Squamish Trip Report

19 Feb 2018 by Chris Woodall

Squamish Trip Report

This summer I went to Squamish from August 11th-18th, 2017 with Alice Chiang, and a group made up of Matt, Lauren, Tiff and Josh. I climbed with Alice throughout the trip and had an awesome time on the splitter and reasonably high-friction granite found at Squamish. I had been once before on 2016 and had an objective in mind I had recruited Alice for: an ascent of the first peak of the Chief via Calculus Crack, and Squamish Butt Face.

We started our trip out by getting used to the rock by climbing in the Smoke Bluffs, the whole time being able to see our goal of the Chief. We adapted to the rock pretty fast, TRing some harder slab, to get used to the friction and leading some easier cracks up to 5.9 to get ourselves used to the style that is dominant in the area, low-angle to vertical finger and tight hand cracks.

Looking at The Chief from Smoke Bluffs

The biggest challenge in a way was getting used to not placing gear whenever you could, and also expecting the friction to be there. A climbing career at the Gunks and New Hampshire teach you not to trust the friction and to take good gear where you can get it. Other than that the rock is for the most part accommodating, a really good place to push yourself. The Smoke Bluffs are a series of 1 pitch crags, and the approach is rather short. The accessibility of the climbing in Squamish is what makes it so awesome, you can get out of your car and be at the base of a ton of classics, or long multi-pitch outings in less than 10 minutes. It is amazing.

We had heard that it had not rained in the area in a very long time, and the dust and smoke from the internal BC forest fires was telling. On our second day some rain came in, which dampened our climbing conditions. We headed over to Garibaldi Provincial park and got a beautiful hike in. The opening part of the hike to Garibaldi lake was a switchback laden slog, but once you gain that first bit of elevation, it is a beautiful alpine like environment that terminates in a glacial lake! I spent my time scoping out some of the awesome looking peaks and being amazed at the beautiful colors of the glacial lake.

Garibalid Lake

At this point we thought our day was done, but we made good time getting back to the car and the rain, which was really more of a continuous drizzle, stopped. Me and Alice parked at the pull-out for a 3 pitch sport climb called Star Chek, and hiked in.

Alice walking to Star Chek

The hike in is pretty reasonable, nothing too crazy to be had, but at the very end there are some sandy slopes which a fall or a slide down might result in being dumped into some rough water. The whole climb is above some rapids, which makes it very scenic and unique, but communication is hard and slipping on your way to the climb is high consequence. Luckily there is some fixed line setup for the last few feet, which can be comforting as you make your way to the belay. Star Chek has some awesome climbing on it, but is a bit run out for a sport climb, but always on pretty reasonable terrain. The location and setting is so unique though.

Alice coming up the last pitch of Star Chek

At this point we decided to get some classics in at Shannon Falls under our belt, and got ourselves in line for Skywalker. This allowed us a day of kind of slow multi-pitch climbing to work out our systems. Skywalker is a classic, but crowded. We did it in the middle of the week and it was a conga line. I would recommend an early or late start to get yourself at the base before you need to wait in line. The climbing is classic, and that 2nd 5.8 pitch is probably one of stiffest of the grade I climbed at Squamish, very rewarding. If you do climb Skywalker I suggest working your way up hill and left to reach the pools of Shannon Falls, from here you can take a dip and wash your feet in a pretty impressive waterfall. I recommend bringing some swim wear to change into to take a dip on a hot day. We forgot to, but did eat lunch in the pools and hop around them.

Cheesing on Skywalker

We spent the rest of the day climbing the classic cracks to the left of Skywalker (Cardhu Crack, and Klahanie Crack), you can basically drop your pack anywhere around here and climb a classic crack!

Pools on top of Skywalker

Next up was our main event the Chief! If you go to Squamish you can’t miss the Chief, it is right off of the road on your drive in. It is a pretty impressive granite monolith with 3 distinct peaks. There are some classic hard routes, going up it, but I wanted to try to link together a path up to the first peak which could be done by some 5.9 trad climbers without much of a problem. There is a lot of beta out there to figure this out, but we took: Calculus Crack (5.8), to Boomstick Crack (5.6), and Squamish Butt Face (5.9). One of our major concerns in that the crux was going to be the last 3 pitches, that and Alice’s wrist was not feeling great. We got a nice and early start and found guided party at the start of Calculus Crack, this is the only time we had to wait all day. I got us started, hearing rumors you could link together the first two pitches with a 70m rope I went for it. I was almost at a tree ledge, but a little run out when the rope went tight and Alice screamed that that was her. Luckily we had discussed the possibility of simul-climbing, so I slammed in a cam, and braced myself and screamed down to Alice to start climbing. The first few moves are the crux, and then there is a ledge. So while I think linking the pitches is totally possible, I only recommend doing it in a part of equals.

Looking up at Squamish Buttress from [Calculus Crack]

Next up was Alice, who climbed the awesome 3rd pitch of Calculus Crack, and then I linked together the 4th and 5th pitch for a single classic pitch, and Alice brought us to the trees. So far we were feeling great and got ourselves to the top of our first climb in our link-up. Originally we wanted to go up Memorial Crack (5.9), but I could not figure out how to get up to it safely. It seemed like you would need to make an awkward step over, or climb a 5.10a to get to the base of it, and I was not feeling like doing my hardest climb yet that day. So we scurried over to Boomstick Crack (5.6) and I am glad we did because it was one of the most interesting climbs I have ever been on. Alice linked up the 2 pitches in 1, and had a blast on it, exclaiming that it was probably her favorite 5.6 pitch she had been on. You kind of get on top of this weird flake, that you are not sure how it is attached to the wall and kind of crawl and walk along the top of it for a while. It is just such an unlikely feature.

Looking Up At Squamish Buttress Lite

This brought us up to a big ledge. This is the same ledge that Rock On, or Long Time No See would get you to. With no parties around us, either ahead or behind we hiked up to the base of Squamish Buttress. The route finding here was a bit rough because we never found a real trail. It was a bit of a bushwhack along unsettled dirt to the base, and eventually we found it. We ate some food, shared a few caffeine shot blocks, and I took off up the first pitch of Squamish Buttress which went at an uneventful, but marginally protected (and kind of gunks like) 5.8. The next pitch was unprotected slab which I stuck Alice on, and then knowing i was going to be leading the crux pitches because her wrist was acting up Alice took the next two dirty, but fun 5.7 pitches. This brought us to another section of hiking as we relocated to the base of Squamish Butt Face (5.9). The first pitch is a thin seam in a corner, which leads to two very closely spaced bolts (the crux) and then a series of ledge walks to the left with weird bouldery moves on to the next ledge system. On the crux of the day I almost got it, but pumped out while trying to extend an alpine draw on a bolt, and took a hang. In a soul crushing realization, I realized I was already done with the hardest part and all I had to do was make one more move to a glorious jug and the troubles were over. The next pitch (5.8) was a weird chimney, and the beta makes no sense until you get in it. If you can avoid carrying a pack on this pitch, do it. I ended up reaching up high to place a piece and hanging my pack off of it so I could squirm through the rest of the chimney unharmed. This turned into a bit of an engineering project as I now had to retrieve my pack. But now the difficulties were over and Alice took us up some easy 5th class ramps to the top, and we hiked to the summit where a nice family took this photo.

Top of Chief

The hike out is fast, and along a well defined hikers trail. It had been a long day, with a lot of pitches, but we came out the other side in one piece and more confident in our abilities as multi-pitch trad climbers. It was a good day.

Looking Up At The Chief After A Long Day

With our big goal behind us, we spent the rest of the trip at the Smoke Bluffs, appreciating the easy access and just trying to tick off as many of the 5.8 and 5.9 classics as we could. I even tried my hand at some easy 5.10s, like the crux pitch of Smoke Bluff Connection (5.10b) and Nubile Woman (5.10a). I didn’t get them clean, but I made it through them which I guess is what counts. We had a blast just enjoying the glorious easy cragging that is the Smoke Bluffs. If you don’t hit crowds, and that is a big if, you can rack up the pitches here.

We spent some time at this point cragging with Joshua, Tiff, Matt and Laura, and just enjoying awesome company. Thanks guys for making this a great trip! I highly recommend going on a trip to Squamish if you get the chance, it is probably one of my favorite places to go. I will probably try to go back again in 2019 and snag a few more routes here. For more photos check out this photo album.

Some Tips

  • There is ample camping, and van spots at the Chief and in some of the forest roads around the Chief. Typically don’t van camp in the chief campground, let the people with tents get a tent site.
  • AirBNB’s are plentiful and the Squamish Adventure Inn Hostel is a great place to stay, and can be cheap (and has an ok vibe).
  • The Squamish Select guidebook is fairly comprehensive for everything you might want to do as a visitor for a few days.
  • The town of Squamish is well stocked with food, and 2 gear stores, make use of it.
  • Flying into Vancouver is a much better option than Seattle, the drive is shorter and sometimes the tickets can be cheaper. Do what makes sense for you though.