I had a great day at the Squamish Via Ferrata recently with an unlikely group of guests - two adventurous grandmothers, Gillian and Pauline. Both ladies were Sea to Sky Gondola season pass holders and had been doing weekly trips up the mountain for morning hikes and coffee at the Summit Lodge since the gondola opened in the spring of 2014. Gillian had inquired about the steel cables and rungs she could see from the observation deck of the Summit Lodge and was curious about the experience. After talking to Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures office she was reassured that both ladies would have no trouble with the via ferrata course. Gillian convinced Pauline that it would be a great idea to try something new during their weekly trips up the Sea to Sky Gondola and booked a tour. I was lucky enough to be assigned as their guide. Gillian was a little hesitant at first, having a slight fear of heights but was more than up to the challenge. The process of clipping onto the safety cable, taking a few steps then clipping onto the next section of cable helped her to focus and worry less about how high off the ground she was. Gillian climbed the headwall with no problems and by the time she reached the top of the she was in a groove!
Stepping off the grid into remote locations - away from cell phone signal - is a large part of what makes the experiencing the wilderness experience so special. With smart phones now firmly integrated into our lives and constantly keeping us connected, stepping out of cell phone coverage can give us a sense of freedom, with no one bothering us about work, gossip or pressing social engagements. But despite parties being adequately prepared, accidents can happen in the backcountry. The old school method of letting next-of-kin know your departure point and expected return - while still an important part of trip planning - will only let Search and Rescue (SAR) organizations extrapolate your location in the event of a catastrophe. The good thing is, the technology that keeps us so connected is helping make backcountry travel safer.
Since our launch of our Squamish Via Ferrata Tour last month, more and more people are hearing about this easy and accessible climbing experience just steps from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. Recent rain has cleared the sky of smoke from wildfires in the region, allowing pristine views of Howe Sound and the Tantalus Mountain Range once again. Our guides have been leading groups of all ages with children as young as eight years old to enjoy this unique and exhilarating experience. Beginning with a guided hike through old growth forest down from the Sea to Sky Gondola's Summit Lodge, the Via Ferrata experience starts with an easy traverse while guests get used to the harness and lanyard system. Before long, the ascent climbs glacier-polished granite rock with a mix of vertical climbing up metal rungs, traverses across the rock faces and crossing catwalks and a suspension bridge. Over your shoulder you'll have the inspiring views of the alpine peaks of Sky Pilot and Copilot as well as the vast expanse of Howe Sound and the Tantalus Mountains across the valley. Fun for the whole family and climbers of all abilities!
It has been a really exciting start to summer 2015, here at Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures HQ. With our new branding, website and also our new Via Ferrata in Squamish - things are shaping up to be very busy this season! For those visiting (or even for those of us who are lucky enough to live here!) the Squamish and Whistler area this summer, we have plenty of unique adventures and experiences for all ages and abilities! We caught up with some of our Mountain Top Guides, to get the 'hot off the press' updates on the conditions out there!