Marcy and I spent all of 1 night and just over 24 hours at home before joining the annual July 4th pilgrimage of the American PNW climber to Squamish to praise the mighty Chief of the north. That is just enough time to swap the skis for bikes, bathe, do laundry and convince your parents that their Jeep wanted to explore the great country of Canada while Sven took some time in rehab after his injury. Shralph and El Springador were pretty excited to be joining on this trip as we loaded them atop the car.
Wanting to break up the drive and explore some new MTB trails we decided on a short ride at Mt. Fromme-Fromme which is the birthplace of the "North Shore" style of riding, which interweaves elevated wooden structures and technical rock sections. After the very gradual and leisurely climb on the logging road we dropped into our first trail. The trail was a maze of wood and rock obstacles that weaved around sharp turns and descended quickly with additional stunts on the side to ensure their was only a path of most and moster resistance. I found the trail to be quite challenging but also great fun, Marcy on the other hand did not enjoy the art of downhill bike walking. That ended up being slightly more enjoyable than our ensuing up. Mt. Fromme's said "climbing" trail is akin to an extreme uphill trials ride that most mortals would resort to pushing their bike over rocks roots and steep hillside. We tried a few more trails including the two popular trails 7th Secret and Espresso, Of course we chose Espresso ( our sole blue square trail) last to make sure we were both physically and mentally exhausted by the time we hit the should be warm up trail
After our short 14 mile ride that only took 5 hours, we headed off to Squamish.
Our friends Bram and Ashley put us up in their new home and we woke to wet ground and the threat of more rain. Being of the climbing class that generally climbs non-vertical routes, wetness usually means its a bike day, but Bram was planning to do some sport climbing at cliffs that stay a bit dry in the rain, so we opted to join and take it easy. The routes on the wall quickly go from a few 5.8s and 10s into the upper 11's and on so there wasn't that much for us to do. But after warming up on the easier routes I tag teamed in on Good Times a 5 star 5.11a route with another climber. The route was fantastic with consistently challenging moves for 100' and I made it through the final bolt only to bail a move away from the anchors, unconvinced of my strength to pull the roof and not wanting to send Marcy flying on her first lead catch.
Josh Baxley Climbing through the final roof of Good Times
After pumping ourselves out, Jesse met up with us and we did a quick lap on Half-Nelson which is a classic machine built mountain bike trail in Squamish and then watched Squamish's mighty 3 minute firework show to celebrate Canada Day.
The following day Jesse, Marcy and I climbed Calculus Crack on the Apron which was a fun 5 pitch 5.8, though the 5.8s sections are pretty short so it climbs a bit easier most of the way. The highlight was my first rescue of the day where two dudes were wildly off-route. A sheer vertical slab of granite separate them from us and their intended route, so after making some eye contact I lowered them a rope to haul themselves up.
Jesse and I followed this up by hitting the classic route Star Chek. Great cruiser route with a really fun setting. This was the scene of rescue number two. A couple had chosen to hike to the base and the panicked lady found herself on a loose choss pile that threatened to carry her into the water. I rappelled onto the slope to retrieved their dropped rope and then belayed her across the slope to the safety of the rock, still shaking from her experience.
Sunday ended up being a MTB day. Jesse and I met up with my friend Dan in the AM to do a quick shuttle assisted ride on some of the challenging black trails in the Diamond-head area. The highlight was riding Somewhere Over There which has a little of everything that Squamish has to offer. There was a 4-5 tier section of rock rolls halfway down that after scoping the top one, I finally rode. On the first tier I got so far behind my seat the wheel hit my ass and I forgave control for avoiding going over the bars. Unable to stop and barely able to slow down I continued surfing over my back tires for the next couple until reaching the grande finale - a long 30' steep boulder ride that ended in a small ditch. The small wooden ladder that was set at the end of the slab pointed at a near vertical angle and did little to dampen the exit angle. I managed to push the bike out in front of me again, said my Hail Marys and closed my eyes for the ensuing crash, but a few moments later Shralph rolled over the ditch avoided a tree and took me back to the trail - Thank you Shralph for taking care of me!.
Dan on a short rock section.
We then made a straight up trade of one Dan for one Marcy. Our brilliant plan next was to do a single long shuttle. Our main lesson learned was to not ever in any circumstance ride the upper Powersmart trail, an unkept trail of loose rocks and fallen trees. But the rest of the trails were rather fun. Unable to convince the the other two more intelligent homo sapiens to go climbing after, I decided on a third solo ride in the Alice Lakes area to tour the trails there. The trails here were fun and challenging.
The last day in Squamish I really wanted to challenge myself, so Jesse and I set-off to warm up and cool down on Exasperater. The 10a first pitch took a while to warm up on, but I was set on giving the second 10c pitch a go. The climbing was fantastic but my chubby sausage fingers had some trouble trying to squeeze into the finger locks so I struggled placing gear in one of the crucial crux moves. I did work out the moves and finish the route; next time I hope to get it clean and just climb through that section.
When Marcy returned from her run it was time to send Jesse off and for Marcy and I to continue our Canadian adventures. We opted to wait out traffic by climbing Skywalker and catching the ferry to the Sunshine Coast the following day.
Never having been to the Sunshine coast we were excited to explore somewhere new. First stop was the Coast Gravity Park - a Downhill oriented bike park that used shuttles to drive riders back to the top. The first thing we noticed was that we were the clear outcasts - the only ones with trail bikes and the lack of full medieval body armor to protect for the ensuing battle. This proved to be mistake as I subsequently launched myself off a jump into a full on penguin belly slide down the other side of the jump. The park was a fun network of berms and loamy trails, though a bit rutted out at spots and once I cleaned out my wide array of wounds, I was back on the bike riding a bit slower and just enjoying the flow of the berms.
The next day we checked out the Roberts Creek trail network. This wasn't as steep in general but had the remnants of lots of old wooden structures that were appealing but would likely disintegrated under the weight of a Scott. One of the upper lines was a very raw loamy trail that was great downhill fun but quite committing and challenging, the other trails mostly had small jumps and stunts with ride arounds. I was pretty stoked to have ridden the two jump lines I found that had the largest gap jumps I've ever done.
The weather was calling for the return of the floods that sent Noah packing, so Marcy and I too decided to pack up our belongings and head towards the drier central Washington to explore the Climbing around Banks Lake, which has been on my list since I started climbing 10 years ago.
Short video from some of the Mt. Biking: