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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An attempt to pin Fraser down on the difficulty of the routes he has climbed is met by vague and non-committal responses. Instead he stresses that for him climbing is more about the location than grade.

"When we grew up it was about the experience. We weren't out to beat our chests or anything."

About that time one of Fraser's long-time friends and climbing partners, Mike Beaubien, wanders over to our table with a pitcher of beer in hand. Being well provisioned, he’s invited to join us.

"You're talking to a living legend," Beaubien informs me. "Some of the stuff he has climbed here has rarely been repeated."

Fraser seems to warm to his friend’s bravado. Although he remains unspecific on details, he begins to refer to an epic here and there. He mentions being 13 and his first attempt to climb University Wall with Greg Foweraker. They got about three pitches into it when Foweraker, on a belay from Fraser, saw that the slight adolescent was shaking from the strain of supporting his friend. So despite encouragement from Fraser he rappelled off and they called it a day. A few years later Fraser, Foweraker and Croft would complete the first free ascent of the route.

From our vantage point on the deck Fraser and Beaubien point out the other routes that they have completed the first free ascents of over the years: Genius Loci, Sheriff's Badge, The Roman Chimneys. I ask what the various grades would be on these routes.

"Grades sell magazines," says Fraser.

Beaubien, however, is a little more forthcoming and chastises his friend for being overly modest.

"Most of those routes are about .12b-.12c, probably .13 on some pitches," says Beaubien.

Both Fraser and Beaubien run tree-topping businesses, which keep them in shape for climbing. Still they admit that it is hard to get out like back in the good old days.

"In the early ’80s I climbed the Grand Wall five times," says Fraser.

A browse through a Squamish rock climbing guide confirms that Hamish, along with the other former occupants of the house on No Name Road, named or claimed the first free ascent of many of the routes up the Grand Wall through the ’70s and into the early ’90s.

In search of rock

While many Squamish climbers travel extensively to climb in other parts of the world, Fraser’s a little different.

"Actually, I'm the guy who's never been anywhere," he says.

Despite the fact his girlfriend has climbed as far away as Thailand, Hamish has been content to limit his experience to B.C. and California.

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