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, 11 September 2012

Bye-Bye, Big Blue, Bye -Bye


The sad day has come: we've parted with Big Blue. That happened just a couple of days ago, so I'll have to come back to the story of passing Big Blue on to  his new owner shortly if I'm going to keep things in order.

After the couple of days of great climbing at Cheakamus and in Squamish described in the most recent post, Di and I decided to have a day off from climbing to rest and catch up on the blog, with the intention of climbing another of the "Top 100" in the form of Centrefold on the Papoose. However, when we got up the wind was blowing, with some strong gusts amongst it. Di wasn't very keen to be up on a multi-pitch route in the wind, so we headed into town and a coffee at Zephyr. One thing didn't lead to another - if you get my drift - and we ended up back at the campground with our books and spent most of the day reading (Di idly engaged with something she can't remember, and me reading John Irving's "A Widow for One Year".)

Late that afternoon our friends Tammy and HJ arrived and aroused us from our torpor. After they'd selected a campsite and pitched their tent we headed over the new pedestrian bridge that spans Highway 99 and provides access to the cliff that's known as "The Malemute". When we arrived I discovered that my harness wasn't in my pack. I left the others gearing up to climb and raced - insofar as someone with a full hip replacement can "race" - back to our campsite to see if somehow I'd left my harness in the back of Big Blue when I was hastily putting together our gear. No luck! I then "raced" up to the base of The Chief where we'd last been climbing - via the noticeboard to see if anyone had posted a message saying they'd found a harness, which they hadn't - where I thought I must somehow have left it. It wasn't there either. And it was too late to drive to or call the climbing shop to check whether someone might have turned it in there. Disconsolately I made my way back across to the Malemute to take pictures and contemplate a quick visit to the climbing shop in the morning.

It was a gorgeous evening, and HJ, Di and Tammy were just finishing with a nice little 5.8 at the right hand end of Starr Wall. Here's a picture of Di and Tammy at the top of the wall enjoying the sun setting over the peaks on the western side of Howe Sound:

And here's a photo of HJ leading a 49 metre four star 10b, called Slap and Tickle:

While I was sorry to have lost my harness, the company was good and it was nice being out and about. I did get a good bit of exercise racing around like a madman looking for my harness. On the way back from the crag I took a photo of a bit of granite on the trail. I liked the way it was emerging from the surrounding soil, moss and tree routes. If you click on the photo for an expanded view, amongst the pitted surface you can see evidence of glaciers scraping across its surface tens of thousands of years ago:

Back at the camper I was bemused but delighted that Di held up my harness which she found lying in the pile of gear I had rummaged through ... no need now to go to the climbing shop in the morning!

We had another day to climb with HJ and Tammy before we all headed off to Vancouver for the weekend: Di and I to complete the sale of Big Blue and visit with some old friends, and Tammy and HJ to visit some friends whose wedding they attended a year ago. We decided to visit Olesen Creek Wall, an area that has been (re)developed (see link for more detail) relatively recently. Here is a topo of the crag showing the pitches we climbed (red for the ones Di and Tammy climbed; blue for the ones HJ and I climbed):

We went to the wall with the intention of climbing to the top of the crag but thought we might have to wait as there was another party on the second pitch when we arrived. We decided to get on the wall and do a pitch each and see what transpired. I was keen to get on the four star 10b called Thriller on the Pillar - partly because of the rating and partly because of the great name - and Di was enamoured of the look of Rumble in the Jungle. Here are the route descriptions from the guidebook:

When we'd arrived at the top of our respective pitches we decided to carry on, as the party in front of us was going on to do the Wire Crack finish, and their rappel route would be out of our way.
 (I didn't bring my camera, so you'll have to wait for me to get HJ's photos before You can see images of this area.)
After we'd finished and rappelled our route, HJ led the 10b pitch Hearsay. It gets 2 stars in the guidebook but would be worth at least three if it were cleaned up a bit more as it was still mossy and tended to collect pine needles. We all finished up climbing the first pitch of Wire Tap, meaning HJ and I climbed 7 seven pitches while Tammy and Di did six. It was mid afternoon by this time so we headed back to camp for some late lunch.

It was another gorgeous afternoon and HJ was keen to do another route so we all headed to Murrin Park; for HJ to have a go at one of the "Top 100" climbs in the form of an 11a called Perspective. My job was to belay and try to get up it on top-rope. Di and Tammy had their books and headed off to the lakeshore to catch some rays and relax.  Here's what the guidebook says about Perspective:
"Perspective 5.11a Top 100
Start in a recess and climb up and left into a right-facing corner. Pumpy with technical cruxes. Excellent!
SR to 3", 2 ea of all cams (30 m)"
For those non-climbers whom are reading this, the bits about "pumpy with technical cruxes" and "2 ea of all cams" mean that you've got to work really hard all the way and be ready to think quickly when you come to the most difficult sections, and that you will probably want to put in a fair bit of protection because there is a good chance you could fall off at any time! HJ managed to flash the route; I however came off twice trying to work out the top crux. 

By the time we got back to the cars, Di and Tammy were ensconced in Big Blue drinking red wine and eating smoked oysters. Somebody has to do it, eh? HJ and I initially slaked our thirsts with a beer from the Vancouver Island Brewery and then had our arms twisted to join our better halves in a glass of red. We concluded another great day outdoors with a fantastic putanesca pasta prepared by Tammy out at a picnic table between The Chief and the Sea to Sky Highway. 
Not a bad way to pass the time, eh?

The Hand-over

The next day was Saturday the 8th, our appointed rendezvous with Tracey to complete the sale of Big Blue. We arose fairly early, drove into Squamish for breakfast and proceeded to look for a laundromat. Since the last time we were here the laundromat on the main street town had closed,  Di had googled  laundromats and come up with three alternatives. It turns out that two of them had shut and the third was across the highway in Valleycliffe, which was inaccessible because of the Vancouver to Whistler Gran Fondo that was happening that day. The only thing to do was to head towards greater Vancouver and find a laundromat there. On the drive south it was really inspiring to see the number of participants in this event.
We found a laundromat in Richmond, fairly near the airport and got all our washing done and the van cleaned out. Next stop was the airport to pick up our rental car. That all went smoothly: I went in and did the paperwork while Di loitered in the bus area. We had to do it this way as Big Blue is so tall that we couldn't drive him into either the car park or the rental car pick-up area. Di was just getting moved on when I came back out after the paperwork was completed and we arranged to meet at the gas station just back at the entrance to the airport loop. The drive to White Rock went smoothly and we met Tracey and her friend Patty. It was a perfect place to do the business, with both our banks and an Insurance Corporation of British Columbia right nearby. After months of wondering how things would go when it came time to pass Big Blue on to a new owner, we were rapt with how smoothly things went. And we were so pleased to pass him on to someone who was genuinely excited about getting on the road to enjoy their first trip, which is scheduled to be next weekend in Pacific Rim National Park (the annual parks pass will be handy from the get-go!) Here is Tracey with her friend Patty taking possession of Big Blue:

Bye-bye, Big Blue!

James and Cathie

Our next destination was South Surrey, where we'd arranged to meet James and Cathie. James is one of my oldest friends, and one of the guys I originally set off to the South Seas with. (Four of us young Canucks flew to Hawaii and then cruised on to New Zealand together, travelled on and off together before rendezvousing in Australia. Two came back to North America; two didn't.) Although James and Cathie were just moving into a new home that was still being completed, they generously invited us to come and stay with them. It had been four years since we'd last been together, and we caught up on a lot of news. They are suddenly empty-nesters, with their youngest son off to school in the States just a couple of weeks ago.
James and Cathie live in a great location just up from the beach, and on Sunday morning we had a walk with them down to and along the shore, passing through some protected wetlands that provide habitat for an abundance of birdlife, including lots of Great Blue Herons. It's a popular spot for lots of water sports, including kayaking:

I did the obligatory self-timer photo on the walk. James is a tall drink of water (over 6'6" in the old language) but he scrunched down so the rest of us wouldn't look like pygmies:

It was fantastic catching up with these two great friends and we hope we can do a bit of hiking together in foreign lands some day, when life slows down a bit for them.

Back to Squamish

After a long time on the road, occasionally staying with friends but mostly hanging out in the more spartan confines of Big Blue, we had decided to finish our trip with a greater level of comfort. A couple of weeks ago we'd booked ourselves into the Executive Suites Hotel in Garibaldi Highlands, just north of Squamish for the last week or so of our trip, but we needed to find somewhere for one night after the one we spent in South Surrey with James and Cathie. (They invited us to stay longer, but we heard that they were still in the process of moving in we thought we shouldn't get in their way, so we had booked a night at the Howe Sound Brew Pub in Squamish. Di had very fond memories of this place, as we'd stayed there for a week at the end of our trip to Canada in 2000. In good weather the views across to The Chief are stunning: those of you who've been to our place would have seen a couple of photos taken from one of the upstairs windows. Unfortunately, on the drive back up to Squamish it started to drizzle and the rain had set in by the time we arrived. The Chief was still visible, but well-shrouded in cloud an passing showers. To give you a bit of an idea of the setting here is a picture I took looking north at Mt Garibaldi from just out in front of the pub about a week ago:

... and another of the Tantalus range just to the left of the previous photo:

 (I deliberately left in the bit of machinery in the bottom right as it adds the essential flavour of Squamish being a logging town.)

Yesterday it rained on and off all day, so we pottered about in the Squamish Adventure Centre, drank coffee and caught up with a bit of email before moving across to our present location in the early afternoon. I watched Andy Murray defeat Novac Djokovic to become the first Brit to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament in 76 years. (Lucky for the Poms that Scotland still hasn't gone for total independence, eh!)

But today is sunny! Time to hit the crags! See you later ...

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