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Feature - Old school Squamish rock

A fraternity of freeclimbers from the 1970s continues to pioneer new routes



Early one morning, Hamish Fraser, all of 14 at the time, borrowed his friend Mike Beaubien's motor bike. It was more a case of borrowing without asking but it was in the name of an altruistic pursuit. He wanted to bring back milk and eggs from the local market for his hung-over friends with whom he shared a summer lease on a home up on No Name Road in Squamish.

On his return, with milk and a carton of eggs tucked into his jacket, he hit a bump in the road. This being Squamish in the late ’70s there were a lot of bumps in what passed for a road back then. He flew through the air, before leaving a smudge of blood, egg and milk in the gravel and dirt.

Later, when he had managed to safely stagger home, he called his folks in Victoria to let them know that he had been in an accident but that other than a nasty case of road rash he was okay. His dad, unimpressed to say the least, informed the young Hamish that rock climbing was one thing, but he was under no circumstances to ride a motorcycle ever again.

As it turned out his dad was right, because in 26 years of rock climbing Fraser has never suffered an injury as bad as the one he took from his crash on a motor bike back in that summer morning of 1978.

So what was a 14-year-old doing hanging out with a bunch of rock-climbing freaks in a rundown house in Squamish in the first place? The story of one of the most revered climbers on the West Coast is what I’m trying to uncover as I sit down with him for a beer one beautiful August evening, at the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company in Squamish. We sit out on the deck of the pub; an appropriate setting for our interview as hikers and mountain bikers settle around us after a long hot day in the mountains – those very same mountains that frame our view from the deck.

Friends come and go, greeting Fraser, and we make small talk for a while until I am able to steer the conversation around to "his story." For Hamish Fraser it started at the age of 11, when he learned to rappel off of trees and cliffs. He then met some climbers, who informed him that while it was great that he knew how to get down, the real trick was in climbing up something.

He began to try bouldering with some older friends on Vancouver Island, near his home town of Victoria. But before long he yearned to be climbing the big granite faces of the Stawamus Chief, the impressive piece of rock that towers over the town of Squamish. At 13 he was a part of the Squamish climbing scene, having completed the first couple of pitches of University Wall.