Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sport Climbing in Skaha, British Columbia

What do you do when it rains in Squamish and you can't get your hands on dry rock? You make the five hour drive through the stunning British Columbia and make it to the best sport climbing crag in the area- Skaha. If you like crimping and small edges with delicate footwork and well bolted lines, this will be an ideal crag to spend a few days/ weeks testing yourself on one of the classics. The setting makes it so different to other sport climbing areas that I have been to. You really know that you are in Canada- the crags are surrounded by forests heaving with wild life. 

            You really know that you are in Canada when you get to Skaha

Squamish trad climbers are so spoilt. I get the impression that if trad is your jam, going to Skaha feels like bailing and almost second best. No wonder though, Squamish has some of the worlds best lines so I totally get it. It is all too easy to always stick to home crags. If you are Sheffield based you might know the old conundrum of - ''Shall we go the Roaches?'' (50 minutes away). No let's just go to Stanage (world class climbing- 10 minutes away). But sometimes it is worth making effort and see something different or try a style which is not your favourite as it is often these times that push us on and make us better. 

                                   Ali checking out the lines on The Belfry 

Just to put this into perspective, if this crag was in the UK, it would probably be up there with the best sport climbing places around. As a visiting climber, I was psyched out my eye balls for any kind of climbing (and dry rock) and so I avoided this comparison trap and threw myself on the super fun sport climbing routes.

The Raven and the bear (5.10a) - One of the best climbs I have ever done - the slab was pure joy

I joined my friend Cora as well as her friends so it was nice to experience this place with locals. 

Cora making really good progress and giving it the beans on her project Tradjectory (5.12a)


               The approach is easy and the crags are even signposted

You really need a car to get to the area. The crags are just up the road from Penticton and about a 5 hour drive from Squamish. You can park your car during the day at the Skaha Bluffs car park and the crags are about 15+ minutes walk from there. You can't stay there overnight but there is a camping spot about 15 minute drive with toilets and a big car park. (You will pass it on your way to Lost Moose holiday cottages).  

                                    Great vibes at the Lost Moose- photo by Climboncollins 

 The campsite is full of climbers in the evening cooking their meals from the back of their vans which gives the place a really good vibe! Skaha has a couple of guidebooks so it is worth picking one if you are going to head out that way.

                                             The free car park has space for tents too

The routes are well bolted and not too run out. Although predominantly sport climbing, you can also find a few trad routes around so it might be worth bringing your rack.

                      Ali trying to keep the pump at bay on his onsight attempt of Goin Sailing (5.12a)

It was the first time that I have ever sport climbed on gneiss. The small holds lend themselves to technical climbing and so you have a quick introduction to trusting your feet once again.

Andrew throwing some cool shapes on the fun line - 20 speed comfort (5.11 c) 

There are some overhanging routes too which were so appealing, of course I had to have a go!

Sex Machine (5.10d) - dubbed the best 10.d in Skaha- it was pretty pumpy so I was pleased about the send

                   The crags are all hidden away amongst the trees

Zero Waste

                                           Healthy lunches bought without waste  

When you join a group of people on a climbing trip, Zero Waste becomes a little bit more challenging. You often share the shopping and cooking. The most important thing when it comes to Zero Waste for me is that I live my values which means that I try to produce the least amount of landfillable trash that I can but also not impose this onto other people. We all have choices and I always try to deal with mine as best as I can as that is all I can effect.  In reality what that means is that when we share shopping, I do my bit Zero Waste and let other people do what they can/want to do. I usually find that this is the best approach as it often sparks something in people naturally rather than I make them feel like I am forcing my views onto them!  I was really quite touched as both Cora and Andrew were on board as much as reasonably practicable for them (Cora is an environmental warrior already) and together we made as much effort as we could. 

Most of the trash in the plastic bag was recycled so there was minimal amount which went into landfill

In 3 days, between us we pretty much produced the bag above (most of which had recycling which we sorted afterwards) and a bag full of compostable waste (in the red dry bag) which we put in Cora's compost bins at home. We brought lots of salad stuff which I bought package free from Save on Foods (They have a shop in Penticton and Squamish so you can easily stock up) and we made vegetable curries for the evening. My cotton bags and my stainless steel container which are the usual things that I use at home, work a treat here too. There was some plastic waste like rice packaging and small bits of plastic from random things like the seal on peanut butter but I though that this was a really good team effort. 

               Post weekend swim- this is definitely part of any climbing adventure for me

No weekend trip is complete without a post climbing dip. Conveniently Skaha has a nice lake on the way back from the crag. There is a beach but as we were rushing to get back (although I am not on usual working week schedule, my friends were) we just stopped at a laybay at the side of a road and a had refreshing quick dip before the journey back to Squamish.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Cool and varied lines, well bolted rock, somewhere nice to camp and an opportunity for swim. Pretty sweet deal in my opinion.

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