Yosemite is of course somewhere I want to be this Autumn. But the valley is still pretty hot in September so I thought that Squamish would be a perfect warm up venue. I also had some British friends out there, Malcolm, Pete and Neil.
I’ve spent three summers of my life in Squamish, and every time I’ve had a lot of fun and done a lot of amazing climbing. The local climbers of Squamish are a good bunch and always seem AMPED for Squamish routes and climbing in general, with high fives getting passed around quicker than a bad rash. I missed out on Squamish scenes last summer, so I was psyched to be back.
The idea was to do a lot of climbing in preparation for the valley, but that didn’t go quite as planned. The weather was absolutely perfect the entire time, cool temperatures and sun everyday, so that’s not my excuse, my excuse is that I got sucked in to a project.
A week after arriving my friend Paul introduced me to a new crag called Long House. A few of the local Squamish climbers had been going up there recently cleaning lines and putting up new routes. The cool thing about Long House is that it’s in a really nice part of forest in between The Squaw and the Chief. Lovely green moss, old growth and beautiful trees, it seems very Tolkienesque and you half expect mythical beings to pop out from behind the trees. The other cool thing about the Long House is that the cracks aren’t like other cracks in Squamish; they are really steep and often wide, climbing more like the cracks of Yosemite than the Chief. On the first day I had a go at some of these routes, but my eye was drawn to a thin seam amongst all the wider stuff.
Joshua Lavigne cleaned this line, thinking that at a glance it was a ‘5.12 finger splitter’, after trying it and realising that fingers don’t fit in the crack and the crag is actually overhanging, he pulled his rope. I have to thank him for cleaning the line and allowing me to try it, because it turned out to be really cool.
The start is super thin, not even locks for girl fingers, so I worked out this weird sequence using laybacking and imaginary finger locks. It took me the best part of a day to link that crux sequence. Then there is a higher crux, maybe 5.12b ish on it’s own, into a really cool 5.11 finish. The main difficulty for me was to find a way of protecting the crux, which goes from the ground to five or so metres up. The gear is quite bad and fiddly to place in the thin seam at the start, but the main problem is that the moves are too hard for me to place gear. Luckily I have a cunning friend Neil who suggested that I place some wires in the thin groove to the right, climb down and then if I fell off I would take a nasty swing, but hopefully not hit the ground. It did take some of the cool factor away from the route, to not protect the moves in the same crack. But the fact that this method required the use of two ropes, small wires, and cutting the first rope loose when I reached better gear, seemed aptly British. It took me three days to work out all the moves and the gear and then on the fourth day I did it.
Whilst working out the low crux I thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever tried, but once I’d figured it out and also waited for the sun to go away, it felt much more doable. I had a few set backs when a foothold snapped off and I needed a new sequence, but apart from that I had great weather and some friends psyched to come up and try the other stuff Long House had to offer. I didn’t mean to get sucked into a project, but I couldn’t say no.
And what should I grade it? I’m really bad at grading, I think maybe because I’m a different shape to a lot of climbers who climb 5.13 trad I find some things more difficult and other things easier, so grades always seem off to me. So I just compared it to the other hard trad routes I’ve done in North America and I thought it was harder than 69, which is 5.13b also in Squamish, Air Sweden 13b in Indian Creek and Magical Dog 13.b. So I thought I would give it 5.13 R, probably more 13c than b.
And the name… I started calling it Seam of Death at first, because it was really thin and pretty grim for the fingers. But that would mean that I have two routes in Squamish: Hazel’s Horror Show and Seam of Death. I really want people to get on this route, because it’s a good one. And not wanting people to be put off by the name I thought the Adder Crack was good, because it’s like a less cool, less bad-ass, thinner, slightly venomous, more British version of the Cobra Crack. But comparable to the Cobra in the sense that even if it isn’t as cool, it could definitely be a classic if people can be bothered to walk up the hill to try it.
I also did the line to the left, which shares the same finish as the Adder Crack and starts up a wide right leaning squeeze slot. This route is also not one to be missed. Drawn to moss and suffer-fests Pete eyed the line and cleaned it. But unfortunately he found that he was too big to fit in the crack and begrudgingly passed it over to me. This route I’ve graded 11a for the top section, but a lot of climbers will probably find the offwidth the hard part, at least I did, in fact I probably tried harder on that than the Adder Crack! I think I will call this one PG Tips because you’ll need a lot of builders tea to get psyched for it.
We did some other cool routes in Squamish and generally had a nice time wizzing around in the Ford Taurus. Thanks to Chris Trull for the hang out, a place to shower and generally being a good egg, it made our stay a lot nicer. All in all, a fun trip to Squamish and a 5.13 new route… can’t complain. Now I’m off to Yosemite, not in the best shape, but psyched for El Cap!