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.