[Photo] Mike Cleven
Squamish, B.C. A salty breeze washes inland from Howe Sound, tangling the air at the busy Port of Squamish. Snowcapped mountains rise beyond the docks, hemming in the broad valley with dark misty forests. The great granite monolith Stawamus Chief, known to climbers as Squamish Chief or simply The Chief, forms an abrupt glacier-carved cliff on the valley’s southeastern wall.
This spectacular setting in western British Columbia has been home to the Squamish Mountain Festival–now called the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy–for the past nine years. This year’s event, taking place July 10 to July 12, offers climbing clinics, educational seminars, slideshows, live music, yoga, a trade fair and an artificial climbing wall competition.
To many, the varied climbing clinics are worth the price of admission with professional climbers teaching skills and techniques. This year’s clinics include advanced sport climbing with Jonathan Siegrist, women’s advanced sport climbing with Vikkie Weldon and adventure photography with Paul Bride. Will Gadd, Brette Harrington, Craig DeMartino, Marc Andre-Leclerc, Rob Pizem, Katie Bono and Jesse Huey will present additional seminars.
The gray- and white-streaked Chief has long captured the imagination of rock climbers with its first recorded routes established in the late 1950s. The first ascent of the Grand Wall, a massive shield of unblemished granite, by Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper in 1961, put Squamish Chief on the big wall climbing map. During their week’s long ascent the men became minor celebrities. Over 12,000 cars jammed the highway below them one weekend, with throngs of gawkers stretching their necks for a glimpse of the climbers. Baldwin and Cooper’s route, The Grand Wall (5.11a A0, Baldwin-Cooper; FFA: 5.13b Cosgrove-Overlin, 2000), is now a popular classic with its varied crack and slab climbing.