Rock Guide Level 3

Week of September 4-8th 2018

It’s a wrap and the grades are in! Last week on assignment for Whistler Adventure School Rock Guide Level 3 with a strong crew: Jonas, Aaron and Tomas. They came to learn how to dance and climb, so we had a super fun time climbing and still managed to dance a few time.

The program is designed to teach and improve each student rock climbing skills and introduce the participants to the world of rock guiding. Climbing on rock is not simple, if someone wants to do it safe. The course helps contestant understand and allows hands-on practice at a wide range of climbing skills and anchoring systems needed for safe travel on the vertical world.

Certainly not for the faint at heart when perched high on The Stawamus Chief 600m above Howe Sound and Squamish, but rewarding for any one keen to put in a little training. In Level 1-2 the students had learn some of the basics and rescue skill needed and required at the start of someone’s climbing career. The plan was to sport climb lead on Tuesday, Sport multi-pitch on Wednesday, Trad multi-pitch on Thursday, semi rest day on Friday and Canyoneering on Saturday.

Day 1

We spent the day focused on sport climbing, a different take and aspect of climbing, where route establishers and designers spend time drilling anchor points while solving climbing puzzle where cracks, jams and breaks in the rock face are scarce or non-existent and won’t allow for traditional ways of gear placements for safety. These routes can be found anywhere near a climbing community and information online is easy to get. The students got busy clipping bolts, a lot of bolts, 105 each to be exact.

The Cheakamus canyon is a great zone for anyone looking to up their game at leading sport climbs. We finished the day with some practice on 10a routes and a better understanding of sport climbing efficient anchor systems and multi-pitch application.

Day 2

It felt like summer and we had our aim at, the soon to be classic, – Frontside 180 – on the West ridge of Check Summit a brand new multi-pitch climb of 10 pitches on beautiful mixed conglomerate, granite and basalt rock formations at 5.8 climbing difficulties. The students took turns at leading the pitches and managed to combine p4-5, p7-8 and p9-10 together to make this 200m climb in 7p instead. Allowing us to have a long and well deserve lunch break at the top with perfect views to the north: Triconi Peak, to the west: Tantalus and to the south: Howe Sound and Mt-Habrich.

The 45minute descent to the north was enjoyable passing the Monastery, an impressive overhang wall full of permanent quickdraws and classic hard routes, back to base for in 5hour round trip and finished the day on hard top roping 10abc and 10d.

Day 3

Today was to be our final sunny and dry day of the week, so we aim to climb The Chief – Ultimate Everything and Upper Echelon – 10a| 22p on The Stawamus Chief. The weather forecast was calling for rain starting tomorrow, so we moved the schedule ahead a bit and took advantage of the sunny skies and warm temps to get the best chance at succeeding in climbing this long and adventurous route.

It was 830am and the students started by alternating leads up The Rambles 5.8| 2p long pitches (70m ropes) directly from the carpark of the Apron at the base of the Chief, this way we could connect directly with Banana Peel 5.7| 7p and Broomstick crack 5.7| 1p, the students felt confident and looked focused on climbing this familiar ground that they had travelled a few weeks ago. Those pitches were necessary to connect to the upper portions of the Chief’s second summit rambling headwalls known as the Echelon Walls.

We had a quick lunch in the forest before setting off and across the South Gully, one of the predominant dark and wide lines visible from Squamish downtown slicing the big rock in three main summit, down a loose section and found the start of Ultimate Every, the final 10p climb that leads to the second summit of the Chief.

It was 2pm and we needed to speed up our progress a bit. The climbing was to increase in difficulties and complexities, so we agreed that if we to succeed this operation, I were to lead the group to the summit, so we could finish the climb before dark. The students were keen, ready and prepared for what was to be a long, physical and mental climb.

The first few pitches are beautiful, clean and crystalized granite face climbing pass a few bolts to tricky move around an arête onto an easy and quality ramp system. The rest of the climb involved a series of 2-3 pitches rock faces, crack systems of cliffs interconnected short forested ledges, helping to break the exposure from the height we were gaining above the valley below.

On pitch 7, we made the decision to hike across to the left and connect with the last 5.8| 2p of the Upper Echelon, an alternative finish to the climb and a fun adventure with great slab friction and finger locks. This was a great exercise of route finding while searching for chalk marks and bolts to clip. It looked like no one had been climbing here for a while. We summited at 8pm under the sun set. We had the rest of our water and lunch before descending the trail with head lamps and tired legs. It was to be a 13hour round trip and a great feeling of accomplishment under perfect weather conditions. The students were in Great Spirit and stoked on the objective.

Day 4

Was to be a rest day, so we heading to the Smoke Bluff and spent the day at Zombie Roof doing a few laps of top rope climbing on an old age classic 5.9 working on movement skills, chimney, layback, etc. and gear placements. We learned a few more anchors, like a multi directional, strengthening one piece and adding piece once anchor is build. We also reviewed the rescue systems taught earlier on the course.

Day 5

Due to the rain and forecast calling for 1mm, we choose to get wet anyways and headed across the river over to Box Canyon for a fun day of canyoneering. We covered US and French rating systems, single line rappel on blocking knot, how to use rope bag, stacking rappels, stage rappels and a few other safety tips. Of course the canyon is extremely scenic and the famous el Tubo never stops to impress.   

We had an amazing week of incredible diversity in climbing styles, rock, positions and variety with these very keen, ready and prepared students. The Squamish area is a perfect playground for adults seeking adventures and rewarding outdoor experiences. Let’s go Climb!

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