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Feature - Old school Squamish rock

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



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"Fifteen, 20 years ago it was all about training for Yosemite. And the Chief is pretty good for that, it's like a mini El Cap (El Capitan, a 3,000-foot granite face in Yosemite Valley) and really it's the best place in Canada for solid granite and long climbs."

Climbing in Squamish has exploded in the last decade, not only with locals taking up climbing but international climbers coming from around the world to test their skills on The Chief. Fraser and Beaubien are asked if they pine for the old days or are they happy to see the sport grow in popularity.

"Well I guess it's one of those ‘careful what you ask for’ things," answers Beaubien.

"We used to wonder why people weren't more interested in something as cool as climbing. Of course now they are and they're here, and the parking lot that used to have a few $200 beaters scattered around it is filled with shiny new SUVs from the city."

Fraser nods and adds: "The sport, well it really became more of a sport with the advent of sport climbing. It's good to see, I think it's sad when people don't find something to be passionate about in their lives."

Considering Fraser's no-holds-barred, forthright technique, how has he managed to escape serious injury through the years?

"I would say it's about time put in, you just become very aware of what you are capable of. When you are climbing up something the process is slow and measured, you're working against gravity. If you take something like snowboarding or mountain biking you're letting gravity take you and that's hard to control."

Fraser, who in recent years has become a mountain bike enthusiast, opens his shirt to reveal two red gashes on each shoulder to illustrate his point.

"I did this last weekend. I took a header over the handle bars. I never had wipeouts like this climbing."

Of course you can't really afford to.

"True," he admits. "But there's a right way and a wrong way to approach it and again it's about time put in, you just kind of figure it out."

He goes on to mention that as a volunteer for search and rescue he sees accidents happen over really insignificant things.

"Sometimes people just fall."

I suppose when you're a 1,000 feet up and hanging from your fingertips a certain amount of fatalism comes into play.