Identical brick houses flank the gridded metropolitan streets of Southern Ontario. The horizon is confined to a few blocks. After living in Hamilton for five months, I (Nick) felt an inkling of suffocation, so I booked a plane ticket home to Newfoundland on a whim, and took a deep breath… is salt-spray in the air?
Friday, 16 February, 2018
My dorso-ventral girth is doubled with the addition of my hiking pack, and its brain rises a full six inches above my own. Crouching like a spelunker, I attempt the low-ceilinged staircase and manage to ascend eight steps before my ski bag rams the door at the top. I curse. Letting go of the carrying straps, I pinch the far end of the bag and advance to the top step. Reaching up, I twist the knob, flooding the passageway with light. Through eight or nine convoluted maneuvers, I finally make my escape from the basement.
Three flights and thirteen hours later, my beaming parents collect me from the bottom of the ‘Arrivals’ escalator in YYT. Dad’s jocular efforts to heft my baggage from the conveyor metastasize into a comedy of errors, drawing chuckles from onlookers. A warm welcome indeed.
Wednesday, 16 August, 2017 - Squamish Chief Campground
"It's no problem, we just have to make it to Chilliwack. I booked us two Greyhound tickets leaving Thursday at 10AM."
"Ok, so where's the Greyhound station?"
"Don't worry about it Erik... I'll just call Greyhound's customer service and ask them to have the bus pick us up in downtown Squamish. It's a 45 minute walk. Easy."
Friday, 18 August, 2017 - Highway 99
Soon enough, Erik and I forgot about our roadside trek. After all, we were finally on our way to Mount Slesse, the cynosure of our expedition, and nothing could stop us.
And then someone flipped the “On” switch in my brain. Under a title that read “What’s Next for the Choss Boys?” was a photo of the soaring North East Buttress of Mt. Slesse. The image was taken with impossible exactness, with every contrasting relief of the knife-blade North East Buttress etched in perfect detail. I shuddered in my Rubbermaid chair. The steep ridge led directly into a dark, ominous, black headwall of gneiss that towered above neighboring peaks. A plane had crashed into Mt. Slesse in the 1950s, exploding airplane fuselage and body parts all over the mountain, a history that added a sense of tacit foreboding. Nick said he was hoping to climb the peak next summer… “maybe.”
With that, the presentation was over, and a chapter was closed on the Choss Boys' epic adventures. Although I sensed a whole new chapter was just beginning…
This post is all about mine and Nick’s climbing adventures in British Columbia during August of 2017. It’s our “prequel,” highlighting some of the planning, training, and preparations that went into our two-week-long tear through the alpine that resulted in successful ascents of two "50 classics," and three stunning mountain summits. So “Read More” and jump into another season of Choss Boys adventures - and stay tuned for three follow-up stories featuring each of the mountains we climbed.
Coming to Mexico, Daniel and I (Nick) were looking for two things: bolts, and a break. After five straight months of trad climbing, big walls, and alpine climbing, we wanted a vacation from our vacation. Well, El Potrero Chico gave us all that we wished for, and more.
I (Dave) have joined Nick and Dan for three and a half months of climbing! For the last 5 years, a road trip around the United States has been a big goal of mine. Recent grad school acceptance has led me to resigning from my job and joining Nick and Dan under pretty short notice – It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to join the "Choss Boys" after they planned such an amazing trip!
Living in the "Chossmobile" (a 1985 Dodge Ram Get-Away Van) is more comfortable than I initially expected, but not without its quirks – here are a few stray observations from the first couple weeks on the road.
Fully stocked up on non-perishables, Nick and Daniel have done all they can to prepare for the mountains
Sunday, August 15, 2016
From the Okanagan, we drove North-East through the mountain towns of Revelstoke, and Golden. Before making one final stock-up on gas and supplies, we finally arrived in Brisco, the turn off into the back-country.
Bugaboo Creek road is a 50km stretch of dirt leading through the valleys to the South-Eastern boundary of Bugaboo Provincial Park. Aside from simple descriptions online of the campgrounds and the climbs, neither Daniel, nor I (Nick) knew what to expect once we got there; it was a completely novel environment. Accordingly, excitement was heavily present during the drive in.
On our way to the Bugaboos, we drove through the warm and beautiful Okanagan Valley. I (Daniel) wanted the chance to stop in Penticton and visit my cousin, Nathan Alacoque. Conveniently, the popular climbing area, Skaha Bluffs, is also in Penticton!
I last saw Nathan in 1999. He was 6 years old, I was 9 years old, and we both barely remember it. Towering above me at 6 foot 3 inches, Nathan is now 23. His voice is low like his dad's and he is super friendly. He recently graduated from engineering and for the time being, he is happily working as a car mechanic with his best friend and roommate RJ. One of their life-long hobbies is buying and fixing up 'roaches' (old cars). So, they have a small collection of old, well-running vehicles. Every one of them featuring a large sticker of the never-before-used hashtag: #roachnation. Needless to say, Nathan and RJ loved our roach, Wesley, a 1985 Dodge Camper Van. Being complete car newbies, we used this chance to ask every basic car question imaginable...
"There is a little nob on the floor underneath brake and we don't know what it does," I explained. Speaking without hesitation, Nathan responded, "it switches from your headlights to your high-beams." We suddenly had memories of many vehicles driving in the opposite direction and frantically blinking their high-beams as they passed. Unknowingly up to that point, we had drove every night with our high-beams blaring.
The Skaha Bluffs is a picturesque, desert-like climbing area with many steep, short cliffs all within a half-hour's walk. Many routes have interesting, unique features and simply walking up to the climbs is as easy as walking into a climbing gym. Our time there was brief, and for some reason, it felt very much like a vacation.
Tuesday there was rain in the forecast for Squamish. Finally, my (Erik's) chance to convince the boys of the perfect rain day activity: surfing in Tofino. Here's a few highlights from our trip.
July 29th, 2016
During a short visit to the Squamish Adventure Centre (in search of free wifi), I (Nick) noticed a sign reading "Squamish: the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada." It's true, there is a lot more to do here than just climb. In particular, I was interested in the world-famous local rivers.
My friend Seamus is living in Victoria this summer. Daniel and I paid him a visit already during our camper van search. Seamus and I began whitewater kayaking together 3 years ago in Newfoundland. With the grace of my fellow Choss Boys, I planned for him to live with us in the van for a weekend, creating an opportunity to get on the rapids.
We figured out, thanks to the help of a local kayak guide named Don, that our best (and cheapest) option for kayaking was to rent equipment from MEC and seek knowledgeable locals to help pick rivers that suit our abilities. So, with plans laid, and reservations made, I set out for MEC in downtown Vancouver on the busy Friday evening of the August long weekend.
Driving the van into the city to pick up the rentals from MEC was the beginning of my adventure. Limited blindspot visibility, tight parking spots, fast drivers, and a perplexing vehicle height limit on MEC's open roof parking area made the rental pick-up a white knuckle experience. The van pulled through unscathed, but, devastatingly, our french press was smashed in the process. I continued on to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to find Seamus sitting on the sidewalk with his mountain bike.
"Oh! you brought your mountain bike with you too?" I said hesitantly.
"Yeah, I guess I forgot to tell you..."
The van soon became a very crowded space.
Nick, Seamus, and I (Daniel) were heading from Squamish to Tofino, dropping off Seamus in Nanaimo on the way. Thanks to a conversation with my cousin Anna along the way, we chose the name Wesley for the van. Upbeat, we were happily bouncing around in our newly named Chossmobile.
Once we crossed on the ferry to Nanimo, Nick and I slowly said our goodbyes to Seamus. It was almost dark when we started the 3-hour drive to Tofino. Nick happily drove while I chatted to my girlfriend Sarah Jane in the back of the van. As we neared Tofino, we were getting tired but the winding turns in the road kept us on edge. Nerves were high. All of a sudden, Wesley's engine abruptly stopped and the Chossmobile puttered to a stop on the side of the highway. Nick informed me that "the accelerator just stopped working". We were 17 kilometers from Tofino. The time was 11:30PM. It was dark and no other vehicles were in sight.
The Chossmobile was chugging down the highway when the accelerator just stopped working. The engine abruptly turned off and Wesley rolled to a stop on the side of the highway.
We knew we would face this moment at some point on this trip, but we didn't expect it so soon. We weren't ready. Neither of us knew enough about carburetor engines, we didn't have any extra parts, and we didn't even have cell service!
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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