The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Going Coastal ...

"British Columbia. Beautiful British Columbia."

That opening was the way the previous post was meant to start, but it's kind of good that it was missed off, as it is just as appropriate for the past week or so of our trip.
We're on the coast, after having moved on down from the Whistler area, and it's so good to be by the sea again after months away from salt water. I guess we love the ocean, and the great thing about being on the coast in B.C. is that there are great mountains rearing up out of the Pacific - or, in the case of Squamish, Howe Sound: North America's southernmost fiord.
The day after we arrived in the Sea to Sky corridor, we had another day of sport climbing at Cheakamus Canyon on a little buttress called Foundation Wall. If you checked out the last link you will have seen that 6 climbs are listed; there is now a seventh route in between Real TV and Mystery, an 11a called Mystery TV. (If you're not a climber and you want to know about grading in climbing, you can go here for a general overview, and here for an explanation of the Yosemite Decimal System, which is what I am referring to in the grades mentioned in this blog.) We thought we'd have a go at all seven routes - they are all pretty short - before heading down the road to Squamish. And Di decided that we'd move from left to right. On the third route - a 10d - she had a small slip and tweaked her left shoulder, but pulled back on to the route and completed the pitch. Of course, Di being Di, she insisted on climbing all of the rest of the routes on the wall - although she was sore enough by the end that she decided that she would only top-rope the last (and shortest) climb.
Despite Di's little injury it was a fun morning. There was a guide teaching three novice leaders how to lead safely on bolts, and it was interesting background patter to our climbing. It started to rain lightly just as were were completing our little tick list. Happily, Foundation Wall was only about 15 seconds walk from Big Blue so we didn't get very wet on the way back to shelter. We'd decided to get straight on the rock before breakfast so we enjoyed a great brunch of burritos before firing up Big Blue and heading south towards Squamish. Sure enough, Di's shoulder did get more sore as the day progressed. I thought I'd try to cheer her up with a makeshift version of one my favourite dishes. It turned out pretty good, despite not having some of the ingredients that make it really special. Here's a photo of Paella Big Blue ...

... and another of us sitting down to dinner:

The next morning Di's shoulder was still a bit sore so we decided to have a rest day. Well, we did get a bit of exercise in the form of a walk into town from our campsite in under the Chief, and made our first visit to the excellent Zephyr Cafe. On our walk back to camp we realised that we needed to do some shopping, so drove back into town, and I did my blogging thing while Di gave her brain a little dose of Lumosity.
The next day Di thought that she would be able to climb a bit so we went to Starr Wall on the Malemute to reacquaint ourselves with Squamish jamming. We did three great pitches: High Mountain Woody, Stephanie's Tears and Paul's Crack. Here's a photo Di took of me coming up to the belay at the top of Stephanie's Tears (Di strung the two pitches together into one long, fabulous pitch):

The view of Howe Sound from the top of Starr Wall is pretty good:

This was a very pleasant re-introduction to the polished granite of Squamish and, as Di's shoulder was still a little sore, we decided to stop after just doing the three climbs. 

It was Di's turn to make a game plan for the next day. We were trying to mix revisiting old favourites and exploring new routes while concentrating on quality. Di leafed through the guidebook and found a route called Hairpin on a cliff called The Papoose, which the author lists as one of Squamish's "Top 100". One pundit describes Hairpin this way: "the bulletproof, glacier carved granite is some of the best stone in Squamish". The five pitches go at 5.8, 10a, 5.9, 5.7 and 10a.
This photo of Di leading the first pitch - a long traverse - illustrates quite nicely some effects of glaciation ...

... and here's Di approaching the belay on the top of the second pitch:

As you can see, The Papoose is poised just above the Sea to Sky highway. Hairpin proved to be a wonderfully varied climb and we thought it deserved its rating as one of Squamish's best. Here's what the view north is like from around the middle of the route:

Amongst all this climbing, we've fielded several inquiries in response to our ad on Kijiji to find a new owner for Big Blue. One of the people who responded was Tracey, a lovely lady from White Rock. After a few emails, Tracey and her friend Patty drove up to Squamish the day before yesterday to have a look. She'd been to have a look at a number of other vans and hadn't been impressed much. However, Tracey seemed to like Big Blue a lot, at least enough make an attractive offer - subject to him passing the Air Care test, which needed to happen if Big Blue is to be registered in the greater Vancouver area (up to this point he's always called Vancouver Island home.) Tracey was pretty sure Big Blue would pass: sure enough to pay for the test to be done. We didn't have any idea of how he would go. Although he's a little smelly when you first fire him up on a cold morning, he doesn't blow smoke at all and seems to run pretty cleanly.

Although we we felt we were just starting to get a taste for Squamish climbing again, we were also pretty keen to try to seal the deal. As much as we've become attached to Big Blue, we didn't want him sitting around for a year or two waiting for us to use him again. So, yesterday morning we hiked up to the Bulletheads area early for a quick climb before heading off to North Vancouver, and the nearest Air Care test centre to Squamish. (As an aside, Tracey told us that the B.C. government is planning to phase out the Air Care program in a couple of years, as it has had the desired effect of getting old , polluting clunkers off the road.) We pulled straight in and got Big Blue tested. And he passed! Here's the evidence:

We were over the moon, and let Tracey know right away. She said she'd transfer the agreed 10% deposit today, so it looks like we have a sale. It will be sad parting with Big Blue but it looks like he is going to a good home.

After we did the Air Care test we detoured to a delicatessen in North Vancouver for some special shopping, which will have to remain a mystery until the next post. Then it was on to Horseshoe Bay to catch the ferry to Nanaimo, and the drive north to Comox for another visit with my foks. We were at the ferry terminal by 12:00 but the 12:30 ferry was full. I used some of the wait time to go online and find a place on the island to have a celebratory dinner. I came up with a lovely Italian place in Qualicum Beach called Giovanni's Ristorante. Here we are toasting our (prospective) sale of Big Blue (whoops! I'm still wearing my climbing shirt):

The rest of the drive up to Comox was gorgeous: pearly light across Georgia Strait and the Coast Range. Di wondered a number of times if we should stop for a photo, but we concluded that it was one of those situations where no single image stands out - it is just an overall mood that seeps into your psyche and creates a sense of well being.

And there you have it: going coastal ...

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