With many ambitious goals for the trip, we are taking our training very seriously. On our journey we will face many challenges both on and off the walls. We really like choss, so we need to prepare ourselves if we even want a chance at scaling some of North America's most iconic faces.
So, this past weekend, the weekend of June 3rd, 2016, the Choss Boys embarked on a training mission. We set off on a Saturday afternoon to the town of Swift Current, Newfoundland. The developing crag boasts high quality trad and sport routes, and local climbers had even been cleaning and bolting new routes earlier in the season. Unlike the local climbing area for St. John's - Mainface, Flatrock - the rock in Swift Current is granite, which gives us the chance to practice on something a little more similar to the West coast.
The plan was simple: 1) find a nice camping spot near the cliffs, 2) heat up the delicious supper Erik had prepared for us earlier in the day while replicating van cooking conditions, 3) sleep well, and 4) wake up and spend the next day climbing on some beautiful granite...
We arrived at the parking lot near dusk, hungry because we decided to postpone supper until we set up camp for the night. I (Nick) suddenly had an insatiable bout of "summit fever" and fervently deliberated we camp at the summit.
So the Choss Boys decided to bivy at the very top of the hillside (the highest point visible in the photo above). Erik hefted our big wall haul bag, a 120 L tube that he had more or less filled, for training purposes. Daniel brought an old hiking pack with more gear strapped on the outside than he had managed to actually fit inside. I had two separate bags for climbing and camping gear; my solution was to "piggyback" my climbing bag on top of the camping pack. Needless to say, we were each overly encumbered.
Somehow, the hike up to the top of the hill was much more difficult than we thought it would be. The trail only went up to the very base of the cliffs. After that, we had to ascend a 15 m fixed rope, haul up the gear, and then tear and squirm our way through dense tree and bush all the way to the top. Our route followed the gully which runs on the left side of the main ridge in the photo above. This seemingly straightforward gully got steeper and steeper. The trees in the gully got more and more dense. Eventually it culminated by climbing a short but heinous boulder problem concealed by thick brush while wearing our packs.
The Choss Boys were disheveled, ravenous, and exhausted from climbing the brambly hill. We scrambled the last stretch of rocky slope to the top, and were pleasantly surprised to find a perfect area to camp. We finished off our night with Erik's delicious curry, some cognac, and a brilliant view from the top of the hill. The soulful hooting of a great horned owl lulled us to sleep under the clear sky of an extraordinarily tranquil night.
We awoke the next morning to a beautiful vista of layered clouds, calm ocean, and the quaint houses of swift current nestled into the base of the surrounding hills. The morning was warm and still, not even a light breeze to buffet the fly of our tent.
We also noticed we had not quite reached the real summit of the hill. So, after finishing our pineapple oatmeal for breakfast, we excitedly scrambled 100 meters to the very top, and felt rewarded with the beautiful view of a clear summer's day in Swift Current.
As soon as we returned to camp, we quickly realized the impact of such a beautiful, still morning in out-port Newfoundland. Yes, there was no wind at all, and especially on top of any exposed bluff or hill in Newfoundland, this is very rare. Consequently we found ourselves under assault...
In almost every way, we had over prepared for this excursion. However, we neglected to consider the possibility of flies. Black flies are small, aggressive, and blow away easily with any wind. So with zero wind, let me tell you, there was an abundance of flies.
Our morning plans to climb quickly came under question as we carefully descended the rocky face of the hillside looking for a place to rappel into the upper climbing area. The warm morning made for a tough choice between wearing a jacket and a t-shirt. Daniel opted to keep his rain jacket on, covering most of his body from the flies. I on the other hand, wore just my t-shirt.
By the time we had set up for the rappel, a dark cloud of black flies had descended on us, and I was an easy meal. As I fumbled with the tangled rope, and searched deep in my pack for my harness and rappelling equipment, the black flies took full advantage of my exposed arms, neck and face. Needless to say, I didn't capture this mayhem with my camera.
Finally, I was able to rappel to the base of the cliff, and escape the worst of the swarm. Daniel struggled to lower down his pack that was festooned with extra gear, constantly getting tangled in the brush. Erik decided to practice a big wall climbing skill and "ride the pig," rappelling with the entire haul bag dangling between his legs.
We ended up doing just one climb, a new route our friend David had bolted two weeks previously. It was Erik's first time in the area, so we insisted he take the lead. I followed and cleaned the gear, while Daniel finally foiled the black flies by hiding in a makeshift cocoon.
The Choss Boys made a valiant effort to climb, even though they risked being eaten alive, and therefore decided to reward themselves with a lunch on a dock by the shore.
We escaped the woods, put our gear back in the car, and headed down to a derelict warf to enjoy some sandwiches. Damn they were good!
Things we learned:
We are Daniel, David & Nick
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