Rock climbing in Squamish, Canada
Millie Evans introduces the delights of rock climbing in Squamish, Canada with plenty of hands-on advice and three climbs on Stawamus Chief.
Squamish is a small logging town located on the 'Sea to Sky' Highway about 60km north of Vancouver in British Columbia. The Stawamus Chief is a massive granite dome which towers over the town. It is what makes Squamish famous for rock climbing and as soon as you arrive you can see why. It is an impressive formation and has hundreds of routes on it at all aspects. But climbing in Squamish is by no means limited to The Chief; Smoke Bluffs, Murrin, the Malamute and Shannon Falls offer tons of single pitch trad routes and Cheakamus Canyon is one of the best sport crags in the area located only 20 minutes north.
Between the immaculate granite rock, coastal location and views of snowy peaks, Squamish is quite a place. If you dont like crack climbing before you go, you will by the time you come back. You just cant help it, the climbing is that good! The Chief is the most famous piece of rock in the area and therefore has many classics and many different grades. The routes are a mixture of traditional and bolted but many trad routes are equipped with bolted belays. Some classic routes on the Apron, the triangular lower central area of the Chief are described here as it has many multi pitch routes on it at amenable grades and as such this slab is often a climbers first point of call for multi pitch climbing in Squamish There are of cours 100's of other routes on different areas of the Chief as well as all the other crags in the area.
When to go
Squamish actually means Mother of the Wind in Coastal Salish which is evident when climbing on exposed crags. This wind however is what makes the summer heat bearable. Else where it might be too hot to climb but the Squamish winds bring a welcome relief to the summer heat, making July and August some of the best times to climb. Squamish is also well known for its rain! But do not be put off, most of the crags dry quickly and July and August get the least rain. April through to September is generally considered the climbing season.
Fly to Vancouver and then there is a shuttle bus to Squamish. Or hire a car, this makes getting between crags and town a lot easier. If hiring a car, best option is to hire from Vancouver airport. Hiring in Squamish is limited and therefore more expensive. Squamish is 60km north of Vancouver. The Chief is located on Highway 99 and is unmissable as you drive from Vancouver to Squamish. It towers over the highway just south of Squamish town centre and there are several different parking spots depending on which routes you are heading for. The Apron car park is located about just south of the town centre at the turning to Mamquam Forest Service road. This places you directly below the climbing.
Where to stay
There are three campsites, The Chief, Klahanie and Kinsman located in Squamish itself and then a few more north towards Whistler. There is one hostel in Squamish, just on the edge of town.
Hiking to the top of the Chief is a great rest from climbing and there are different trails depending on how much of challenge you want. Wind surfing on the Howe Sound is also very popular, or you might just want to go down and watch the experts at it. On hot summer days swimming in lakes is a great past time. There are several with nice grassy areas and benches with BBQ facilities.
There are a couple of guidebooks to Squamish. The best for a trip is probably Squamish Select by Marc Bourdon. There is also the Climbers Guide to Squamish by Kevin McLane which covers all routes in the area.
Climb Squamish covers lots of extra information beyond what the guidebook provides to help the travelling climber. It covers all sorts of detailed information regarding routes, travel, accommodation, bear advice etc. Worth a look: www.climbsquamish.com
For current up to date access information for Squamish and surrounds try: www.access-society.ca