After a bike ride into town for a morning cup of coffee Robyn and I will take our Bus on its first trip. Our first planned destination will be Smith Rocks near Bend, OR. As my parents are undeniably “bus people” it didn’t take long to add another bus to the Davis fold. Last weekend they travelled to North Idaho and picked up a beauty and named him Falcor.
… is absolutely amazing. This nifty place hosts a ton of great rock and climbing. Like Smith, the New River Gorge, and the Red River Gorge, Skaha Bluffs falls in our top five favorite places to climb-so far. We had an epic time in Skaha and strongly recommend any climber and/or avid hiker to have a visit. After weeks of wishing for warmer weather, sunshine, and excellent rock, our wishes were finally granted. Skaha challenged us. It helped us get a bit of our strength and endurance back. It helped me tackle my mental-game with leading, and it gave us hope. Thank you, dearest Skaha.
We arrived in Skaha mid-afternoon on Thursday, hoping to find a free camping spot before it got dark. Because it is really difficult to snag a free spot that isn’t miles and miles away from the crag, we were hoping that asking around the neighborhood would lend itself to pitching our tent on someone’s private property. Going from door-to-door, asking local residents if we could camp on their massive properties and being repeatedly turned down was a little discouraging, but we finally met a woman who let us in on the ‘climbers’ secret camping spot – and it was pretty awesome! Apparently, most climbers hide out in unfinished lots, meant for cookie-cutter homes and pristine lawns. Workers began construction on the area in 2008, however, no one has purchased land in the subdivision and therefore, construction has temporarily stopped until there are buyers. This was great news for us. We had a nice paved road up to the tippy-top of a cozy hillside overlooking Skaha Lake. Here, we pitched our tent away from traffic, pedestrians, and other city activity. It was perfect.
Aside from each other and a perfect, little camp spot, the next best thing came excellent rock climbing. We camped at Skaha for a week and climbed as many of the classics as we could find. We had a blast. We surprised ourselves, too. For not climbing at all over the winter, we managed to get on some really inspiring and challenging routes. E onsighted some beautiful pitches and fell at the anchors a few times on ‘Not Fade Away, 12a’. He is definitely an inspirational climber and he motivates me everyday to get after it. While at Skaha, that’s exactly what I did. My primary focus was more on leading, building my strength, and fostering my confidence. I was able to hang most of my own draws on my climbs and send them! I am feeling pretty comfortable leading and can’t wait to test out this newly found confidence at other incredible climbing destinations.
In short, Skaha is wonderful and has given us the opportunity to grow as rock climbers. This amazing place with its solid rock and inspirational routes offers special something for all climbers. We enjoyed this place immensely and at some point, will make it back to send those climbs we left unsent, make new and cherish more memories, and continue to do what we love.
Here are a few more photos of our time at Skaha Bluffs and Penticton. Please enjoy. Our next stop is Pendleton, Oregon. Here, we will visit with Poppas S and MK, unpack our little car, do a bit more sorting and organizing, and repack our green Volkswagen bus with mega climbing gear. Smith Rock, here we come!
To end our Skaha trip, we met MK in a small town in Washington called Republic. Here, we chatted over delicious porters and enjoyed a comfortable atmosphere. The brewery was located in an old Fire Hall and was super neat. Check it out –
What an incredible trip! Thank you for sharing it with us. Stay tuned for updates and the next big leg of our journey!
As of late, we’ve been exploring the quaint neighborhoods and cool climbing crags in Revelstoke, BC. This charming little town has a lot to offer, including tasty coffee, colorful-cozy homes, nice people, and sweet rock routes on super featured quartzite. Yesterday, after a mellow morning warming up at one of the local coffee spots, we hiked through some old growth forest to beautiful, really fun climbing at Blanket Creek Crag. Though misty, the area has large burly roofs that protect a few routes from getting slippery and wet. The area was absolutely incredible. We enjoyed two routes at Blanket Creek: an awesome 10c, Tree Rustler, and a cool 10a, better known as Schweppes, before traversing across a fast and spectacular waterfall/river via only the best way possible – a tyrolean! Crossing the river, we quickly realized that the routes we were scoping from across the way were soppy and wet. No more climbing for us here; however, Begbie Bluffs, another radical crag just down the road from Blanket Creek, proved to be a great stop and nicely rounded out our evening.
We had a cozy fire and scrumptious dinner that night and fell asleep wishing away the dark rain clouds. Our wishes were only slightly granted. We woke to a bit of rain and cooler temps, and broken clouds – no biggie, we would charge on anyway. Despite the weather conditions, we decided to check out a crag near our basecamp, the Drive-In Crag. It is exactly that. If one wanted to, he/she could belay from his/her vehicle while listening to sweet tunes, snacking on pita chips and hummus. We didn’t do that, but it’s definitely possible. Instead, we warmed up on a nice climb before E took to a sweet 12a called Smoky and the Bandit. This climb was incredibly crazy looking, feature-y, and pumpy; definitely a good project for E. After making out a bit of sequence and pulling some slick moves, E went for the redpoint – on his fourth go, he nailed it! Just over a week in to our climbing trip and E is red-pointing 12s! Heck yes!
Celebratory beers and mega bonfire helped cap the night off. It was the perfect way to end our evening! The following morning, we found ourselves at Waterworld – a rappel-in, climb-out crag we’ve been eyeing since our honeymoon. To our surprise, the routes dawned a few wet spots, nothing to deter us from experiencing one of the best multipitch climbs in Revelstoke. We rappelled down and soon found ourselves climbing out over Revelstoke Lake. Can you say exhilarating? This multipitch sequence was perhaps the most nerve-racking, crazy, exciting, and scariest routes I’ve ever climbed. The exposure was incredible and the view: breathtaking. We made it to the top anchors just after 2pm, reveling in our excitement, nervousness, and giddiness. We did it! After celebrating with a few hoorays and yippees, we packed the rest of our gear and hit the road. Next stop: Kelowna.
Kelowna is roughly 120 miles south of Revelstoke. The drive was beautiful and a bit shocking, in a good way. We went from large rugged mountain peaks to lakeside properties and beautiful waterfronts with sandy beaches. It was definitely an abrupt change, but a very nice one. We arrived in Kelowna shortly after 6pm and decided that it would be best to try and snag a cozy camp spot out of site near the crag, the Boulderfields. Unfortunately, after driving around for nearly two hours, we found out that due to extremely heavy rains and flooding the previous week, the road to the Boulderfields was closed until further notice. We were a bit bummed, as there were two awesome climbs we wanted to project there. Not to worry, though. Instead, we found a comfortable spot near one of the other crags in Kelowna called Cedar Park.
Cedar Park, though sporting only 20 or so climbs, was pretty incredible. Bright and early this morning, we hit some nice, crimpy routes before packing up early due to rain and slippery rock. Though only spending an early morning at Cedar Park, we hope to visit again. This small place has a lot of character. The solid gneiss/granitic rock was really unique and the routes were inspiring.
This evening, we landed in Skaha. Our drive through the Okanagan Valley was just as nice today as it was when we came through on our honeymoon in late September, only greener. Skaha is the land and rock of plenty. This place, with its cool arid-deserty landscape is fascinating and almost exotic, very unique and attractive. We are psyched to climb here and plan to spend almost two weeks, if not more, exploring the area and climbing as many of Skaha’s routes as our fingers will allow. We both have really neat and challenging projects picked out and hope to get on most of the classic routes while were here. Right now, it is sprinkling a bit, but the weather folks at AccuWeather.com, promise sunshine and warm temperatures (60s to 70s) starting tomorrow and lasting for the next few days. 70s? What will we do with ourselves? Will we melt? Or will we get a tan? We’ll definitely keep you posted, but until then, happy climbing and fun adventures!
We decided to detour through Jasper National Park and the Icefields Parkway en route to Revelstoke and boy was that a great decision. After a sloppy camp in the rain we pushed through past Sulfur Gates Provincial Park all the way to Jasper by mid afternoon. Pouring over the guidebook on the way down revealed a sweet looking crag near town and we went to the visitor center to ask some logistical questions about camping and climbing in the park. The info guy was a climber and happy to share what he knew. The news was grim. The road to Lost Boys Crag was closed and it was a 20 km hike in from either end. On top of that it was likely full of snow and dripping wet. Bummer. He encouraged us to visit the guide shop in town to ask them if they knew of a dry spot to climb. They had similar stories for Lost Boys and blankly starred at us when we inquired. “Well you know we had a record snow year? Right?”
Looking closer at a map of the area we determined that the road closure actually only kept us about 6 km from the trail to the crag, and if hiking to crags in the snow were a problem half our Valdez climbing season would be lost. Parking at the lower gate we found the road to be in surprisingly good condition. Screw walking, we were gonna bike to the crag!
After a nice bike ride on our private slice of National Park highway we found the trailhead buried in a small bank of snow just north of Leech Lake. No prob. Nothing Alaska Sneakers can’t handle. The snow was only in small drifts and the hike in went smooth. Before we knew it we were walking along a stunning cliff. Large sections were seeping and small waterfalls cascaded down the rock, but as we continued the water dried. We hauled out the guide to see what climbs were dry. Our main objective was Super Brant Man 10b, and after scanning the wall we found it dry as a bone! Super lucky! We spent that afternoon and the following day climbing in mostly sunny conditions on the best rock we have touched since October last year. It was a perfect reintroduction to solid sport climbing and we surpassed our expectations. Robyn had a stellar day onsighting Little Girly Man 5.8 and getting a redpoint on her second try of Super Brant Man. The large dry section of wall was covered in 11′s that offered challenging roofs and bomber quartzite.
After Jasper we blazed through to our current location in Revelstoke. A perfect fire and nice weather last night has this morning been interrupted by rain, with only rain in the forecast. Good thing there are routes to climb when its raining here! Oh! and we saw our first grass and green leaves of the trip! YES! Revelstoke is high on the list of places we are scouting for a new home base. The Canadian Avalanche Association is headquartered here, the town is really nice, it has a ski resort, great backcountry access in Roger’s Pass and the best IPA in Canada – Nasty Habit by Begbie Brewing Company. Not to mention the 500 or so rockclimbs within an hour of town. Speaking of, it’s about time to dawn the rain gear and get after it. Our next post will likely be coming from the Okanagon Valley where we hoping to spend a fair bit of time climbing and sampling the wineries. ETA in Pendleton, OR is either Thursday or Friday before Mother’s Day weekend. Then it’s BUS TIME.
After leaving White Mountain and its fresh inch of soppy-snow, we headed toward Watson Lake, a little town known for its ‘sign post forest’. We cruised between the two places, eager to leave behind cool temps and dark snowy-skies that loomed above. Due to the unfavorable weather and dull scenery, we trekked through – putting in a full day of driving that was well over a few hundred miles. Just as soon as we entered Watson Lake, we were anxious to leave. It was only 5:00pm, but this little town that rests on the Yukon/BC border, shuts down after the workday ends. I think the only shop open was the conveniently located FasGas, with the promise of the lowest fuel prices, craft beer, and tasty treats. We topped Trixie up and ventured inside to check out the ‘craft beer’ selection and were quickly bummed when the closest to a craft beer-beverage on the menu was Yukon Gold – which is nothing spectacular. Only slightly discouraged, we went on our way, hoping to hit a break in the clouds and setup camp before the rain and snow.
We found a nice creek side campsite off the road just outside of Watson Lake. We settled in and found some tasty ingredients for dinner – a mish-mash of veggies and cheeses stuffed into neatly folded tortillas. It was delicious and with our bellies full, we cozied up in our mummy bags and drifted away. Our sweet slumber was gently disturbed by nature’s finest alarm – songbirds singing away! It was a pleasant morning that was quickly filled with breakfast, repacking Trixie, and tingling excitement for Liard River Hotsprings.
While traveling to Liard, we spotted some of the most spectacular sightings of wildlife I have ever seen. Our first encounters of the day were massive, beautiful buffalo. They were everywhere and they are big! These stoic creatures are captivating- really neat animals and also really intimidating. We were warmly welcomed in to British Colombia by other fascinating wildlife, too: stone sheep on the road eating salty gravel, white-tailed deer, funny caribou alongside ditches and road cuts, beautiful elk, moose crossing the icy river, and one of my favorites – a vibrant Mountain Blue Bird dancing from grassy patch to grassy patch.
With the spectacular showing of wildlife along our route, our trip to Liard was beautiful and fast. We arrived to Liard Hotsprings around 12pm, just as the wind was picking up and tiny snow flurries came floating across the sky; impeccable timing to sit in a steamy hot thermal bath, eh?
We soaked our car-sore bodies for a few hours and had pleasant conversation with an older gentleman who used to be a sports writer for the Whistler Newspaper – he covered awesome topics like the World Cup Ski Series; which for him, was an all-expense paid trip to travel across the globe, reporting on the hottest news out there. Sounds incredible! We also met two ‘Rados’, or people from Colorado. Ben helped us catch up on our derogatory Colorado slang. Thanks Ben! They were on their way to Anchorage and like us, they needed a warm pit stop to refresh and soak.
Returning to the car, we stuffed and packed our wet belongings back in to Trixie and despite the ever-growing snow clouds, we trekked on. A few hours in to our drive, the Weather Gods opened their snowy gates and poured wet-slushy snow out. Not knowing the forecast or how long it would snow, we decided to keep our eye out for a good roadside campsite. After passing up a few options because of super muddy approaches that would be challenging for Trixie or too much trash from Alaska Highway travelers, we found a nice side road that led us to a clean snowy patch free of debris and seemingly less mud. Hurriedly, we pitched our tent and settled in, hiding from the wet snow. We did a bit of reading and nursed a new IPA – Devil’s Bay, and eventually fell asleep, dreaming of sunny weather and rock climbing. We woke early to more cold temps and almost an inch of new snow. Our tent was icy and wet, everything was muddy, and our spirits were low. We needed a good cup of coffee and sunshine. We piled our wet selves and soggy gear back in to small-Trixie-quarters and continued our journey south, mile after mile.
Our morning drive was uneventful and pretty awful. The scenery was dull and dark, and we were cold and wet. It was still raining and all we wanted was that perfect cup of coffee to warm our bodies and help lift our spirits. We eventually made it to Fort St. Johns – keeping our fingers crossed for brighter skies and a tasty warm beverage. We stopped at a Safeway to snag some miscellaneous groceries and grab a fresh cup of joe from the Safeway Starbucks. I stood in line for coffee while E went to fuel up Trixie. I got to the counter and was greeted by discouraging news: Starbucks was currently not accepting debit or credit, and we didn’t have cash. I slumped and walked slowly back to the car with no coffee, and still cold and wet. Getting back in to the car, we continued our journey south. Next stop: Dawson City.
Dawson City had the promise of good coffee and no rain. We went for it! We traveled through some pretty flat terrain, spotted more wildlife, and hit some better weather – still dark and cloudy, but the rain had stopped and the air felt fresh. We arrived in Dawson City by early afternoon and immediately hit the Visitor’s Center. No more wandering around to find WIFI and good coffee – we asked the nice woman at the counter where we could find tasty treats and internet. She directed us to ‘Hug-A-Mug, which was a fun little coffee shop with rather expensive coffee. Nonetheless, it was delicious and just want we needed! I can’t say the same for their WIFI connection. It kept going in and out on us, so we eventually hit the Dawson City Public Library, which had a horrible WIFI connection, but had computers for visitors to use when available. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long. We were surfing the web and tying up loose ends within minutes. We were also able to finish a post, catch up on emails, and for E – do a little ISSW website work. Earlier in the day, we made the decision to drive to Jasper, go climbing on superb rock, and travel through the park before turning west to Revelstoke, BC. With that, we scoped out weather forecasts, climbing areas, and more weather around Jasper while in Dawson City. Our rainy streak was about to end! Good weather was headed our way and we couldn’t wait for it! We were ready to get back on the sharp end.
White mountain sits SE of Whitehorse about 50 miles part way down a backroad to the small town of Atlin. Atlin Lake is the largest natural lake in British Columbia and stretches north-south for over 90 miles.
After a nice breakfast, an afternoon coffee and errands in Whitehorse we were back on the road arriving at White Mountain around 5 PM. We found a road cut that got us off the main road a few hundred yards and followed a game trail into a meadow overlooking Little Atlin Lake. Quickly throwing up our tent we coasted down the road another quarter mile to the first sport crag of our trip, newly purchased guidebook in hand and with two years up pent up climbing fuel to burn.
White mountain is basically a giant limestone hill with endless potential. Despite this potential the crag we arrived at is currently the “… most developed sport crag in the Yukon boasting 16 routes.” Some of the limestone walls towering above our camp could make the Verdon Gorge blush but apparently the Yukon is sans developers. It’s not like I am running around developing crags myself, but if I was living in Whitehorse with this kind of potential you would bet I would look into it.
The crag was about 15m high in most places and gave Robyn and I a chance to experience limestone for the first time. Although short the routes were stout and seemed to require a third eye to know where they were going at times. This was the perfect first crag for us. Pumpy short climbs that snapped us back into sport climbing reality testing the resilience of both our minds and forearms. All in all we spent one afternoon and one morning at the wall climbing 5 routes grades 5.8 to 5.10b. Maybe we were just getting the hang of it, or maybe it’s because the sun peaked out for just a bit to warm the frozen rock, but the last two climbs we got on were our favorites – both 5.10b routes with crimpy techy moves. With clouds building and no promise of afternoon sun to warm the remaining routes we decided to pack up and continue on toward Watson Lake and the distant mirage of Liard Hot Springs.
Dismantling our meadow camp an older guy came rambling up our roadcut in his pickup, a furry headed dog with hair for eyes panting in the backseat. He assured us he would only be a minute and began collecting stones from the gravel pit, which we later found out were to cover the grave of his 15-year-old recently deceased dog. He was somber but seemed to enjoy light conversation, mostly about Alaska, guiding, and how he had built a cabin and lived in it along a stream somewhere 100 miles NW of Anchorage. He had worked last summer building the road we were parked on and lamented working 10 hour days 7 days a week. He now preferred his lower wage job as a groomer and lifty at the Sima Ski Resort near Whitehorse. After selecting his final stones and pausing in silence he said, ”Yah know? The quartzite in these rocks shines pure white in the sun…” his voice laden with a wispy sense of reflection and satisfaction He then quietly loaded up his truck and drove away.
One last fire by the Lowe River. Ben and I spotted a nice gravel bar at the base of Keystone Canyon just up the road from our house. The three of us built a fire ring, gathered driftwood from last springs floods and cooked quesadillas with beans over the open fire sharing one of the homebrews Robyn and I brewed for Ben and Tasha’s wedding just over a year ago. The following night after a morning tour in The Pass with Benny up Moonlight Basin we cruised to town to snag Robyn from her last day of work and headed to the Fat Mermaid for dinner and reflection. The beers were delicious… almost too delicious and despite arriving 20 minutes before our flight the guy at the front desk had to radio the pilot from the runway to come snag Ben. The plane whipped around and taxied right to us on the tarmac. Talk about curbside service!
Our last morning with the Carter’s was full of all sorts of emotions, but rooted in there somewhere was the firm belief that we would keep in contact and that our paths were sure to cross again soon. This made things easier, and before we knew it we were turning out of 10 mile for the last time, headed up Thompson Pass and gazing out over the mountain tops which appeared so familiar and welcoming.
Passing Glennallen and on through the Tok Cut-off we were beginning to feel that maybe this wasn’t just another weekend trip. Passing frozen Midway Lake we spotted 6 caribou crossing the ice. The snowpack thinned and before we knew it the 50” base in Valdez had dwindled to pockets on north aspects here and there. We passed mountain goats near Slana and Mentasta Lake and were struck by the beauty of the landscape. We setup our first camp about 30 miles from the Yukon border with a great view out toward the 16,000 ft Wrangell Mountains in the distance. That night owls hooted and critters yipped and howled (wolves?). Up for a morning ride, we had the road to ourselves. Not a single car broke the warm sun and silence.
Crossing into the Yukon I can’t help but think “The Yukon? Really? I am really driving down through the Yukon to even get to the top of BC? We are way the f@*^$ up here!”
And man are there a lot of mountains in this part of the continent. Leaving the Chugach in Valdez, right into the Wrangell’s and on to the St. Elias Range, they just keep coming. Arriving at Kluane Lake we found a stellar campsite along the still frozen shoreline, set up camp and collected driftwood for that night’s fire. Not 20 steps from our camp sat the first climb of our trip! A nice sized boulder with one dominant line and a few variations all of which in the VB to V2 range. Robyn laced up first and completed our first climb! We called it “Let it Begin – V1”. Our camp was situated on a forested peninsula jutting out into Kluane Lake. Large views off into the interior to our east were in stark contrast to the snowy St. Elias range to our west. The St. Elias are the highest range in Canada including Mt. Logan at 19,545 ft and 6 other peaks over 16,000 ft. The lower southern slopes were dotted with white sheep and led right to our camp at the semi-arid shoreline of the lake.
This morning we are headed into Whitehorse to pick up some food, a guidebook to the local climbing and to stop off at a coffee shop for some soft couches, and check in with some local contacts. From there we hope to make it to the base of the White Mountain climbing area east of town. All we know to this point is that White Mountain is a small crag with about 20 sport climbs on good limestone near the road. This will mark the true start to our climbing for the trip and we are super stoked! We will check in with you all again soon, the Yukon awaits.
The waves lapped at the base of the bonfire and 1 AM saw high tide take mercy on the warm coals at our feet. A few good friends remained and stared up at the clear night sky and made plans to meet again sometime, somewhere… Spring surfing trip to Yakutat? There is little doubt that many of the best people in Valdez were around the driftwood fire last night at Dock Point.
Valdez is a special place that attracts special people. We will miss this place and all of you! Thanks so much for all the great memories.
Soupy day in The Pass had Benny and I splitting into a crag at the Worthington glacier to climb. Most of the climbs were wet but the best one (Sweet n’ Sour 11b) was miraculously dry. Cornices were collapsing and falling from 80 feet above us on either side but our perch was snow free. We dug in a belay platform on 10 feet of snow and clipped into the second bolt to start the climb.
Cheers for beers and a great week ahead. Since this is our last true weekend in Valdez we decided to head to the Fat Mermaid for beer and dinner.