August 2, 2016
Matt and I experienced a lot of amazing things on our trip to Squamish, BC for the Arc’teryx climbing academy. Between plenty of laughs, new friends, new skills and a lot of adventures, we made plenty of new memories. Here are a few of my favorites.
Sharing the trail with others is a bonding experience unlike any other. When Matt and I arrived at the Sea to Sky gondola to meet our instructors and other participants for the overnight alpine bivy, we only knew each other. After some quick introductions and gear checks, we hit the trail. Part of the bonding process is sharing in the physical difficulty of an objective. The trail started mildly but as it gained in steepness and bug saturation, we all began to sweat together. We shared some good-natured groans, helped each other adjust packs and apply bug spray, and kept going. There was a collective cheer as we reached basecamp and we all took a minute to bask in the raw beauty of our surroundings before setting up camp. Shortly thereafter, we split into groups to practice skills at which point the trust element kicked in.
In the alpine, the difference between safety and the lack thereof is often your partner. You’re life can literally be in their hands and in the event that something goes wrong, they may be the only person you can rely on for rescue. This reality forges bonds of trust between people that might otherwise take months or years to form and for me, it’s a beautiful thing. We began building that trust in our small teams as we worked together to ascend ropes, rappel, build anchors, and so on. We took it to the next level the following day when we set out on our summit bid for Sky Pilot. The route up requires some glacier travel, then mostly 3rd and 4th class scrambling with a few 5th class moves until you reach the summit. For Matt and I, this was very comfortable, but other members of our group found it much more intimidating. Two of the people in our group weren’t sure if they were going to make it. Nevertheless, we worked together and in a few short hours, stood on top of the summit of Sky Pilot amidst a sea of clouds and distant peaks. We all signed the summit register with a sense of deep satisfaction, and then passed around chocolate and snacks. It was a beautiful moment, not only because of the setting but because we had done it together. We eventually had to leave our perch and carefully made our way back down to camp, then to the gondola for some hard-earned burgers and brews. Slightly sunburned, potentially stinky, and full of laughs we sat on the deck and traded stories like old friends before hugging and parting ways as friends, wherever our life’s journeys take us.
When Matt and I go to Squamish we usually camp. For this trip, Arc’teryx treated us to a lovely room at the Squamish Executive Suites.
As nice as it was to have our own room (with the added luxury of daily showers and laundry–I have never been more clean on a trip to Squamish!), it felt a little lonely. So, we invited two of our friends who were in the area to “camp out” with us. In short order, they invited two of their friends. Mae, a woman who had been in our overnight clinic and who had flown into Squamish for the weekend with the bare essentials, was in need of a shower and some clean clothes so we invited her over. Before you know it, our room was overflowing with friends and laughter. We made a post-bouldering sesh dinner, sprawled out, and chatted before everyone was too tired to speak anymore at which point we passed out for a warm, dry night of sleep. When I woke up in the morning to make coffee, I had to pick my way around sleeping bodies and it made me unbelievably happy to be in such good company and given the chance, I would do it all over again! This is what the climbing community is all about: sharing good fortune with each other when and where you can and always putting others first!
This one doesn’t require many words but rather photos. On our overnight clinic, Matt and I were hanging out with our guides and a few fellow participants after dinner. As we were chatting, I looked up and realized that the clouds had parted just enough to let the last light of the setting sun shine through and it was setting the sky on fire! I quickly shucked off my mountaineering boots and sprinted in my socks to the tent for the camera, then rejoined the group to watch in awe as the sun slowly sank below the mountains.
The light danced through the clouds and onto Sky Pilot behind us, treating us to some cloudy alpenglow and when the clouds finally parted, we got one last view of Howe Sound before the darkness slowly set in. It was a perfect moment to end the day and will always number among my favorite sunsets.
While in Vancouver, we went on a tour of the Arc’teryx HQ and it was tons of fun! The building is beautiful in and of itself, filled with light and gorgeous photos.
The employees were both incredibly kind and patient, answering any number of questions for myself and everyone else. Perhaps my favorite part of the tour was when we went by the sample wall. There they have swatches of all the different materials, proposed or currently in use, that Arc’teryx has and it was a vibrant rainbow! I love the tactile sensation of fabrics and could have spent hours there, running my hands through the different bolts of cloth and imagining all the different ways I could use the colors to make myself a series of sweet onesies. Alas, we eventually had to move on but I will never forget that spot!