Thursday, August 28, 2008

Climbing in the Rain

Summer seems to have ended way too early here in coastal British Columbia. Normally August is a month filled with sun, warm weather and endless high pressure, allowing trip after trip into the mountains. Instead, every few days has brought a storm with an inch or two of rain, followed by days of unsettled showers. As a result my mountain trips have canceled and I have been heading to the steep sport climbs to stay in shape and try new link ups and extensions.

However, there is a diamond in the rough, so to speak, here in British Columiba. When times get desperate and it is raining like this there is a some salvation to be had in the form of a world class limestone cave hidden in the hills of Vancouver Island. When I say world class, I mean it- this place is loaded with tufas, stalactites, pockets, flowstone and edges, as good as any where in the world. A little information can be found here and there about it, so I will leave the details a little more vague for you google detectives out there to research the mecca known as Horne Lake.

Senja Palonen works Subdivisions 12c/d. Photo by Rich Wheater

Now granted this place won't ever become too popular for a number of reasons. First there are only about 30 to 50 routes there...not huge. Second is the grades. The main attraction is this massive amphitheater about 100 feet high and 2-300 feet wide. The easiest route in this cave is the cliffs' 'warm up' which is a really steep 11a. After that there is pretty much 1 route at every grade from 12a to 14b. You have to bring your A-game to have a good time here, and be fit for full on 30m enduro-thugfests. That being said these routes are world class, knee bar, heel hooking, tufa wrangling gems, requiring 3-D full body climbing tactics.

Me (Evan Stevens) working knee bars on Save the Pushers, 13a

The last reason keeping people away? It is slightly epic and expensive to get there...let me just recap our latest journey.

Yesterday was one of these desperate rainy summer days in Squamish, so we rallied 6 people to meet up for the journey to Horne. The trip starts by getting to the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay, about 45 minutes from Squamish - remember this place is on an island. So forever a climbing dirtbag, we try and save costs however we can, and one method is by 'smuggling' each other onto the ferry. It costs $50 each way just to bring your vehicle over to the island, and then $14 each way per passenger. So we did what any cheap climber would do - hide 5 people under your gear in the back of the truck - voila $64 dollars for the ferry ride split by 6 instead of $134 for each ride. Yes, I know, it is stealing and I am a bad man, but what is a desperate climber to do when it is raining?!!??! So inevitably we got busted, and forced to pay the full price, oh well, it was worth a shot, at least they didn't arrest us!

Will Stanhope works a rest on Save the Pushers. Photo by Rich Wheater

Or so we thought. When we got to the island and drove off the boat, it seems that they had called the cops, telling them we were driving around with people in the back of the truck. Yes, I know again, bad idea, no seat belts and dangerous for the 2 people (and my dog) in the back, but it was a short drive to the cliff, and we were carpooling to save funds and the earth! Luckily for us, the nicest cop in the world, I swear the nicest cop ever, pulled us over. He told me I couldn't keep driving with people in the back, that 2 folks had to get out. He turned his cheek when they started hitch hiking, and let me go with a warning instead of a $750 ticket.

So with only about a 15 minute delay we were at the crags ready to climb. While packing our bags up at the truck, I basically inhaled a yellow jacket and was stung in the mouth. WHAT IS GOING ON???? Seemed that the stars were alligning against me, trying to keep me from climbing at Horne Lake. Luckily I am not allergic, and we got to the cliff.

Luckily for me I persevered. I got back on my project, the classic of the cliff, a massive, 14 bolt 35 meter long 13a called 'Save the Pushers' and sent, so for me all the epic struggles were worth it. This thing is so crazy steep, you lower off 60 feet away from where you started into some amazing Arbutus trees, and crawl your way back to the ledge. Everyone else had a blast and we stayed dry and got pumped while the rain fell out in the trees instead of on our heads, protected by the massive cave.

Will Stanhope shows you how steep it is here-but the clip loaded sideways so turn your from Mike Doyle

Enjoy these teaser photos and video clip, get strong, blow some money and find Horne Lake.

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