Squamish is arguably Canada’s rock climbing capital, with countless world-class big wall routes and boulders, but during the covid-19 pandemic of 2020 the B.C. town is rather quiet.
I’ve visited the top-of-Howe-Sound once-mill-town every summer for the past 20 years and even set up shop in 2011 to rock guide. My first visit was in summer 2000, back when the road from Vancouver was in pre-Olympic condition and routes like Dreamcatcher 5.14d and Cobra Crack 5.14a hadn’t been opened.
Even back then, you’d be hard-pressed to find a platform to pitch your tent in the Stawamus Chief “climbers” campground. Over this past long weekend, however, there were dozens of empty camping spots and the parking lot felt like a ghost town, even after everyone had sauntered back from their evening projects.
Yes, there are license plates from Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba in places like the Apron lot, but thankfully there’s a noticeable absent of U.S.A. vehicles. On Saturday and Sunday, there were less than three parties that went up the Grand Wall, a route that would typically have lineups from sunrise to sunset on the August long.
Gripped writer Noah Walker recently made the trip from Toronto to Squamish to focus on burly problems and said that he noticed the lack of climbers as soon as he arrived. The coffee shops lines are small, and, compared to last year, there are nearly no van-lifers.
There are still a lot of climbers in town, but far fewer than I expected, even with the covid-19 restrictions. Squamish businesses are following the new pandemic rules, but not many visitors are wearing a mask.
Overall, it feels like Squamish is a yet-to-be-discovered destination with few to no lineups on famous routes and your choice camping spots. A nice change from recent years when it felt like route developers couldn’t build routes fast enough to disperse the crowds.
Whether the town will remain below capacity or climbers will rush here as we head into fall is anyone’s guess, but at this pace I’m going to go with the former.