Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Throw Down

About 10 days ago I hiked up to the Cobra crack with my good buddy Matt Segal. It was his last day in Squamish before an epic drive back to Boulder Colorado. I had done the hike innumerable times this summer- lots for Magical Dog, and lots to try the Cobra. Every bend and rock in the trail is familiar to me. Matt needed a belayer and I was more than willing to skip out on day of manual labour to help out a friend. After all, it was his last day of a 1.5 month trip. After a Jamaica-like August, things were cooling down and conditions were pretty much perfect.

Simply put, the Cobra is the most badass line in Squamish. Nothing else comes close. It is a laser-cut finger splitter out a whale-belly of impeccable granite. The rock is mint- but the crystals are finger shredding. It has a long and storied history. Peter Croft and Tami Knight first aided the pitch in 1981. Andrew Boyd spent a while working it, as did Jordan Wright, Jim Sandford and Didier Berthod. Finally, after years of effort, Canadian golden boy Sonnie Trotter fired the thing in the summer of 2006, ending the saga of freeing the Cobra. When I took my first trad course, Graeme Taylor mentioned an impossible crack hidden somewhere on the backside of the Chief. To me, the line represents the ultimate in single pitch climbing.

Despite the hour long approach, people often make the trek up to the Cobra to watch the action. Squamish isn't the backwater training ground it once was. Tourists, who have never even tied into a rope, ask, "is this the cobra crack?" In the age of YouTube and Google, thousands have seen the Patagonia video of Sonnie climbing the first ascent. It's all sorta weird.

On this day, there wasn't anyone up there save me and Segal. I would have expected Segal to appear nervous but he was ice-cool and calm. He dropped a toprope on it and warmed up a bit. I tried it a bit and marveled at how a summer's dabbling on the line had made it feel way more doable. I could finally do three quarters of the mono move... and was ecstatic.

Segal tied in and moved aggressively through the first section. He rested for a while before the crux, steeling himself to give everything he had. Then, he simply fired it, charging like a steam train through the sequences and grunted out the crux. I was in awe. Despite the pressure, he sent it.

At the top, Matt hollered, "Truck! Coors! Bitches!" which had been this summer's slogan of choice. My fingers were tingling and I was having minor arm reflex spasms just watching. Crazy how the body works...

Kudos, Matt. I am glad you waited out the storms and didn't lose hope. Totally an inspiration, bud. You have inspired me to train like a demon and one day free the Cobra as well.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Over and done with

A couple days ago I freed the Cannabis Wall with Jason Kruk following behind me.

When I was younger I used to get very excited after sending a hard project and be on cloud nine for days. Nowadays, I am on cloud nine for a few hours and I immediately start thinking about the next route and the next challenge. Right now, I feel more ravenous to climb that I have in a long time. I can't help but feel the Cannabis is just a stepping stone for cooler and bigger things. Like maybe freeing Breakfast Run on top of Cannabis?

At the moment, I feel directionless and unhinged. These little routes are like time capsules, and so very all-consuming. There is nothing I like better than climbing into new terrain, totally open to the puzzle and the possibilities. Those late summer days on Cannabis, scrubbing and snooping around for holds, are what I really love. Now it's over and I feel a little empty.

Thanks alot to Jason in particular for sticking to the project and also Mike Styles and Ethan Pringle who came up there with me with an open mind.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shoveling rocks

I have spent some time lately trying to free the Cannabis Wall and shoveling rocks to make a bit of money. Shoveling rocks in this weather is truly heartbreaking, because the weather is so stellar. I should be shoveling in a torrential downpour, but instead I shovel in perfect temps: 18 degrees, clear, and sunny. Rugged.

Today Jason and I are heading up to try Cannabis, again. My shoulders are sore from manual labour, but I am stoked. Shoveling, I feel like a fish out of water. I have little in common with construction workers talking about new saws or torque on f-150s. But on Cannabis, trying really hard, I feel like I'm doing what I should be doing. Even though it's uncomfortable and spooky on Cannabis, I feel at home up there.

Time to pour another cup of coffee and rack the RPs and TCUs.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Grand Wall Speed Record

Climbing is pretty pointless. Is there a reason to race up the Grand Wall as fast as possible with a dangerously small rack? No, not really. But if you're going to play a stupid game you might as well have stupid amounts of fun doing it.

Kruk and I got stoked on the idea of beating Sig and Guy's 1:44 record, set twelve years ago. Over a couple Pilsners one night, we trimmed down the rack and postulated on our systems. 30 metre rope, one Yates ROCKER and a selection of Metolius TCUs and draws.

We had one dry run where we got caught behind some Euros with a dozens of ropes on the Pillar.... Rough. Try two started at 7:30pm after a half day of guiding. Krukker and I cracked a couple enormous energy drinks and dashed to the base. 1 hour 13 minutes later we were at the top of the Roman Chimneys, chests heaving and borderline spitting blood... I was blown away at how fast Kruk led the Roman Chimneys. The guy is an animal.

We had a couple Pilsners stashed in Jason's car and guzzled them with the beats of Tupac blasting on my little "sound system".

For me, the highlight was leading the Sword in the dying evening light, shirtless and at top speed. Pretty much as good as it gets.