Jonathan Siegrist Trip To Canada
Although I had visited Canada briefly in the spring of 2010, when I returned this summer, my host Scott Milton quickly discovered I basically knew nothing of the place. Within hours of my arrival he was inundated with questions about his homeland; 'What on earth is a 'Looney'? 'What the hell does the giant 'N' sticker on all these cars mean?' 'Why am I suddenly everyone's 'Buddy'?' 'Does it ever stop raining?' He patiently informed me about the dollar coin, new drivers, Canadianisms and the annual predicted rainfall in Squamish. Over the next few weeks the stream of questions slowed as I got a proper taste of what Canada is all about.
The priority of my visit was, of course, to sample some of the best stone Canada has to offer. As I alluded to before, the weather did not permit much of any climbing around Squamish, so right after the Squamish Mountain Festival we escaped to Vancouver Island. After a short and dreary ferry ride we made our way up to Horne Lake, a premier limestone crag situated near the center of Vancouver Island. It's a small crag but the routes pack a punch - most climbing out an impressive tiered roof system. The rock is of the highest quality, exhibiting blue drip stone features like tufas and colinettes over solid blocky limestone. It's impressive.
On down days we moved over to Parksville on the eastern coast for some good food, cold beer and local flavor - the annual sandcastle building festival offered a bitchin' rest day activity. My favorite sends at Horne were 'Dinosaur Highway' 14a, 'Driven' 14a/b, 'A.D.A.T.O.' 14b and 'Quarter Century Girl' 12a.
We stopped off in Squamish to tick the uber classic 'Grand Wall' 5.11 on the Chief before heading over to the Canadian Rockies. Here we settled into a nice camp spot outside of Canmore and sampled just a few of the many local crags. A long, albeit beautiful hike up a crystal clear stream bed takes you to the towering cliff, Planet X. Upon initially seeing this crag I was hugely inspired - blue streaks down a 35 meter wall with a crowning, steep visor. Unfortunately, the style of climbing was less motivating-- awkward movement up strange features characterize this massive wall. I eventually came around to the style, and thoroughly enjoyed the thuggy 'Kurrgo' 14a, 'Shooting Packer' 13b and 'Moon Walk' 11d.
Next stop was the famed Acephale, home to a rich history and many of the Country's hardest routes. This short, overhanging limestone cliff has an array of bouldery, powerful climbs. Due to some dodgy weather we only ended up with one day at Acephale, but it was a pleasure to climb the varied and technical 'Unknown Stuntman' 13d, and 'Army Ants' 13c among others. The hike is kinda brutal, but an awesome waterfall and a remote feel are certainly worth it.
The surrounding landscape in the Rockies is drop-dead gorgeous, making the views alone worthy of a trip. Between climbing days we explored beautiful Canmore, enjoying great coffee and doing our best to get by on a budget (not easy). I couldn't quite tell if the hot springs in Banff were actually hot or it was just the swarm of humans heating the pool-- in retrospect I would have had another day old muffin for my $8.50 thank you very much.
On our way out of town we spent an afternoon at the spectacular Lake Louise. After dodging tourists and repeatedly explaining why Scott was carrying such a huge pack we got some awesome climbing in on incredibly featured quartzite. Although there is not much difficult terrain, this is an area not to be missed. I absolutely loved the stunning arete, 'Dew Line' 11c and the new face climbing test-piece 'Tsar Bomba' 13d.
That night we jumped back across the border, finishing our three week trip with high spirits. I managed to get a number of great climbs done, and experience a wide array of Canada's best crags. I even learned a thing or two about Canadians and life in the great white north-- they're a psyched and pleasant people, not afraid to sandbag here or there and seemingly unaffected by awful weather patterns. Ever-welcoming Canadians make a hell of a good Caesar and show us Yankies a pretty damn good time... if you've never been, I'd suggest you have a visit.