The Sea Flea
Adventures on the Howe Sound
Nobody knows how many climbers visit Squamish every year, but one thing is certain, they all look across the Howe Sound and wonder what those cliffs would be like to climb. Well, I can tell you, they’re worth the trip.
I was just like those hordes of neverbeen-on-the-sound dirtbags, always climbing east-facing walls close to the Sea to Sky Highway. I wondered if anyone had spent time developing the small and big granite faces across the water.
Then on one fateful day, I got a text from Sonnie Trotter asking if I and Gaby James would like to visit those small walls. Trotter said that local bad boy Chris Weldon had a boat called the Sea Flea and that he often climbed on the off-the-grid and above-thePacific crags. Who would say no?
I met Chris, the brother of Vikki, Stacey and Mike Weldon (all crushers i n their own right) a decade earlier in Alberta. We gathered at the boat ramp and helped to get Sea Flea into the salt water where so many locals spend their afternoons kite surfing. It was a windy and cold February day, but the sun was warming us and the rock, but not the water.
We started out on the 10- minute journey across the water and headed directly to the most obvious of the small coastline cliffs. The closer we got, the better the rock looked. It was low tide, so when we pulled up, we had to leave enough rope on the tether that we clipped to a cam that we would tip the front. The rock close to the water was grimy and slick with seaweed. But above the water line, the crystals were dry and solid.
The rock had been weathered for who knows how long and was some of the best stone in the area. Trotter led up from the boat, which was now bobbing and bumping into the rocks. The wind was coming from the northwest and the sun from the south. Trotter climbed the 5.10d like he’d done it one hundred times before, even though he’d never been there.
Weldon told us that he, Andrew Boyd, Jimmy Martinello and others had been developing climbs above the water for years. The first bolted route was Revenge of the Sea Flea, bolted in about 2010. Almost all of the routes can be climbed from the boat or off a stand-up paddle board. Chris said that they were just looking for some deep water soloing areas but the potential was too good.
Chris said all of the routes were done on rappel because dropping a rock onto a boat could sink it. The weather can change in minutes and you have to be prepared. People have died in the Howe Sound and it’s important to be careful. The tides can rise and fall about three metres which can swamp your setup and damage your boat. Chris said Sea Flea’s bottom was dinged and beaten and had needed patches. He said a little aluminum or zodiac would work the best.
Chris said there’s no real topo to the area, but you just have to ask for some info. There’s about 12 routes on The Yacht Club wall near the Squamish River up to 5.12. Chris said that there should be a guidebook out in the future to the crags.
As we finished chatting about the area, a cold wind blew up and James handed out jackets. I climbed up and took some photos of Trotter with Squamish behind. From there, we took the boat to another crag and climbed a 5.11 arete until the sun went down. At that point, the temperatures dipped to near zero and we sped back for beers and to warm up.
A few days later, I travelled to Sutton Pass near Tofino on Vancouver Island. I met my friend Danny O’Farrell and we bolted a number of new routes. They took some cleaning but I unearthed one climb that reminded me of the ones above the Howe Sounds. I called it The Sea Flea and graded it 5.9.—
Right: Sonnie Trotter leading above the Howe Sounds as Gaby James and Chris Weldon chill and belay in the Sea Flea. Squamish and The Chief are behind.
Left: Sonnie Trotter and Chris Weldon in the Sea Flea