Rockies Vacation Part 1 23 July – 25 July

Left Squamish on Saturday. Always a big event. In 2 years I’ve been out of this valley less than 20 times. Passed through Maple ridge to collect vehicle camper and join Kyle’s nephew 1st birthday. Itching to escape. Seeing climbing words and craving mountains at all junctures.

Drove through to revvy. Parked at Begbie Bluffs. Damn it is nice to have portable living quarters! Climbed in the sun on overhanging jugs. Jumped on 10c — 11b problems. Pumpy! Last climb was a difficult arete. Revvy is challenging in its hidden holds.

We delayed Sir Donald to the following morning due to tiredness and a need for relaxation.

Met up with an old friend over burritos to talk life and treeplanting. The guy looks like a different human. Hard miles on difficult terrain does that to a man.

Lost in conversation, a wind storm was descending on Revelstoke. Gusts of surely 100kmph+ were interrupting street performances, knocking over locked bikes and causing non-climbers to seek refuge inside the Taco Club.

Outside we sat with smiles on our face. Fascination with the natural forces is a hallmark of the alpine climber. Sheer power of gravity, weather and human emotion. We face this trinity at all times on the mountain faces and ridges.

As the storm passed, the light emerged from behind the front. Perfectly oriented to illuminate not only one of the most vibrant rainbows I’ve seen — but a pair. Groups of strangers gathered in awe, to capture photos, to exchange smiles; and for those young enough, echo a call of ‘DOUBLE RAINBOW’ across the car park (YouTube it!)

These moments of community appreciation of natural aesthetics rises above all that divides us in our normal lives. Reminds everybody of our essence and universal beauty.

Drove to Sir Donald parking. Woke at 3:30am to push for the summit. Left keys in bumper to give each other a way out in the event of an incident.

Hiking past bear signs and with the knowledge of a recent death off the West Bypass descent route. These facts sit in my stomach as my mind asks “what makes you different?”

Thoughts quickly forgotten as the mountain loomed over the valley almost instantly. 2300m of vertical gain lay ahead of us this Sunday.  Breaking through the trees, a waterfall dominates the view. Finger like streams pouring over the glacial smooth slabs. Evidence of a time once colder and a reminder of the cycle of water to ice and to gas. Happening today, happening until the end of my life and until the end of all life as we know it. How many sets of eyes have had this view?

We zig zagged through Forrest, crossed the always difficult scree and eventually arrived at the Uto-Sir Donald Col. The low point of our climb.

Immediately I was overcome with an apprehension not recently felt. Compared with the immense massiveness of the mountain, our NW Ridge ascent path seemed precariously thin, even at the easy 5.4 grading.

Alpine climbing is much more difficult for the grade given additional considerations. Loose rock, weather, exposure and route finding are risks not usually felt when at sea level or climbing bomber Squamish Granite.

This called for a 15 minute nap in a comfortable sheltered bivy site — A zone comparatively protected from wind and weather. On waking I felt reinvigorated by the prospect of this challenge. This is why I’m here and my fear is only a reminder of that.

Wearing approach shoes and with a rope and gear handy we began to climb. The beta warning those who needed a rope for the first few pitches to reconsider.

Moving quickly unroped we found a rhythm. The rock was mostly solid and the climbing brilliantly sustained. Quickly you become aware of the empty air around you.

The climbers prize. Exposure. At this easy level of difficulty it engages the self completely. Every move is in flow, the path unfolding ahead like a story you wrote to yourself. Steep semi technical moves linked with sections of fine scrambling. The guidebook describes the line as ‘impeccable.’ Two thumbs up!!!

Typical alpine weather is our only company here. Overnight rain causing teams to retreat two days in a row it seems. Who dares wins as we find no sections wet. Fortunate given the nature of this rock. Easy to see the ease with which one might lose their footing and take a ride for life.

Clouds whip up the ridge as one side heats in the glory of sun. The mind creates visions of thermals rising alongside the ridge. An expressway of lift for the birds and human air enthusiasts. With an eye on Paragliding for the future, this would be a theme for the trip. A reminder of invisible energy. Sharing these weather phenomena with residents of the sky.

Approaching the summit ridge it seemed to go forever. Higher and higher false summit towers rose above us.  Alpine wind whipping clouds across Sir Donald’s 3300m peak.

I was experiencing a strangity of alpine climbing for me. Often I wonder who else? During the push I lose myself on the Earth. I’m not even a pin on Google Maps.  I forget which peak we are on. My experience is simplified to the steps I take and all rock melts into one. Moments of presence, of clarity faced with a simple ascent. Hand over hand foot above foot. Carefully choosing the most solid looking rock for 3 points of security.

Standing on the summit we were elated. Though filling the climbers log we were shocked into the reality of descent. The most recent record was that of the climber left deceased not long before we were there. RIP.

A reminder to be careful but also to acknowledge the fragility of our existence. To enjoy it to the fullest. Find that which makes us feel most alive, not only doing it but being it.

For me this is in adventure, in shared struggle with friends, accesssing the present moment. Seeking internal alignment of myself with what is important.

Climbing is but one vehicle for this experience and ultimately growth.

3 hours later we had safely  completed the summit tower bypass and 12 rappels down the mountain. Huge thanks to the guy who put the stations in!  Now the ever annoying scree, a few river crossings and 2 hours of hiking was all that remained in today’s adventure.

We arrived at the truck to find Parks had taken our keys. A cryptic note scribbled with a signature indicated our keys were at the now closed reception.

We quickly realized we were faced with a spot of additional adventure after 15 hours of climbing. A cold sleep near the car while our sleeping gear was within arms reach but secured in the car.

 

With some head scratching and a spot of anger we found a solution. We  contacted the Parks Canada non emergency dispatch and a representative quickly arrived. The worry was our keys were obvious and at risk of being taken  by someone more unsavoury — the kind lady seemed most surprised that we were up and down in a day.

Quick pasta meal and we were off to our next Camp site. Destination 2? Canmore and the exquisite Rocky mountains. Starting with Ha Ling!