Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Europa! 5.8 A0

Europa - 5.8 A0, Trad 
7 pitches, 260 metres
Topo for Europa from the VOC Wiki
The description in the guidebook and comments online leads one to believe that the establishment of this route was a huge waste of time, money and effort. It was cleaned of vegetation by a number of members of the VOC (including some good friends) and cost upwards of $8000 to do so. What it fails to mention is that it is a total blast and a super fun way to spend a day. It was a bit more of an adventure than your typical Squamish multi-pitch and based on the amount of tree-climbing, climbing through bushes and occasional loose rock, we felt that it was as close to alpine climbing as you can get in Squampton. It would definitely make for a good intro to alpine if one was planning on heading to the rockies, and were this route found in the Bow Valley, I am sure it would be a classic moderate route with guidebook descriptions commenting on how solid the rock is and how good the belays are! However, this is Squamish so that is not the case and the route doesn't see much traffic. This was perfect for us as we found our party of 7 alone on the route all day.

David and Alex suggested Europa, as a joke but in that sort of "I'm only pretending to be joking about this in case everyone just laughs at me and says 'are you crazy'?" kind of way. We left camp at 10 as a group of 7 and made our way through the boulders above the campground to the base of the climb, just to the left of the route "Arrowroot". David and Alex took the lead and started up first, followed by Tyler and Richard and finally Kyle, Angela and myself as a party of three. What we didn't realize until the top of the route was that the first party up spent a significant amount of time excavating holds and gear placements, often having swarms of insects crawling out of cracks as they climbed. We had a nice, clean route to climb, with the occasional chunk of moss falling from above. 
Hanging around in the trees, waiting to start the climb
I found the hand crack (in a right facing dihedral) at the start of the second pitch (5.8), and a crack at the top of the third pitch (5.7) to be the most challenging parts of the route. The start of the pitch was quite amusing because you had to climb straight up into a bush before disappearing so your belayer couldn't see you for the rest of the pitch. A few belays were gear or off trees but there was the odd bolted belay. 
Me on my way up the first pitch on Europa
The top of pitch three ended in a bit of a cave that went below a tree and a big boulder. Starting up pitch 4, you had to climb the belay tree to top out on the boulder that made the cave, then down climb and traverse to a bolted belay station. Pitch 6 involved aid climbing up a series of bolts, followed by a much easier crack to a very unsettling hanging gear belay below the final chimney that topped out on Bellygood Ledge. There was a serious amount of exposure and I was happy to move out from that belay stance and get into the chimney.
Kyle on pitch 4 - looking impressive climbing a tree
Cave belay at the top of pitch 4
Angela chillaxing at a tree belay
We took our time and made a day out of this route. I found it to be way more exhausting than the following day climbing on the Chief, but had a really good time because the climbing was so unique. I really enjoyed the caves and trees on the route and found that the crack climbing was a good challenge, despite being a bit dirty. The top out was just to the climbers right of the Bellygood Ledge belly crawl which was fortunate as I was not interested in doing that at all!
The view from the top 
The Europa assault crew
Click for the UBC VOC Wiki Page for Europa
Pitch by Pitch Route Info (from UBC VOC Wiki Page)
Pitch 1 -- 5.7 (5.8 in Squamish Select) (40m): Start up a blocky chimney/corner crack system. At the top lieback up and left to gain another blocky corner. At the top there is a spacious belay ledge. Gear belay. 
Pitch 2 -- 5.8 (45m): Head up a corner crack (crux) to a system of ledges. Follow the corner system until you are level with a large fir. Belay on tree.
Pitch 3 -- 5.7 (35m): Climb an intimidating but solid section of overhanging blocks and then follow a finger crack into a short, wide tunnel. Belay on tree.
Pitch 4 -- 5.5 (30m): Climb up belay tree and gain the top of a large flake. Traverse right and climb up into a chimney. Bolted belay. The bolts here form the top of a rap line made for a single 60m rope, that will allow climbers to retreat from the top of pitch 4 during the falcon closure. If falcons end up nesting near the area, the rap station will be moved lower on the route.
Pitch 5 -- 5.6 (45m): Mostly easy climbing up a right-trending line of blocks, with a couple of chimney moves. Bolted belay.
Pitch 6 -- 5.7, A0 (45m): Traverse right and up to a ledge where a nine-bolt ladder starts. Aid up to reach a hand/fist crack. Gear belay at the top of the crack.
Update (2014) The original bolt ladder got removed due to some re-routing for "Sunset Strip". New beta: Aid up 5 bolts to a steep, short crack. Gear-aid that crack on bomber cams (#2 camalots do nicely here), then meet the easier 5.7 crack of the original line.

Pitch 7 -- 5.6 (30m): Chimney to the top. Belay on tree.


  1. It seems as though this is the second time now we have crossed paths. A few years ago we let you guys rap off our ropes in grotto canyon during the winter, and now during our little Europa party!

  2. Stumbled on this... i did not realize it was you and Kyle that got pulled into doing this with Alex and David