Amazingly, the forecast for Squamish called for a stretch of clear skies and warm temperatures. So, Ross and I headed north for 4 days of Squamish granite. Our main objective was The Grand Wall of the Chief (which Ross had climbed twice since last July), but we also climbed some other stellar multipitch routes. The trip to Squamish also served as a warm up for our planned climbing roadtrip in June 2007 to Red Rocks, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Ross did an amazing job leading over 30 difficult pitches in 4 days (thanks Ross!).
Day 1 – May 10: UNFINISHED SYMPHONY on the Chief (5 pitches: 5.9, 5.10a, 5.10d, 5.10d, 5.11b)
Day 2 – May 11: THE GRAND WALL on the Chief (10 pitches: 10b, 10b, 5.8, 5.9, 10b A0, 10b, 11a A0, 11a, 10b, 10c)
Day 3 – May 12: MILK RUN + UPPER TANTALUS WALL on the Chief (8 pitches: 5.8, 10c A0, 10c, 10c, 11b A0, 11b, 11a A0, 11a A0)
Day 4 – May 13: SUNBLESSED and ENLIGHTENED on Sunshine Wall (Sunblessed is 4 pitches: 10a, 10a, 5.6, 10b; Enlightened is 3 pitches: 10a, 10c, 5.9)
Route overlay for Unfinished Symphony.
Route overlay for The Grand Wall.
Route overlay for Milk Run + Upper Tantalus Wall.
Classic thin hands second pitch of Sunblessed, Sunshine Wall.
THE GRAND WALL ON THE CHIEF
A pitch-by-pitch description (including photos of course) of nearly 2000 feet of amazing climbing of The Grand Wall is as follows:
Getting the gear ready, stalling to maximize our time in the sun.
- difficulty: 5.12a
- start time: 10:49 am
We slept in until 8am, and spent a leisurely morning reading in lawn chairs in the sun outside a local coffee shop. It was sunny, but the air temperature was cool, and we knew the sun wouldn't hit the route until around 1pm. By mid-morning the caffeine began to kick in and off we headed to tackle the Grand Wall. There were 2 parties ahead of us on the route. One party was already at the top of the Split Pillar when we began to organize our gear – must have been a cold start for them!
A pumpy and fun warm up pitch to begin the route.
PITCH 1 - Apron Strings I
- difficulty: 5.10b
- start time: 11:24 am
There are several variations of the first half of the route up to the Split Pillar. We chose to link up Apron Strings (a fun 2-pitch 10b) and Merci Me (a 2-pitch 5.8 on a dike) and traverse under a roof to the base of the Split Pillar.
The first pitch of Apron Strings is a rather pumpy laybacking start on a stellar 10b crack/flake.
Ross leading up the second pitch of Apron Strings, the first of the many right-facing corners.
PITCH 2 - Apron Strings II
- difficulty: 5.10b
- start time: 11:50 am
The second pitch of Apron Strings is another 10b crack up to a tree belay, quite cruiser now that we were warmed up.
In this photo, the Split Pillar is on the right, just left and up of the tree. Pitch 5 involves a short section of A0 aid to reach the belay near the tree.
PITCH 3 - Merci Me I
- difficulty: 5.8
- start time: 12:15 pm
From the top of Apron Strings, we climbed the first 1.5 pitches of Merci Me, splitting off halfway through the second pitch to traverse rightwards towards the Split Pillar. Merci Me follows a runout bolted 5.8 dike with several face holds.
Ross at the chains below the roof. A bit chilly in the shade.
PITCH 4 - Merci Me II
- difficulty: 5.9
- start time: 12:40 pm
The first half of this pitch followed the bolted dike of Merci Me, and then split off to the right to traverse to a chain anchor at the base of the obvious roof. This traverse was conveniently wet and slimy at the crux reachy 5.9 move right before the anchor.
An airy traverse of steep flakes starts off the pitch.
- difficulty: 5.10b A0
- start time: 1:06 pm
From the chain anchor, we traversed down and right through some flakes, and then had to do some pulling/standing in slings on a short bolt ladder to the belay at a tree at the base of the Split Pillar. This was a fun airy traverse pitch, and good practice on my A0 aiding techniques.
Ross leading up the nearly vertical Split Pillar. What a pitch!
Steph climbing up the Split Pillar.
PITCH 6 - Split Pillar
- difficulty: 5.10b
- start time: 2:02 pm
The heart of The Grand Wall route begins with The Split Pillar, continues onto The Sword, and then to Perry’s Layback. The fame of these pitches is well deserved.
The Split Pillar is an amazing right-facing layback. Super pumpy! Ross didn’t even break a sweat though….
Looking up the steep Sword pitch. Fun stuff.
PITCH 7 - The Sword
- difficulty: 5.11a A0
- start time: 2:54 pm
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the steep granite of The Sword looms above. This was another pumpy pitch. We linked this with some more A0 bolt laddering to the base of Perry’s Layback.
Perry's Layback. Unless you want to run it out or lug up some heavy cams, the bolts are a welcome sight. Super pumpy but fun.
PITCH 8 - Perry's Layback
- difficulty: 5.11a
- start time: 4:03 pm
And just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any more pumpy, another right facing layback appears, named after Perry Beckham who first freed this pitch in 1980 (with his ex-wife belaying, Perry drilled eight Rawls into the rock below a wide horizontal crack to protect the route and then freed the pitch, Perry’s Layback was born). There is a cool much-needed no-hands airy rest at the top of the layback, by leaning against the block at the top. The pitch ends at the flat ledge above.
Right and up from the flat ledge.
- difficulty: 5.10b
- start time: 4:42 pm
From the flat ledge, there are a couple of variations to the next pitch. We climbed up and right on face holds and past a reachy 10b crux to the belay. It looks like it might be wet in the photo, but the pitch was almost all dry (overall, the entire route was pretty dry, with only a couple of seeping sections).
Ross climbing the tree at the beginning of the final pitch.
Ross at the end of the undercling, just before a short layback section and then overcling back left. The route tops out on Bellygood Ledge at the notch between the two trees.
- difficulty: 5.10c
- start time: 5:12 pm
The final pitch below Bellygood Ledge begins with some tree-climbing, and then follows a 10c undercling and overcling to the top. A pretty short and fun pitch.
For those with time/energy/desire, you can continue to climb a few more pitches upwards via Roman Chimneys or the Upper Black Dike, or (like most people), you can end the route here and traverse to the trail via Bellygood Ledge. This is what we chose to do since, at least to me, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a campfire was looking mighty appealing. Bellygood Ledge is an amazing feature cutting across the rock. It’s pretty exposed (a 50-ft section is a 2-foot ledge with sheer vertical walls on either side, protected by a bolt at either end), so a good idea to stay roped up until you reach the trail at the end.
Back to the car at 6:35 pm. What an amazing climb! Thanks Ross for being psyched to climb it again and take all the hard leads (ie. every pitch…).
View towards Squamish from high up on the Chief.
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: http://www.stephabegg.com.