Monday, June 6, 2011

Going North!!

It's been an action packed few weeks for us.  On the 18th of May we finished packing up our Palo Alto apartment, Tiffers worked her last shift at Stanford, and we began a 1200 mile drive to Vancouver Island.  Along the way we attended my sister Tiffany's wedding to one William Jolly, in Roche Harbor, WA.  Needless to say, we didn't have too much expendable time to savor our Northward journey.  Our biggest driving day was around 13 hours.

Though torpid from our California exodus, we knew respite was around the corner.  This was enough to keep us going.

Ideally, we would have sauntered up the Pacific coastline, making sandcastles, hugging redwoods, and relishing the illimitable vastness of the Ocean while ambling barefoot through lofty sand dunes.

But, our exigent itinerary pressed us into the fastest route.  Which, of course takes Interstate 5.  I've driven this passage more times than I can count over the years.  All in all, I would have to wager that the only redeeming quality lies between Redding and Eugene.  The Northern California mountains which roll into the Southern Oregonian hills are quite enticing.  Castle Crags State Park, Mt. Shasta, and the highlands around Yreka keep the eyes peeled and alert.

Roche Harbor sits on the NW corner of San Juan Island in the idyllic Puget Sound archipelago.   During our first day there we had time to really unwind and stretch out our road weary legs.

The wedding the following day was beautiful and brought most of my immediate family together.  So, it was kind of a little family reunion of sorts.  It was especially great to see my parents after nine months away.

Though cloudy, it didn't rain; for which we were all quite appreciative.  And, the overcast conditions couldn't have been better for wedding photography. Flowers, trees, dresses, seemed to drip vibrant colors.  Ok, it could have been a little warmer for the end of May...but, nobody was complaining.  Food and drink has a nice way smoothing out all the rough edges that weather might conspire to throw at an event.

From Roche Harbor we caught an early Ferry to Sidney B.C., Canada.  Including our Ticket to Friday Harbor, the total ferry bill to Sidney came in just under 200 smackers.  Yeah, not cheap.  Driving a van just above the overheight  demarcation really cranks up the cost when taking Washington State Ferries.  In comparison, we only paid 52 dollars for our B.C. Ferry from Duke Point to Twawwassen for our return leg.  Oh well, sometimes one just has to suck it up and pay the piper.

As we found, it was all worth it in the end; though it stung acutely at the onset.

Also, a word of advise before we get too far into our Canadian adventure, shop beforehand.  Though the customs agents will take every one of your apples upon entry, most other vegetables are ok.  Groceries (especially dairy and veggies) are significantly more than their U.S. counterparts.  We're huge Trader Joe's fans, and were glad we stockpiled.

After wearing shorts for the better part of two months, our northern migration made a change in apparel obvious.

June in the PNW isn't anything like San Fran.

From Sidney we drove down to Victoria and caught Highway 1.  This in turn led us North to our first destination: Horne Lake.

Along the way we bought some extra provisions in Parksville.  This town is quite a little vacation spot for many Canadians.  The weather here and in Qualicum Beach to the North is considered the most temperate and moderate in Canada.  Vancouver Island actually has enough mountains along its North trending spine to create a nice rain shadow.  So, while these towns are surrounded by places known for significant rainfall (i.e. Vancouver, Squamish), there is in fact much less moisture here.  Qualicum Beach is comprised of mostly retired folks, most of whom are over 70.  We saw this first hand at the Qualicum Beach Aquatic Center.  They offer matinee prices for the stingy.  This was right up our alley.  For 2.50 a piece we were privy to shower, hottub, sauna, steamroom, and the pool.  I just love Canada.  One afternoon while in the hottub we struck up a conversation with a retired teacher named Garfield, who so kindly invited us over to his Qualicum Beach home the following day for Coffee!  Thanks again Garfield for your kindness.

Back to Horne Lake...

For years I'd heard nothing but great things about a limestone area nestled above Horne Lake.  But, I'd not made it for one reason or another.  Frankly, I had ample opportunity, but the ferry cost and rumor of access issues always kept me away.  Squamish needed no ferry, and so I went there.

As you can see to the right, Horne Lake is the real deal.  I've not climbed too much in Europe, but many folks ascribe the quality to that of those mythical like Euro crags, that have perfect streaked walls, manly overhanging tufas, and water pockets formed through aeons of erosion.

To the right you can just make out the main cave where most of the hard routes lie.  This place isn't that big, but certainly has enough entertaining test pieces to keep the average joe occupied for a few weeks.

Having not climbed on a rope for a month didn't prepare me properly for Horne's endurance type climbing.  But, after a couple of days acclimating to the steeps, things started to slowly click.

The climbs in the main cave range between 11a to 14b.  To access the leftmost routes one has to down climb some slippery rock with the aid of flixed lines.  It's a good thing these have been put in place because wet limestone is SLICK!

On our first day we ran into Trevor Wood, the Scot.  This guy is the paragon of the peripatetic rock climber.  He's lived in places like Hong Kong & Thailand, making an earning as a rigger to support his global lifestyle.  Recently, Trevor spent the last six months living in this sweet van.  Yes folks, that is shagg carpet lining the roof and floor.  He purchased it for a couple thousand U.S. dollars and has been all over North America with it so far.

We had a great time getting to know Trevor and many other folks who randomly showed up at Horne Lake to climb.

Two days later we took off for Tofino for some much needed rest.  On the way there we checked out some cool lakes, old growth forest,  and of course the Qualicum Beach Aquatic Center.

Lest I forget, the rock was mostly dry! Psyched!!

Our first official stop found us at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.  It had rained some that morning and provided us with some nice even light for photography.   We also enjoyed hiking around and stretching our legs.

All told, the drive to Tofino from Horne is only 2.5 hours.  We easily turned it into 7 hours with all our sightseeing skills.  After the falls hike, we found an ancient forest nature trail to do some more leg stretching.  They had some nice signs and tall trees.  But, none of the trees really stood up to some of the trees we had seen in the Redwood forests of California.  There was one 800 + year old Douglas Fir tree that was mighty impressive though.  

Rain clouds thickened as we made our way Westward over the mountains and closer to Tofino.  Around 4pm we pulled into the visitor center and caught our bearing.  We grabbed some maps and pamphlets and were soon on our way.  

Tofino is a small tourist type town situated at the end of a peninsula on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  It is well known as a surfing hotspot.  This might just be the premier surfing locale in Canada.  Who would guess that people would surf in Canada, but they do; and they love it.  The main industry in Tofino is fishing and tourism.  People pay lots of money to take float plane rides and whale watching tours out in the open waters.  Everywhere you look there is a sign advertising some kind of tour.  Just South of Tofino there are numerous resorts lining several choice beaches.  And, beyond that is National Park land with even bigger beaches and more Surf opportunity.  

We pulled into this quiet hamlet, and immediately began scoping for parking, and a place we might stay the night.  It became apparent that overnight parking would be VERY difficult.  The only sign that outnumbers the whale watching advertisements are the no parking signs.  After finding a couple possibilities up in the neighborhood part of town, we ran into a small climbing gym.  The owner was super nice and offered his parking lot as a place we might spend the night.  He gave us a nice list of places to visit and restaurants to patronize, and we were off to check out one of the beaches.  

  After having a delicious curry dinner we took a long walk on the beach.  The Surfers were out en force.  And, the rain stopped just long enough for us to get some much needed exercise.  

On the 26th, the following day Tiffany had her birthday.  To celebrate we went to a place called the Shelter.  This small eatery on the East side of town serves some delicious food.  Prices are fair and the service was prompt.  Tiff had a succulent pan seared Salmon served over Risotto, Asparagus, and beats; and I had a satisfying ling cod burger with yam fries.  Yum!  For dessert we ordered a chacolate dish that included truffles, mouse, and a plentiful portion of Gelato.

After spending a couple days in Tofino, we concluded that it's a nice place to visit if you have some money to spend on the various activities, or if, you know how to surf.  It was still enjoyable just walking around town and seeing the beaches.

Birthday dinner at the Shelter.
With Tofino fading in the rearview mirror, we once again found ourselves back at Horne Lake.  An old knee injury kept Tiffany off the rock for a couple days.  But, she was able to enjoy some nice 10's on the chert bands nonetheless.

Unfortunately, there are not too many options in the more moderate climbing range at Horne Lake.  It is either hard, not as hard, or a little less hard.

On the positive side, there are some great mountain biking roads around.  And, we were able to bike almost every day.  For some reason the biking seemed more tolerable for her knee.  One ride in particular found us paralleling a gorgeous river with waterfalls for

Luke Neufeld on the Waterspout 11c.
The day before we left I put some energy into Dynosaur highway 14a and managed almost all the moves.  It was evident that I didn't have enough time to finish this one off.  My body was so completely smoked that I would have needed a definite rest day before giving it redpoint burns.  It was a great route though and I hope I can make it back one more time this summer to try and finish it, and perhaps another of the hard ones.

I was psyched to finish a few 13c's and nail a couple 13a onsights before wrapping up our time.

Climbing here after spending time at Jailhouse showed me the importance of knee bar technique.  I was certainly padding up and looking for ways to, find creative rests.

Here are some more pics from Horne.

Ben doing Globetrotters 13c

Save the Pushers is an amazing 13a climbing out of the steepest portion of the cave.  These two shots show Trevor giving a solid onsight effort.  He made it through the 12c before coming off of the extension crux.

Horne Lake.

Yours truly thugging up Dynosaur Highway 14a.

A sublime sunset near Qualicum Beach.

The sea port of Nanaimo.  

A lovely 2 hour ferry ride to the mainland.

Though a little early season for the truly stellar weather, we still had a great time venturing around the island, climbing on limestone, and once again enjoying the Vansion lifestyle.  Now we're back around Washington for a while, visiting family, and perhaps doing some work.  Nothing is set at the moment.  But, one thing is for certain, there is no place like home.  Thanks for reading!