Skaha via Vegas
With a couple weeks of planning and a little beer-based bribary of the fine kids at Bow Cycle, we were set: a week and a half of climbing, drinking and general cavorting in the heart of the American Dream: Vegas, baby, Vegas.
After loading up Brad's newly insurance-purchased Volkswagen — nearly identical to the rear-ended previous Volkswagen, except for a distinct lack of carefully piled grime and garbage — with a large assortment of crap (owing mostly to our inability to decide on specific objectives besides "red rocks"), we finally headed out about 8pm Friday, well behind "schedule" as normal (almost certainly my fault).
Packing was careful: no Dangerous Goods were strewn about the car save for the two pre-rolls, about which we both carefully admonished each other to remember to smoke before The Longest Undefended Border in the World, lest we be strip-searched and buggered. Or whatever They do to bona-fide Drug Fiends.
Beautiful Medicine Hat
Cruising comfortably, we were about two and a half CDs south of Calgary when the music shut off abruptly: Brad heard something, and it wasn't good. We both agreed: the car was shuddering and lurching and generally not, apparently, wanting to go much further. We pulled into Medicine Hat about 2330 — too late for mechanics but too early not to hit up a random bar for a drink before spending the night.
Apparently, we had chosen the Indian version of the venerable Bo Ho which was currently rocking out to decent renditions of various rock ballads from some bygone era (i.e. 1990). Intending at first to simply use the off-sales, we instead stuck around for a beer, apparently to the surprise of the waitress.
Watching the locals' mating dance wore thin quickly so we grabbed a six-pack and headed towards the campground — but not before Brad was offered to be "hooked". We couldn't decide what this might mean, but it probably wasn't a good idea. Nobody was about at the campground, so we set up, had a couple beers and turned in. The morning came quickly, but still nobody about so we busted out in search of knowledgable mechanics, who would prove to be a hot (read: nearly non-existant) commodity on a Saturday in hick-city.
Eventually reduced to Crappy Tire, we threw the disc around in a nearby park while the local police harassed some hapless Indian who stared blankly at his pink ticket as we left to pick up our ride: new spark plugs, fuel filter and a Complete Check-Out revealed that there was nothing wrong. Perhaps our drug-addled minds had made the whole thing up?
We wisely re-addled our minds before leaving town and made it through Border Interrogation with minimal problems (although also minimal friendliness). Into America!
As the sun set and the music turned again towards Punk, the car's motivation also died: more sputtering. Despite almost nonstop (and knowledgeless) debate over what the problem might be, we had not uncovered it. A leading theory at this point was "something" with the fuel tank/fuel pump, so we filled up — that had sort of worked once before, so why not now?
Beautiful Conrad, Montanna
We decided to give the car a break while we decided upon a corse of action. The only thing open (besides the card-activated gas pumps) appeared to be "The Hi-Way Tavern", which was nowhere near any "hi way". The tarvern contained: one bartender, one local drunk (who intermittently liften his head off the bar to mutter incoherently), two apparent hutterites (selling eggs) and four unpopular (with the bartender, anyway) locals.
Beer, luckily, was horrendously cheap by Canuck standads: $1/pint, although it was also horrendously quick to go down. Half-way through the first one, we decided: best to return home. Unknown transportation issues in an unknown country added up to defeat.
Another local arrived with his young son, who scowled nearly continuously at the bartender. The newcomer comiserated with our problems (as did the bartender, who'd had his own fuel-pump mishaps) and took a brief stab at diagnosis himself.
After another beer and shot of whiskey, the local said him and his uncle were going to the next town to "party" and that we should come-with. Debate was short: yes. We followed their van into town and soon arrived at the local watering-hole (a phrase which takes on a much more literal meaning with american booze, which was luckily just as cheap here).
After many hours of partying with the uncle (who turned out to be the mayor and lover of Jean Cretien ["that guy can really tell it like it is"]), the nephew and a couple other locals, we turned into Brad's car and discovered just how much it sucks to sleep in. A greasy-spoon provided breakfast and coffee before we headed home without any further car-incidences — apparently it hates heading south. It seems Canadian border-guards are interested in exactly one thing: is there anything in that there car we can tax? The answer, unfortunately, was, ``yes''.
The weather in Calgary was looking fantastic, so we decided to both test out the car and ourselves by doing Joy [nice pic,nicer pic] (~400m, 5.4) on Mt. Indefatigable the next day. A noon-thirty start and non-heeding of René's advice (``don't go down the nice, grassy gully on descent'') made for an exciting 8 hour outing as we narrowly made our way through a giant cliff-band before dark. Me forgetting my head-lamp didn't help.
The climbing is indeed quite good. The 70m rope mentioned by Brian makes things considerably faster: we did 6 1/2 pitches, all but the last nearly 70m. Also, the scree-trails you see on the north side just after starting up the ridge do lead easily to the top.
We decided that since the car was apparently perfectly fine, Skaha would be a great backup choice. As a bonus, our friend Clay was rumoured to be there also.
Consulting the Kananaskis Obscure "guide" (available for $2 donation at Wicked Gravity), we decided to check out the sandstone bouldering available near the Bearspaw Resivoir. A bit of a false start and debate about where to go eventually led us to the boulders, which are pretty fun (beware lots of broken glass, however). Also, ignore the GPS reference in the guide (unless I just can't use my GPS yet).
The next morning after a leisurely re-packing (of both ourselves and the car) plus a couple of coffees we were on our way for an uneventful drive through the armpit of BC (Kewlona) to Penticton.
The weather (as always) was great in Skaha, despite rumours of up to 90% chances of rain (which did materialise, but only at night). We also discovered drastically decreased fitness since our spring outing... "Luckily", Clay was occupied with a course and wasn't subjected to our grovelling. My pulled rotator cuff (?) wasn't helping, either.
We did meet one curious group of kids from Canmore who, despite an early-to-bed ethos, we managed to nearly beat to the crag. They certainly did a lot of talking about long days and early rises, but we didn't see any evidence of this.
Joking on the way back about the ``fine art of bailing'', Brad congratulated us on our successfully executed backup plan.