June 21, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Old school Squamish rock 

A fraternity of freeclimbers from the 1970s continues to pioneer new routes

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He established relationships with several climbers, including Perry Beckham, Greg Foweraker, Peter Croft and Peder Ouram. For many years they lived a merry Band of Brothers existence, occupying a series of ramshackle houses and pioneering routes up the Chief. A few summers they even resorted to living in caves at the base of the Chief. It was definitely a fraternity, as Fraser describes it.

"You have to understand, back then we were considered freaks. There were less than a dozen of us up here, all men, who climbed back in the ’70s," Fraser says. "Even later on there was only one or two women who climbed, and then it was because they were the friend or girlfriend of someone."

In Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering (Rocky Mountain Books), author Chic Scott describes the first free climb of the University Wall, involving Croft, Foweraker and "a 15-year-old high school student by the name of Hamish Fraser. During this historic climb Fraser wore his EBs on the opposite feet because they were worn through at the toes."

Back then, Fraser explains, climbing wasn't even considered a sport, it was more of an adventure or a lifestyle.

"Actually, it was purely an adventure," he corrects himself. "We wanted to explore the mentally challenging aspect of climbing."

For Fraser the act of rock climbing is something of a high-altitude meditation. He often prefers to solo routes, losing himself in the climb.

"I used to get up before dawn and walk down from No Name Road, it was about a 40 minute walk," he says. "Once a RCMP officer pulled up beside me and he was very suspicious as to what a 15-year-old kid was doing skulking around at 4:30 in the morning. When I told I was heading out to climb the Chief he gave me a ride to the base. Of course then I had to sit around for an hour waiting for the sun to come up, because I didn't have a headlight – or maybe they hadn't even been invented yet."

He admits that solo climbing isn't for everyone, but for him the simplicity and efficiency of climbing alone makes it all very satisfying.

"It's a very rewarding endeavour, you really have to reach into yourself. It's very personal."

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