Dedicated to the amazingly perfect granite cliff which stands proud over the community of people who welcomed me back with a warmth and knowing which hadn't touched me for a long time. Thank you Squamish. X
Squamish. It means wind in the native tongue. Anyone who has been there would understand the reasoning. Upon arriving a strong wind blew in off the Howe sound which surrounded the granite cliffs and Tantalus range. My eyes fell upon the pure grandness of the blue, green and grey. The view was spectacular. Unreal. My insides were confused; somewhat anxious. It had been a long time since seeing this view and the faces of its many inhabitants.
Setting up camp, my eyes fell upon the lush forest which once cushioned me. The sweet smell of cedar tree filled my nostrils. So much to catch up on, people to see and yet, the campground in which I stood gave me everything I needed. Grabbing a fresh sprung off baby needles of the closest pine, I chewed it slowly allowing its fresh and unique taste to flow in my mouth. When in this area it was almost ritual to eat every plant which I knew of. It was returning home.
Returning home, yet, feeling oddly like a visitor. I was without my van, meaning my home. We arrived in Squamish with the help of Julie and her big black truck. Pulling into the middle parking lot was truly surreal. This parking lot in which I have spent many an hour was the exact same, yet, I felt like a stranger. Nearly three years have passed since my feet touched this ground.
But there are some things which don’t change. Minutes after arriving a big white van pulled up with a matching Primus sticker on the back. Peter Micheaux. He is a legend in my world. I have known him since bouldering became an integral part of my world. He wrote one of the first guidebooks for the forest and can often be found in his home woody or climbing at Fleming beach in Victoria. But now, he is Squamish based and what a pleasure it is to run into Peter. Never will I be bored or uninterested in his presence.
Later came Benny, riding the bike he made out of founded parts. He made his way up to the campground just to visit us. This action in itself nearly brought me to tears. I can’t remember the last time I had a visitor in Europe. It was like a blow to my head reminding me of the community I once belonged to. Next came Tim who helped make this trip possible in every possible way. Then Nic and Mark. Matt and Janelle and their new family member, North. Mando, Jer, Rhea, Kaz. Hell, even Neil from Wales was around. We saw the usual gang in the forest, the seasonal Quebecois and later, a slew of people who I had never seen before making me realize it really had been a long time.
Benny and Neil 'safely' checking out a long standing project
As for the forest, some paths were overgrown while others were spreading out with erosion. Moss returned to the tops of some old lines which never got repeated. It actually looked better than before I left. So green and dense with various evergreens which loomed high above my head.
I visited old projects as well as new lines. While topping out problems that I had done over a 1000 times, my heart pounded hard. I was out of breath. What? Out of breath? Squamish has always been the place I could go to and measure my progress or there lack of. If I could do old projects or if problems felt easier; I knew I came back better. This time however, I was left confused. I felt stronger on individual moves but my fitness felt shot. Given all the training put in, which was more than ever in my life, I was meant to be in good shape right? Well, I wasn’t sure anymore. Trying old projects for measure was overwhelming. My focus was wanting to roam around the forest and simply climb. Repeating a bunch of things was like a gift. The unique movement of the Squamish bouldering made my insides jiggle with happiness. It felt so good to move and climb on this stellar granite.
After the third day of allowing myself to blissfully do as I wish, the gnawing feeling of guilt settled in. ‘You should be training on plastic’ it said… The Laval World cup was in less than 2.5 weeks and here I was in the forest playing lock off and slab. Climbing is climbing I argued but I knew this wasn’t exactly true. Moving on plastic is completely different to moving on rocks. I had to go back to school. And so that’s what I did. There were a couple session had at the Edge Climbing gym and of course the Squamish Co-op. While Tim made me up problems addressing my specific weaknesses, my ass met the floor with each attempt. It took quite a few tries to learn the trickery of the movement he was trying to teach. Swing, don’t match, turn sideways, go faster… Climbing in the forest does not teach this. It was re-programing in session and it wasn’t easy, but, it was fun..!
The Squamish Co-op.
The Squamish trip was interrupted with a brief visit to Vancouver Island, in particular, The Boulders Climbing Gym. Kimanda had invited me to go there and climb with some of the kids, help with their technique and check out the gym. I got to try the speed climbing wall on auto belay and yes, it was hard and yes, I down climbed half way. Finally committing to let go and trust the device, I let out a little scream of fear and excitement. Surprisingly, it worked! My feet touched bottom. :) On top of that, Cedar and I got to meet with her homeschool teacher who we work with at a distance through “SelfDesign Learning”. If that wasn’t enough to put icing on the cake, we finished the evening with homemade carrot cake to celebrate Peter’s 40th birthday.
Made it to the top!
A few days later we returned to Squamish but it felt different this time. The shock of being back had gone and was replaced by tingling feelings of being home. The Chief had beckoned me to hike it at least once before I left proving to me that I was indeed out of shape. Surviving the stairs, I got to the top to breathe in its offerings and reflect on my return. I have had so many homes all over the world but at the core of these is the people. We covered more birthday parties those two weeks than we had the last 3 years. Cedar and I belong to a community here which goes back over a decade. When leaving Squamish nearly 3 years ago, my body and soul hurt. I needed to break the spell and stagnation; to learn other things… and yet… returning prompts the questioning of why we ever left. As I take in a deep breath and look around, we wave good-bye to the chief standing tall and proud. I asked for its protection and our ultimate return.
Thanks for reading. X
Good-bye Squamish. see you soon.
Please check out my crowdfunding gig which made this trip possible and my attendance to the Toronto World Cup.