready to head up the crux
Kyle waits his turn patiently to start up the chimney pitch, only 2 pitches from the top
We topped out around 4 pm after climbing 15 pitches of granite. I would say that the hardest parts of the day were the crux pitches on Calculus Crack and patiently waiting for parties ahead of us on the upper pitches. That was my biggest day ever (in terms of number of pitches) and I was able to tick off a huge item in my to-do list. It really helped that we had perfect weather and that Kyle was stoked to do so much leading. We spend a while on the summit taking pictures then pretty much ran back to camp, feeling really pumped on what we had accomplished! 
Kyle at the top of the first peak of the Squamish Chief
Top of the Chief, via the slow way up!
My interpretation of our route up the Chief - do not use for beta! Calculus Crack - Broomstick Crack - Squamish Buttres - Butt Lite
Sunday we slept in then met Tristan to go climb in the Smoke Bluffs. It was grey and cool, and it started to rain not long after we arrived. We managed to get a few climbs in and checked out a new crag, but the rain was just teasing us and every time we thought it had stopped, it would start up again. In the end we called it a day and went for a bike ride before I had to head down to Vancouver to catch my flight home, not before stopping for sushi and bubble tea of course!
Tyler tries to decide if its too wet to climb slab 
Sunshine to the south as I say goodbye to Squamish and head for the airport
Monster rolls at Samurai Sushi in Oakridge

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