A Weekend in Squamish with Arc’teryx
For the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy
Squamish is one of the most iconic climbing destinations in Canada. It has crags, big walls and hundreds of boulders that are visited by the world’s best. There are lakes, a route to the Pacific Ocean via the Howe Sound, breweries, cafés and a growing population. It’s an ideal backdrop for the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy, which takes place every summer. Arc’teryx is sewn into the fabric of Canadian climbing history. The academy is a week-long festival featuring climbing clinics, films and presentations by industry-leading athletes and creators. If you’re a climber looking to connect with others in the community, then it’s the place to be in August. I was lucky enough to attend this year and climb with a number of legendary athletes. Arc’teryx’s name and logo refer to the earliest known bird, which evolved wings to adapt to its hazardous environment. And as the name suggests, the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy centres around dozens of clinic-based classes taught by leading climbers and guides. The clinics accommodate a range of abilities, from complete beginners hoping to learn the basics to experienced climbers looking to gain new skills and techniques from professional mentors. As an intermediate climber, I was the perfect candidate to soak up as much knowledge as possible and hopefully add some skills to help push my abilities and stay safe.
Before the hour-long drive to Squamish, I was treated to an insider tour of the Arc’teryx design facility. Arc’teryx was founded in 1989 in North Vancouver by Dave Lane. He had started a company called Rock Solid, but was joined by business associate Jeremy Guard, who changed the name to Arc’teryx in 1992. Almost as soon as they were founded, they starting making high-end gear. The Vapor climbing harness became their top seller, as it was based on new laminating technology superior to anything else on the market. They then released the Bora backpack, using the same technology. They relied on word-of-mouth and retailers for promotion. Their products won many awards during the first few years. They were eventually licensed to create Gore-tex outdoor apparel. They invented a zipper that eliminated bulky and irritating flaps found on other jackets and pants. After that, they created the soft-shell category.
While many people outside of the community likely only see a brand that focuses on high-end jackets and sleek packs, those in the climbing scene know that Arc’teryx’s roots are in hardcore technical climbing. Old magazine ads from the early days are framed in the hallway leading to a bouldering wall in their design centre. The area also has a testing facility for quality control where we saw a belay-loop breaking test. We toured past thousands of fabric swatches and precise-looking laser cutters, and finished the tour in the sewing department where we saw the all-new C-quence harness. Our tour started in a hallway featuring their first harness and ended with their most current harness. It’s good to see the brand hasn’t strayed far from their roots, even with their success outside the industry.
After the design centre, it was off to Squamish. If you haven’t been on the Sea-to-sky Corridor, then add it to the list of places to visit. Steep drops to the ocean and big mountains rise from around every corner. We arrived in Squamish with The Chief looming above and checked into our hotel, before heading down to the festival grounds. The evening events are almost as much of a draw as the climbing during the academy. The first night featured talks and photos from Nina Caprez, who later in the weekend onsighted the Shadow 5.13a, as well as alpine stories from Ines Papert and
Luca Lindic. The stage was set for a weekend of sending.
I was a little nervous heading into our first day of climbing. On tap was a multi-pitch endeavour up Angel’s Crest led by none other than top alpinist Will Gadd. A 5.10 route that would likely be at my limit, considering that I had only ever climbed a single-pitch. So, when I awoke to pouring rain and we decided to go cragging, I was a little relieved, even though Angel’s Crest would have been great to tick off my list. Little did I know that I was going to have an epic day, multi-pitch or not. We made our way up a technical approach to the Monastery crag, a small area with several hard sport routes ranging from 5.11 to 5.13. Because it was a rainy day, we figured there wouldn’t be many people there. Upon arriving, we were greeted by top climber Jon Siegrest and event organizer Tom Wright. It was humbling to climb next 5.15 climber Siegrest, who was warming up on a route right beside me. I was at my limit, hanging off of gear while he was warming up on
Legendary climber Lynn Hill
Nick Bousse on Swank Stretch V5