Squamish - Banana Peel & Smoke Bluffs, Sept. 2003 / July 2004
We were visiting Agata's parents in North Vancouver again. It was to be a sunny weekend, and I lobbied hard to finally spend a day rock climbing in Squamish (we have previously only sport-climbed at the Smoke Bluffs area). I wanted to check out some of the classic (and overcrowded) routes on The Apron, preferably Banana Peel or Diedre. Both routes are rated at 5.8, though Diedre is somewhat more sustained. We decided to climb Banana Peel first (mostly 5.6 and under) to get a feel for the rock, and then, time permitting, climb Diedre.
We needlessly wasted time and energy hiking around the toe of The Apron, trying to find the start of the route. For the most popular routes on The Apron, the trail is certainly far from obvious. We eventually reached the start of both routes (both share the same first belay), only to find a guided party of four just starting up the first pitch (there was apparently also another guided party a pitch or two up on the route). Lame.
After an endless wait, I started up the first "pitch" - a super-short friction slab (5.6) to a tree belay. From the tree belay, Diedre continues up and left, while Banana Peel makes a level, rightward traverse for about a pitch-and-a-half along a horizontal fault (best done as a long simulclimb). We again waited at the next belay ledge for an eternity, while the party ahead of us seemingly climbed in slow motion.
The second pitch is another short, 15 - 20 foot friction slab (5.6) to another fault and tree belay. The following crux pitch (5.8), involves "wavy" friction slab climbing with nice finger pockets (a bolt protects the hardest move) to reach the base of a short vertical step/corner and a crack that offers good protection opportunities. Once above the step, the crack trends back left to a solid tree belay.
Next, climb upwards in a small groove for a short distance to reach another small tree belay (it seems better to combine this and the previous pitch as one). Alternatively, one can continue a short distance farther and set up a belay in a small hollow. Turning right, climb up out of the hollow and make a long and runout, friction-slab traverse (as seen in photo) to reach the bottom of a small dihedral (and your first opportunity for protection). Climb up along the dihedral, turning left at the top (seen here), and climb flakes and slabs (set a cam in hole exposing the "hollow slab") up to the belay at a tree island (5.6).
The final pitch follows a shallow, wavy gully, then small flakes (seen here) to a belay at a large block (5.4). From the block, scramble up easily along more finger cracks to reach Broadway Ledge. Turning right, follow the ledge (some down-climbing) and find the trail descending forested slopes at The Apron's edge.
What should have taken a few hours at most, took us all day, thanks to the frustratingly slow party ahead of us. Diedre, obviously will have to wait for another day. Agata was also less than thrilled...the constant waiting, the cold wind etc. I suppose I'll have to come up with something somewhat more "romantic" the next time her birthday rolls around.
We returned to climb that fine Squamish granite in July of 2004, on what was quite possibly the hottest damn day of the summer! Ugh! This time at Smoke Bluffs, we warmed up on Clean Starts (5.7 -tr) in the Neat & Cool area and continued on up to the top via Neat and Clean (5.7 -gear). From the top of Neat & Clean, we top roped Cat Crack (5.6, but SUPER greasy), Flying Circus (5.10a), Lieback Flake (5.9), and Neat and Cool (5.10a). Here, Agata stops to rest near the top of Lieback Flake (5.9).
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