God Must Be A ClimberThe Grand is a Squamish uber classic, one of the best climbs I've done anywhere. It's considered the climb to do at the Chief and deservedly so. Fun face climbing, a thinky traverse, an awesome splitter, a bouldery crux, some enduro laybacking and a stunning sting-in-the-tail finish--this route has everything a climber could want. Most of the pitches are so good they get their own names. Be warned that the route is fairly popular. Expect gumbies.
Getting ThereFrom the Chief campground, walk north (left as you face the wall) out the gate to the day use parking lot and look for the trail at the north end of the lot that heads into the woods. Follow the trail to the wall. Head left at the base for five to ten minutes. You'll pass Exasperator (a striking finger crack that splits the wall and shoots off right) shortly before the direct start of Apron Strings, which starts on a ledge in a right facing corner and goes up an obvious hand crack.
For the indirect start (easier and shorter), keeping walking past Apron Strings for another five minutes, until you can gain some right facing ramps and ledges leading to the top of the second pitch of Apron Strings. You'll know you're on route when you see a big, fixed chain hanging down from a ledge. Batman up the chain and keep moving right, past a fixed anchor to another bolted anchor that marks the start of Mercy Me. Look for the first bolt up the dyke--about 40 feet up. That's the route.
Route DescriptionThere are three ways to start the route. All belays are bolted.
The indirect start traverses in to Mercy Me from the left, via ledges and a fixed rope.
The direct start is Apron Strings, a classic in its own right, which adds two 5.10 pitches to the route.
An even better start is Cruel Shoes, which starts with the first (best) pitch of Apron Strings, before cutting right on a zig-zagging journey across the face directly below the Split Pillar, offering better views of the climb to come as well as stacking several more hard 5.10 pitches onto the approach, making for a memorable 11-pitch adventure up the wall. Do this one for a full value day.
P1. Apron Strings. Layback up a steep corner, which gets harder the higher you go. Toward the top I threw in a ring-sized piece and gunned for the exit block. Pumpy however you do it. 10b.
P2. Stem up a corner, some tricky moves and then a long, easy, wide crack to the anchors. 10a.
P3. Mercy Me (still technically an approach pitch). Face climb the dyke, clipping three bolts in 40 meters, most of them clustered around the middle. 5.7.
P4. Similar but slightly harder climbing (5.8). Cut right after the second bolt. The stand-alone Mercy Me route continues to follow the dyke to the left but you want to traverse to the right, aiming for the tree at the base of the Split Pillar. A bolt protects a reachy, sideways move (5.9) to a flake. Get in some gear if you feel the need. Climb the flake to a roof, at which point you'll traverse right and down, clipping the occasional bolt or pin. You'll reach a bolted anchor but I clipped it and continued the traverse. The traverse ends at a block, forcing you to cut loose with your feet, dangle over the edge and mantle up. This is the crux of the pitch. 10b.
P1. Climb the first pitch of Apron Strings but near the top cut right to the bolted belay on the face.
P2. Runout but easy climbing up a corner, then move right to clip a bolt (you may find some gear before then but it would make rope drag a problem). Enter another thin corner system, clip a fixed pin, climb high left into the corner to clip a bolt, then down climb, unclip the pin and move straight up toward a line of bolts. This is the first crux of the climb, a hard, committing move to get to the next clip. 10d.
P3. Traverse straight right, clipping bolts. Several, hard, reachy moves with a decent fall potential for the second as well. 10b.
P4. Climb a thin, technical corner, mostly bolt protected. 10c.
P5. Move left again, clipping a couple of bolts on runout 5.9 ground. 5.9.
P6. Move right again, before moving left again, following bolts. The crux of the route is the leftward move. Easier climbing takes you to the base of the Split Pillar.
The Grand Wall.
P1. The Split Pillar. Climb a three bolt ladder to a tree and the ledge at the base of the Split Pillar. Climb the pillar, a perfect hand crack that widens near the top. Climb a squeeze chimney (no gear) to the belay. It was a tight fit with shoes on my harness. My second managed to face climb and layback the outside of the chimney with a pack on. 10b.
Note: Please don't pee in the chimney. Someone did recently and it stank like an alley behind a bar when I climbed it and still reeked when I was belaying.
P2. The Sword. Up the wide flake to a ledge and the technical crux of the route. Climb the corner. There's good gear and a great side pull down low; poor gear, marginal fingers and no feet to speak of near the top. You'll be cranking mantle moves on sloppers until you can find the good crack way in the back. Being bold and strong helps (I was neither). From the stance, move left to a seemingly blank wall that instantly drops hundreds of feet into space. Find the crack at the end of your reach and move into it. Climb straight up with ok gear until you are forced back into the corner, where you'll throw in some cams and race the pump up a hard layback to the chains. Reaching for the chains is a popular place to fall. Climb a long bolt ladder to the belay. 11a.
P3. Perry's Layback. A short but highly strenuous layback, protected by many bolts. Probably a bad idea to clip every bolt unless you want to aid the pitch. There's an awesome hands free rest in a chimney at the top that makes you think God must be a climber.
P4. The Flats. Go right on bushy ledges (a good bathroom break) and find a series of right-tending bolts that mark a fun pitch of face climbing. 10a.
P5. The Sail Flake. Climb a tree to a corner and tackle the Sail Flake, a magnificent overhanging flake that juts out right for about six feet before cutting up and back. I thought it looked much harder than the grade but it was right on. Throw in a couple of cams at the start, gun it out right on poor feet until you can grab the end of the flake with your right hand, giving you a decent stance to plug in another piece before moving up to easier ground. 10c.
Shake your partner's hand and try not to grin too much.
Descent: Traverse right on the Bellygood Ledge. Most parties stay roped up for a really exposed section, protected before and after with bolts. Follow the ledge into the woods and look for the red trail markers that lead to the main Chief trail.