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Broke but Stoked, the Best Sort of Climbing Trip

Spring 2009, fresh off of a winter of ice climbing, bar going, road trips, back country huts and more bar going, I was broke.

My friend Andrew “G-Dog” Gallant was in a similar position, having spent six months touring the Canadian Rockies, Coastal Mountains and American Rockies living the “high” life skiing some of America’s biggest lines. My other friend Nick “Pump” Rochacewich spent his winter in Europe, crag-hopping, and generally being the cool villa-living Canadian sending Euro sport in Euro shorts. Needless to say, G-Dog and Pump had also dried their bank accounts by spring 2009.

I was living in a cozy Canmore bungalow, Pump lived in his van and G-Dog was in a dilapidated townhouse. Work was on the horizon, Pump owned, and still does, a high-end painting company; G-Dog owned, and still does, a middle-ground painting company, I worked with the latter. I had 10 dollars and the food on my shelf, G-Dog had 20 dollars and no food, Pump had zero dollars and a nearly-maxed-out credit card.

My phone rang, G-Dog and Pump, fresh from their travels, wanted to come for a coffee or so I thought. My front door opened and two stoked climbers charged in. A barely audible, “Let’s go, get your stuff, hurry-up, we are going to Squamish for a week to climb,” was exclaimed from both. “I’m broke, you’re broke and you’re broke, this is a joke right,” I said as G-Dog walked into my room and started to organize my gear. “No dude, let’s do this, I have a credit card, pay me back later,” Pump said. I was 100 per cent against the idea, my friends have a record of building stoke and then “coming to.” They were determined and minutes later, I was convinced, we were in Pump’s white Chevy 2500 van with his akita-chow Loki, who was sitting with paws crossed on the bed. The forecast called for sunny days and highs of 15 degrees Celsius. I was excited, a 12-hour drive through snowy mountain passes with my two buddies, no money and warm granite awaiting.

We arrived in Squamish after pushing through the night, the Coquihalla Pass east of Vancouver was our crux with its icy roads and 18-wheeler traffic. We parked the van at the Chief campground which is free until May. We climbed on the warm, sunny, south facing walls. G-Dog onsighted Crime of the Century, the classic 5.11c, at the Penny Lane wall. Nick cruised Peter Croft’s Sunny Days in December, 5.12c, and made the unrecorded second ascent of Andrew Boyd’s Bruce Lee Versus the Kiss Army, 5.13R/X. With only a few dollars to live off, we shared breakfasts, enjoyed a daily coffee and for dinner ate pasta out of a Frisbee, which doubled as Loki’s dish. We bumped into former Rockies resident Paul McSorley, the suave, debonair, wild man who fell in love with the coastal rock and cocktail-hour. He graciously made us a much-needed feast, we climbed with him the following day.

Consuming the bare-minimum of calories required for climbing from dawn till dusk, the forecast changed to rain and we opted to drive back to the Rockies. Our cash was gone, our hopes were on Pump’s nearly-maxed credit card. Four hours into our drive, we approached the Coquihalla Pass toll-booth. Pump handed his credit card over to pay the 10-dollar fee, but the card was rejected, the credit card company cut him off. “What?” said Pump, G-Dog and I looked at each other in disbelief. We backed the van up, no food left, no cash and no credit, we couldn’t muster-up 10 dollars, Loki looked puzzled. For an hour we sat, our week of living the high-life was over, we were stuck in a snow storm, hungry; Pump argued on the phone with the credit card company. “I need 100 dollars on the card, I will pay it off in a week, what do I owe?” asked Pump, “Oh, 20 K, I will pay it in a week, we only need a hundred bucks.” Three grown men, stuck in a van on a hill with no money, reality check? The credit card company gave us a break and we made it home. Sometimes the best climbing trips are the least-planned ones.

One week later, Pump paid the credit card company.

Home sweet home, G-Dog and Pump
Home sweet home, G-Dog and Pump
Pump sending Black Slabatha, V8
G-Dog spotting Pump on Black Slabatha, V8
Pump pebble wrestling
Pump pebble-wrestling
Pump, day three, van living at its finest
Pump, day three, van living at its finest 
Pump, rope-less, linking route on a Bluff circuit
Pump, rope-less, linking routes on a Bluff circuit
G-Dog cruising Crime of the Century, 5.11c
G-Dog cruising Crime of the Century, 5.11c
Pump on Climb and Punishment, 5.10d
Pump on Climb and Punishment, 5.10d
Loki and G-Dog, stuck at the Coquihalla Pass toll booth
Loki and G-Dog, fresh from a week of granite, stuck at the Coquihalla Pass toll booth with no food or money, does it get any better?

Story and photos by Gripped editor Brandon Pullan who would not be where he is if it wasn’t for having some of the most stoked friends. 

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