2014 Squamish Mountain Festival

Friday, August 1, 2014

How to Do the Squamish Mountain Festival

Words and Photos By Ian Achey

Every July, the Squamish Mountain Festival brings the rock climbing community together to celebrate the sport, promote its growth and throw an almost week long party for its participants.  With presentations from climbing’s top athletes, multiple days of amazing films, a vendor fair featuring products and gear from the best outdoor brands, and perhaps one of the best venues for bouldering, trad, and sport climbing in North America, it can be a bit overwhelming to take advantage of all of the attractions at the Squamish Mountain Festival.  Here’s a day-by-day “how to” for getting the most out of your Festival weekend.

Day 0.  Get there! 

Squamish, BC is Canada and for those of us here in the States, that means you’ll need your Passport.  Make sure your travel documents are up to date, and confirm that they do not expire while you are out of the US.  Your home airport will let you fly if your Passport is valid but if it has expired by the time you return, they will turn you away when you check in to return.

Whether you fly or drive, Vancouver will most likely be your first major checkpoint when arriving in Canada.  Unless you have a tremendous amount of gear that doesn’t fly well (i.e. big crashpads) booking a flight is actually pretty reasonable and if planned well enough in advance, is no more expensive than flying across the US.  If you decide to fly, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is your destination.  Once you clear customs, Squamish is one beautiful drive up the Sea to Sky Highway away.

Day 1.  Go climbing, watch films

The first few days of the Squamish Mountain Festival, or SQMF as it’s known to participants, leaves your mornings and afternoons wide open for rock climbing.  Whether you wake up on the floor, roll out of your tent or car, or rise from the luxury of one of Squamish’s top shelf accommodations, it’s time to get on the stone.  If you’re looking to ease into the style of BC’s immaculate granite, the Smoke Bluffs (insert MP link) are an excellent place to begin.  With routes like Cat Crack (5.6), Mosquito (5.8), ad Penny Lane (5.9) a morning at the Smoke Bluffs will be the perfect place to cut your teeth in Squamish.

When daylight begins to fade, it’s time to head to the Eagle Eye Theatre for the first night of films and presentations.  This year, the event kicked off with “local’s night including live presentations from Marc-Andre Leclerc and Jeremy Smith.  Past year’s have seen the likes of other amazing Canadian athletes such as Jen Olson, pictured below.  Whoever happens to be on stage on Day 1, you can expect some outrageous stories from places nearby or from locals who have traveled the world seeking adventure.  There is always plenty of beer to keep you fueled and thousands of dollars worth of gear waiting for a bid in the silent auction.

Day 2.  Rinse and repeat

Don’t forget to brush your teeth; day two is more of the same only different.  Today perhaps you’re feeling the need for some air and want to head to the Stawamus Chief to stretch out some rope on the sheer walls that cast their brilliant shadow upon to city.  Think about busting out the Squamish Buttress (5.10c), a mostly moderate multipitch line with a touch of 5.10 spice near the top.   After climbing the immaculate friction slabs of the Apron, you’ll already be several pitches off the deck before you begin the Buttress.  Take note of the amazing views below you and into the distance then gear up and get ready for 6 pitches of adventure climbing at its best.  Moderate cracks, a little bit of hiking and some great exposure will bring you to the top of the Chief in a relatively short outing, plenty of time for a bite to eat before the show.

Keep an eye on the clock because the second evening at Eagle Eye Theatre promises even more excitement than Day 1.  Often dubbed “MEC Night” the retail sponsor of the event throws down to bring live presentations and some of the best of Reel Rock to SQMF participants.  Expect, once again, to be able to bid on incredible gear packages in the silent auction during intermission, and of course, the beer flows until close.

Day 3.   Feeling Grand!?

The Grand Wall is appropriately named.  Towering above the city of Squamish the centerline of the Chief will inspire anyone inclined to leave the ground for a day. As you find your way through the seemingly endless supply of boulders you pass as you approach the massive granite dome, it may be hard to resist testing your mettle on some of the smaller stones.   If you do make it through the labyrinth of blocs and find yourself at the base of the Chief, hopefully you’ll be looking up at Exasperator (5.10c) and you have it all to yourself.  This finger-sized splitter shoots it way 150 feet up to a bolted anchor and is a must do for ANYONE who knows how to fingerlock.  The rock is friendly, the feet are secure, and the crack will take as much gear as you bring.

If you’re feeling solid after Exasperator, don’t miss Apron Strings, a sandbag of a 10b but also a 5-star classic.  Bring your small gear and some liebacking confidence and you’ll be ready to embark on some seriously splitter stone.  From the top of Apron Strings, you’ll be in good position to continue up the Grand Wall via its namesake route.  It’s up to you to continue the adventure but make sure to be back at the Eagle Eye Theatre before 7pm as another round of excellent programming will begin.  

Day 4 & 5.  That feeling you feel?  That’s a hangover.

The Friday night post Show party was raging and you’re pretty sure you had an amazing time.  You’ve been going hard for three days now so go ahead and take it easy on Saturday morning and start things slow.  The vendor fair is setup all day at Squamish Junction Park starting at 9am and all of the SQMF’s sponsors have gear to show and demos to try.  If gravity is against you, simply pop a seat in the grass and enjoy DJ’d music, several mini-event activities, and the opportunity to win prizes and swag from the vendors. 

If you’re feeling like you absolutely must get back out there (which you should!) there are demos from all of your favorite brands so you can sample the hottest new gear.  Besides, you haven’t even gone bouldering yet!  Remember those blocs below the Grand Wall?  They’re waiting for you.  The format is the same on Sunday for those who may be bedridden all day Saturday but certainly don’t miss the last evening of shows as Saturday night tends to be the headlining presentations at the Eagle Eye.

Day 6-180

The Festival is over but now that you’re here, why go!?  As a US citizen, you can stay in Canada for six months without a visa.  This allows for just enough time to clean up your projects, start some new ones, and begin planning your next trip to this magical forest.  See you next year!


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