Writing contributions from our friends
The Choss Boys invite friends who have shared in their adventures to contribute stories from their own perspective.
Skye has been our kindred spirit for many years now. We became friends immediately when she started working at Wallnuts, our local climbing gym in St. John's. At first, our friendship involved frequent shenanigans that took place while she should have been working. As our companionship evolved, Skye accompanied us on several outdoor climbing adventures, camping trips, and has continually proven that she can party us under the table. Here, Skye writes about her experiences in Squamish during August, 2016.
Nick and Dan have been my climbing mentors since I was a young grasshopper doing my
first Learn to Climb course. By that I mean I was 20-odd years old and had just started working at a climbing gym with no idea how to climb. I was honored when they asked me to contribute to the prestigious Choss Boys blog, feeling that I had finally achieved "climber" status in their eyes. The beginning of the boys' epic 9-month journey fortuitously coincided with my first ever 10-day rookie climbing trip in Squamish, BC.
Let's throw back to last summer; I was chasing after Nick and Dan to climb with me and teach me new skills, and they obliged — delighting in seeing me squirm each time they pushed me a little further outside of my comfort zone. Although I'd been slowly improving my gym climbing ability thanks to their guidance (and no thanks to the many weekends of staying out too late and having too many glasses of wine), outdoor climbing was another beast entirely. On one particularly memorable day, the boys took it upon themselves to help me lead my hardest outdoor climb yet. Nick was at the top of the climb, cheering me on and taking pictures, while Daniel was belaying me down below, commentating on my hand and foot placements. I approached the crux of the route, pulled through the hard moves, and then panicked. I was too gassed to go any further, but too scared to let go and fall below my last bolt. I held on for dear life until my forearms screamed and my breathing all but stopped. It was right about this time that Nick switched to video mode on his phone, and I started crying due to a mix of fear/pain/irregular breathing. My grip gave out and I swung below the bolt, a perfect "whipper," no worse for wear. I laughed and climbed back up with almost no fear, and Nick and Dan proceeded to mock me incessantly for crying on video during a climb, something they continue to do to this day.
You could say that I had something to prove on this climbing trip, but in reality I knew I was under-trained, under-educated, and totally stoked to dive in anyway. My climbing "Squam Squad" consisted of Dave, Sarah, Tyler, and Ryan. The former three being friends who climb and train harder than me, armed with guidebooks, gear placement knowledge, and a list of climbs to tick off on the trip. And then there's Ryan. I taught Ryan how to lead climb last summer, after he was already halfway up a climb in Flatrock. His laid-back vibes might fool you, but he is incredibly stubborn; I often think that's the only thing keeping him on the rock in some of the outrageous positions he gets himself into. Naturally, he is the perfect climbing partner for me. While Nick and Dan philosophize over the ins and outs of a mental training program, Ryan and I yell profanities at each other and try to shame the other out of retreating. It's probably clear whose strategy is working best for them at this point.
Our first few days in Squamish were a whirlwind introduction to the many crags in the area, climbing somewhere different each day(!). We crammed the five of us into Ryan's already jam-packed Jeep, and after a moderately uncomfortable ride we would pile out with our climbing gear and lunches, and settle in to spend the day doing what we love best: slowly scraping the skin off our fingertips with giant slabs of rock (...I didn't say we were normal).
On one occasion, we met Wesley and the Choss Boys at the Smoke Bluffs for a day of fun (read: hard) climbing. Not being proficient in gear placements, Ryan and I struggled to find adequately easy sport climbs. After scampering up a few top ropes, we decided to search out some fully bolted climbs to test our prowess. If it was a test, we definitely failed. We tried to do a moderate 5.10a sport climb that looked easy to find in the guidebook, but unbeknownst to us, we ended up on a seriously hard 5.11d route. Upon first inspection Ryan thought it looked "pretty easy", which led to him getting 2 bolts up before realizing the slabby rock face in front of him was completely devoid of any features for hand or foot placement. After dancing back and forth in a 2 foot radius around the second bolt for more than a few minutes, he lowered his body belly-down onto the rock and said "I'm just going to lie here for a minute". We both knew that he wasn't going anywhere with it, and after I roped up and got no farther up, we were ready to call it a lost cause. Having not completed the climb, and not being prepared enough to bring bail gear, we left one of our precious quickdraws on the climb in order to rappel down. A sacrifice to the climbing gods (if you can climb 11d slab we consider you on god-like status).
Reeling from our Smoke Bluffs let-down, Ryan and I left for Cheakamus Canyon solo the next day. Our mission: to lead some stuff and not totally embarrass ourselves. We hiked in to a spot that had a couple good warm-up climbs (a fellow climbing group told us "I think those two are 5.9). We both crushed the first 5.9 and carried our mojo over to the line of bolts to the left.
Three bolts up, Ryan stalled. "I don't think this climb is a 5.9...". Foiled again, we later realized that again we had misread the routes, and were this time on a 5.10d. Again Ryan danced back and forth, and even took a few falls before resigning to come down. I cinched up my helmet and tied in to the "sharp end" of the rope. I cruised up past the first few bolts, found where Ryan had been stuck, got my foot way up high and rocked over, pulling up on a tiny hold to bring me up to the next bolt. I clipped the bolt and kept going. The next section was steep and had a little hand crack that almost got me up to my next clipping hold, but not quite. Further over, there was a series of tempting giant flakes in the rock that brought me nowhere near where I needed to go. And of course they had deceiving chalk marks on them from previous climbers that fell for the same trap. After several attempts, I gave up on finishing the climb.
Ryan was eager to try the end of the climb, with him being our last hope at completing the climb (and getting our gear back), we needed to amp ourselves up sufficiently with Great Big Sea and tetra pack wine. I don't know if it was the "hype", or Ryan's skill (although I maintain it's just the fact that he's a few inches taller than me), but he sailed up the corner where I had got stuck, clipped the last bolt and made it to the top. We tried to play it cool with the group of newer climbers next to us and contained our excitement to a celebratory high-five before heading up the next climb.
After climbing for three days straight, Ryan and I were ready to change things up, and do some more climbing. We figured that bouldering basically counted as a rest day, since you're only climbing about 10% of the time, and the rest of the time you're drinking IPAs on your crashpad and trying to look cool. The day got off to a rough start when I went to grab our breakfast stuff from the Jeep, and realized I couldn't find it — the Jeep, not the breakfast stuff. I dragged Ryan out of the tent and we quickly realized that it was not my mistake, and the Jeep was actually gone. Turns out the park rangers meant it when they said you couldn't park overnight in some of the campground lots. Ryan called the towing company and took a cab to town to pick up Delilah (the Jeep). I was feeling a little uneasy that morning but figured coffee and breakfast would give me enough energy to keep me going until we broke out the bouldering beers. By the time Ryan got back, I was definitely feeling nauseous and he was probably feeling the same after shelling out a $140 towing fine.
After climbing a couple boulders, I knew I wasn't going to last the afternoon, so I headed back to the tent for a rest. My "rest" ended up consisting of a few hours of nausea and stomach pains, followed by power-puking my breakfast out the back of the tent. I had been hoping to hike up to meet the Choss Boys after their Grand Wall ascent that afternoon, but was in no condition to do so. Feeling weak but determined, I decided I could at the very least meet them at their van (Wesley) to congratulate them. I walked the few minutes to the parking lot only to realize that no one was back yet, and I was too weak to walk back. Later, the Choss Boys found me lying in a patch of grass next to Wesley that smelled faintly of urine. Although our heroes were exhausted from a grueling day of climbing, they didn't hesitate to sit me up, give me some Gatorade, and ask why I looked so terrible. Things started to turn around for me at that point, although I had to pass on joining the gang for 2-pound burritos at Mag's that night. It took me another day to be able to stand looking at and smelling food again, let alone eating. I'm still not sure what I ate that caused me to get so sick!
Two nights after the awful food-poisoning day, we heard a buzz around the campground that there was going to be a meteorite shower that night, and all the cool kids were hiking to the top of the Chief to check it out. I still wasn't feeling 100%, but I felt like I couldn't pass up an opportunity like this. It also didn't hurt that Ryan offered to carry both of our sleeping bags and pads up so that we could sleep on top of the mountain. We set out at 11 PM with our crew (Sarah, Tyler, Kate, and Erik), who quickly left us in their dust as we encountered flight after flight of stairs. Being used to east coast hiking, I figured that the hike would probably be moderately difficult and we might get short of breath once or twice. A quarter of the way up the Chief, we were alarmed to have committed to an extremely intense cardio workout with no (shameless) way out but completing the roughly 2,000-foot vertical climb. Finally, rolling out our sleeping bags under the starry night sky was made that much sweeter by the immense relief of not having perished on the way up.
The next morning, I awoke feeling better than I had in days, and opened by eyes to the stunning landscape visible from the top of the Chief. It was like Christmas morning. I wandered over to the edge admired the view with some of the other campers. Just as I was wishing I had a cup of coffee, a total stranger offered to make one for me. I almost decided to live there right on the spot. After taking in the landscape, and a sufficient amount of caffeine, we moseyed over to the other side of the peak to check out a highline festival that was going on that weekend. While none of our squad had experience highlining, or even much slacklining, we let ourselves be convinced to roll out on the line and check it out anyway. Even with a harness and two tethers to the line, I had butterflies in my stomach when I rolled my body on top of the rope and found myself looking straight down into the abyss. I didn't manage to walk on the line, but the adrenaline rush alone was enough to satisfy my climber cravings. At this point it had already been one of the best days of my life, and it was only 11 AM.
All in all, I had an amazing trip and was sad to come back home to real life (although my legs reminded me of the Chief hike for 5 days after I got back). I was delighted to be able to spend time with the Choss Boys on this trip, and feel like with all the adventures I had in only 10 days, I can only begin to appreciate how many wild experiences they'll have over the course of the next few months. I can't wait until we're back on the same rock together, and am already anticipating a good mocking now that I've added a puking incident on top of the crying one.