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  • Writer's picturevanlafaxine

week 29+30: vancouver, squamish


Amy: We're back in Canada! We arrived in Vancouver and headed straight for my cousin Rachel’s cosy apartment in Kitsilano Beach; our new home away from home on the west coast. We are both extremely grateful to have a solid landing place out here. I'm beginning to crave the comforts of home more and more, so it was nice to be able to shower every day, have a full sized bed to sleep in, and a couch to watch TV. The little things! I'm also beginning to miss friends and family more, so having a good dose of Rachel time recharged my batteries (iykyk). We ate some good food and finished the weekend with a relaxing beach day and drinks with Rachel and my Ottawa gal pal Leah. It’s good to be back on familiar territory.

bill: on our way out of washington we went into a campsite that was a little too steep and ended up snapping the motorcycle hitch in half, so that meant i had to drive the bike all the way back to canada (on a broken back sproket), but the drive was actually pretty lovely and everything went okay. we landed back in vancouver and stayed at rachel’s place for the weekend, it was very nice to take a break, put our feet up, sit on a couch and not do anything intense for a few days. we went to kitsilano beach, got some sushi with graham and angela, and got some killer ramen at danbo. the weather here is extremely hot by vancouver standards, like 30+C, so beach days are nice and very different than the perpetual rain i experienced when i lived here.

kitsilano beach


sushi mugen

during the couple of days we spent here i had a few unpleasant interactions with the vancouver money-types that left a bad taste in my mouth; the first was when our friend gave us permission to park in their parking spot while they were away and within 15 minutes of parking the most karen-y karen to ever karen (65yo, red mullet, leopard print shirt, gold cadillac) came out and literally screamed at me for 5 minutes saying that if i didn’t move the van she was going to have it towed. the next was when i went to go buy a new motorcycle hitch off kijiji. the guy selling the hitch had lost the ramp, which you absolutely need to get the bike onto the hitch, but he refused to barter with me even a little. like listen buddy, you live in a 20 million dollar mansion on horseshoe bay and i clearly live in a van and you’re gonna nickel and dime me on something that is essentially broken? ok.

vancouver is pretty rapidly reducing into a feudal state with a stark distinction between the multi-millionaire land owning class and the peasant renting class, the latter paying outrageous rents (at an average of $2945 per month for a one bedroom apartment) fuelling even further wealth disparity and assuring that no non-familially endowed millennial or gen z will ever make the jump to home ownership and firming up the caste system for generations to come. but the beach is nice.


Amy: The Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Squamish has to be one of the top drives of our trip. The road twists and turns around the pale, icy blue waters of Howe Sound. Across the inlet, miles of uninhabited coastline, forested islands and rounded mountains unfold. Squamish is right at the end of Howe Sound and operates at a much slower pace than Vancouver. It has a reputation for being one of Canada's premier outdoor sport destinations - trail running, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, you name it. I was out here twice before to support my trail running buddy Andrew when he competed in the Squamish 50/50 ultra marathon. As for Bill and I, we’re here for the rock climbing. It’s supposed to be one of the best locations in Canada, so we’re excited to put some of our acquired crack/trad climbing skills to use.

sea to sky at golden hour

bill: after a few days we headed up to the real attraction; squamish. only an hour outside of downtown vancouver, and about halfway to whistler, squamish used to be a rough little dirtbag meth-problemed mountain town when i lived here 15 years ago, but because of the ballooning of both vancouver real-estate and the outdoor sports world, has rapidly become a fully gentrified exurb of vancouver.

the chief, mansions

the main draw of squamish is the rock climbing; world class granite, including the massive face of the stawamus chief which stands almost as tall as el capitan towering right over the town centre.

alpenglow on the chief is a daily occurrence here

property values here have rapidly ballooned from tens of thousands to multi-millions, and the new feudal lords of squamish don’t seem to understand what is it that makes squamish squamish. squamish has been a hub for rock climbers, mountaineers, skiers, and mountain bikers (and meth enthusiasts) for a lot longer than it has been a real estate mecca, and a lot of the people that put up all the best routes on all of these walls and who built the culture here weren’t vancouver real-estate millionaires, but because of nimby “but what about my property values” bullshit there has been a big push to get rid of all of the van dwelling hardcore outdoors folk who dirtbag it here and give the town its real culture in favour of soulless real estate speculators. parking a van anywhere in the town is now officially illegal and enforced, leaving very few options. one being the walmart, which still allows parking but because of pressure from the taxpayers (read: millionaires), has started to tow away vans (they even left a note on ours one day when we were gone climbing that if we parked there ever again they would tow us) and the other being a very small provincial park that only has about 30 perpetually full parking spots. we saw this same thing in coastal california, and it doesn’t make any sense to me; rich people move to the place that they think is cool, then remove all of the population that built the culture that made the place cool. like you bought a house in santa cruz and you’re pissed that there are surf bums around? what were you thinking? if you wanted a boring suburban mansion, you can have that anywhere else without the class warfare and culture gutting?

anyways, we are here to climb cliffs and mountains, so the first day here, we met up with thom and steph and did a little bit of cragging (climbing single pitch routes) at smoke bluffs. this made me super stoked; the grades here are real, modern grades, no more of this sandbagged joshua tree/yosemite nonsense, when you get on a 5.7 it is an actual 5.7. the rock is of superb quality, better than anywhere we have climbed so far, almost sharp it is so grippy. one of the first routes i did was a classic 5.7 trad hand crack that was insanely good climbing, better than any of the best yosemite routes we did. i put up a toprope and amy flashed a 5.10d slab! very stoked to keep climbing here.

Amy: The rock here is so textured and solid that I think I like slab climbing now?! I'm also trying to get more comfortable and confident trad climbing - this is me leading my first ever 5.7 trad route!

amy's first 5.7 trad route

bill: one thing i was really excited about squamish for was to finally do some sport climbing. i haven’t clipped a bolt in probably 4 months, always having to place trad gear and worry about whether it would hold in a fall. squamish has plenty of both trad and sport options. murrin park has a boatload of steep sport routes that are well bolted and it is so much fun to climb at. all of this trad climbing has made me totally unafraid of falling on sport routes and it is super liberating and a lot easier to push grades. it felt very nice to climb hard again, though my tendons and muscles do not remember how to face climb since we have been exclusively crack climbing since we left home. i am also probably in the worst climbing shape of my life since we have not touched rock in over 2 months since we left yosemite and usually i would be climbing 4x a week at home.

when i envisioned this trip i thought we were going to get so much stronger, be climbing all the time, but the reality has been something like 2 weeks on, 4 weeks off, some time climbing, then some time eating nachos on the beach, then some time climbing, then nothing but hiking for two months, etc. still, the stoke remains strong and there is only one way to get physically strong again; keep climbing.

sun god mountain

bill: the next day we headed out super early with graham and his friend devin to climb sun god mountain in pemberton. the drive there was pretty insane, accessing the base of the mountain meant navigating 20km of unmaintained logging road, which was only possible because of devin’s jeep. the road was way tougher than any atv trail in ontario with these massive “water bars” where the logging companies used to have those corrugated steel drainage pipes but removed them when the road was deactivated leaving massive 3 foot deep ditches every 30 metres. thankfully they are no match for the wrangler.

photo courtesy of graham

photo courtesy of graham

the peak itself meant a 1000m climb over a relatively short distance which meant some very steep climbing straight up the forest wall. we have done slab climbs that were less steep that this forest section. this is all thanks to the glaciers that cut these u-shaped valleys (instead of the water cut v-shapes of the deserts). once up in the alpine it was a long way across fields of large, ankle twisting talus (toaster to bar-fridge sized loose rocks) to the summit, with some class 3 scrambling mixed in but thankfully very little exposure. when we finally got to the summit after 4 hours of climbing we were greeted by hundreds of flying ants biting us, so our time on the summit was very brief but the views were pretty incredible and it was nice to bag our first canadian peak of the year.

Amy: I haven’t done much substantial hiking or scrambling in BC, so I was along for the ride on this one! After the bumpiest car ride I’ve ever experienced, we hiked up the most vertical “trail” I’ve ever seen. If you call slightly disturbed dirt at a 75 degree angle a trail. After a few minutes, the calves were burning and beads of sweat were pouring off my chin. We eventually broke through the tree line and had to scramble up using some fixed ropes. The trail plateaued at a glorious alpine meadow and lake. After refilling our water, we began the journey to Sun God Mountain, which involved walking over/on/around thousands of roughly strewn about boulders. My eyes never left my feet for the the few hours it took us to get to the peak. We had a few ant-infested minutes of summit time before heading back down. En route, I had a quick dip in the frigid alpine lake. My mantra of the trip: if there’s a lake, we have to dip! All said, it was an extremely long and tiring day, but it was nice to get a private Jeep tour of the remote coastal mountain wilderness - we didn’t see a single soul the whole day and had an entire mountain and lake to ourselves! (Thank you Graham and Devin!)

summit selfie, also ft. flying ants

garibaldi lake

Amy: Garabaldi Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the Vancouver area. It’s long and steep but the trail is well established (unlike Sun God Mountain!). We wove our way up the endless switchbacks until we got to a large, vibrant blue lake nestled among a dozen snow capped peaks. Dip time! The water was chilly but swim-able. We spent a few hours basking in the sun, snacking and swimming.

bill: we went with graham up to garibaldi lake, a 20km 1100m affair that gets you up to this massive alpine lake that is probably more beautiful than lake louise, with a massive glacier and accompanying cirque of mountains at the back, peaks all around. the lake is opaque, vibrant turquoise because of all of the rock flour ground up by the glacier that feeds it, extremely beautiful.

the black tusk on the horizon


bill: we did a bunch more cragging with friends while we were here. i forgot how much i love cragging; you get to climb a ton of routes, but in between you aren’t alone on a tiny ledge hundreds of metres up a cliff belaying your partner, exposed to all the wind and sun and exposure of the climb, you are chilling on the ground in the shade with your friends eating snacks. not everything needs to be a big expedition and sometimes it is nice to just have a fun time.

we did do one multi-pitch, a 200m 10 pitch sport 5.8 route called “frontside 180” with steph that was a ton of fun, obscenely well bolted, beautiful views, and very chill. it was so chill in fact that we even simul-climbed the last few pitches in approach shoes. we will probably do this one again before we leave.

steph topping out frontside 180, the tantalus range in the background

Amy: Squamish is one of our new favourite places. We could picture living here. Not only is there easy access to a million climbs and hikes, but the downtown is extremely cute and has an awesome Saturday farmers market - hello delicious food vendors and fresh BC produce! The Okanagan peaches, cherries and blueberries are in their prime right now.

We couldn’t leave Squamish without hiking the Stawamus Chief. Since you can’t rock climb when it’s wet, we decided to tick this off the list during our first rain day. The hike is very vertical, but we made it up in about an hour or so… just in time for a downpour. We got stuck in a cloud and had a very misty view of Squamish and the Sound.

bill: i am also extremely stoked to be back in canada. for one, the groceries are a lot cheaper (hard to believe, but inflation has hit america way worse than canada) and that was one of our major expenses so far on our trip, but also there is something so great about canada that we have really been missing. now when a car drives by there isn’t talk radio blasting some crazy nonsense about “hunter biden's laptop grooming all your children into becoming trans”. no longer do we have to keep in mind that anyone we come across may be carrying a gun, or have a subconscious fear of mass shootings. no longer do we have to buy health insurance in case we break an ankle and the hospital bill is $20,000. america is a beautiful country but its politics are fucked and you have to tread pretty carefully in social interactions with strangers. it is nice to be home.

finally fixed my rear sprocket: traditional wisdom says to replace both the front and rear sprocket and the chain at the same time, but jerry-rigging redneck logic says "if it ain't broke don't fix it", plus have you seen the price of chains these days?


bill: rachel has been back in guelph for the week so we took over her apartment while we got some stuff done in vancouver. it is nice to have a place that feels like home, having been back and forth from kitsilano and squamish for 2 weeks now with an apartment to land in in the city, it kind of feels like we live here now; this is the longest we have been in one place since we left home.

Amy: While back in Vancouver, we visited Leah in Mount Pleasant: a Hintonburg-esque neighbourhood with a great microbrewery/music/vintage store scene. We also spent some time with my good friend Ben and his partner Cheryl who were visiting from Ottawa. We ate a smorgasbord dinner at Granville Island, devoured Rain or Shine ice cream and toured Stanley Park by bicycle.

bill: vancouver in the summer is lovely. i almost forgot why i left until we got poured on on squamish for a few days, but when vancouver gets those few months a year when it doesn’t rain all day everyday, it is very sweet. beautiful views, chill vibes, jogging along the sea everyday, going to the beach every night. bicycle rides in stanley park, breweries, mountains, patios, friends. it is very sweet and i would love to be here in the summer more often. the winter: less so.


no video of bc this week because i am going to do one big bc video, but here is a non-lynchian video from oregon and washington:




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