The Arc’teryx Climbing Academy took place in Squamish this past weekend with sold-out events and clinics at a number of outdoor and indoor venues.
by Drew Copeland
It isn’t often that menacing rain saves a climbing event in Squamish, but that’s how the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy went this past weekend.
In the days leading up to the event, organizers were apprehensive about the thick smoke and poor air quality from the swath of forest fires currently effecting the region.
“Luckily, the weather gods came through,” said event organizer, Justin Sweeny. “We got that inflow of air, the temps dropped, and Friday morning we awoke to a pretty magical weather system that came in and cleaned out the smoke.”
Strangely, the conditions created a beneficial situation for people attending climbing clinics: the rainy forecast and smoke kept the summer crowds at bay, but the rock remained fairly dry, leaving plenty of options, particularly for those who participated in climbing clinics.
This is the 10th year that the outdoor goods manufacturer, nicknamed “dead bird,” has run the event in Squamish. They decided to change the format and branding this time around, switching the name from the “Mountain Festival” to the “Climbing Academy.”
They moved the trade fair from the downtown pavilion to the base of The Chief and, in partnership with the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, elevated a few events to the top terminus. Also, the films were slimmed down in favour of more speakers and the addition of live music.
“In the past, we essentially had a film festival. This year, we refocused the event to education, and put energy into seminars—an intimate opportunity for people to learn about specific topics related to climbing,” said Sweeny.
Highlight speakers included: Vikki Weldon on establishing a new route in Morroco; Brette Harrington on a free solo on Aguja Saint Exupéry, Patagonia; Craig Demartino on adaptive climbing; Rob Pizem on strength training; and Marc-Andre Leclerc on a recent climbing trip to Patagonia.
There was live music each day from the Boom Booms, Jon and Roy, and Kane and Potvin.
Despite the change in format this year, games of dodgeball and tug-o-war have become somewhat a tradition and were played during the trade show.
Brian Jones, ACMG Mountain Guide and owner of Canada West Mountain School, arranged the clinics for this year’s proceedings, as he has done so for the past seven. “The base of The Chief is a great venue for the trade show and the gondola access has added another layer to the event.”
“We ran an overnight bivy up on Sky Pilot, which was really cool. The bulk of the event is still Squamish of course, the gondola just adds a little bit of breath to the climbing opportunities,” said Jones.
The event rebranding is a move by Arc’teryx towards hosting a number of similar “Arc’teryx Academy” events at different climbing hotspots like the Alpine Academy, held in Chamonix in June the past few years.
“Squamish is a world-class climbing destination and as the backyard of the brand, we realized that it just kind of made sense,” said Sweeny.
“It brings in the core climbing community because we’re here underneath the base of The Chief. There have been challenges with the logistics of running stuff up at the gondola, but at the end of the day everyone really enjoyed it.”
– Drew Copeland is a Squamish-based writer and regular contributor to Gripped. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information on the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy visit here.