June 21, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Old school Squamish rock 

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

Page 5 of 7

Asked if he ever returns to his roots in bouldering, Fraser says it still fascinates him in a way, but he craves the height. Then he adds, "It would be interesting to see a really good boulderer up on the Grand Wall. I'd like to see what their approach would be."

Still I'm surprised that the simplicity of it (bouldering) isn't more appealing to him.

"It is, but if I'm going to do something like that, I'd rather scramble up Squamish Buttress."

Behind me he points to a narrow, tree-lined ridge which marks the beginning of the route about a third of the way up the Chief.

"I used to be able to get up and down it in about 40 minutes, once as fast as 34 (minutes). It was fun, sort of like high stress hiking. I guess you could say I love the height."

The old gang

A couple of weeks later I manage to get a hold of Greg Foweraker, one of Fraser’s first climbing partners back when they used to go bouldering and sport rappelling on Vancouver Island. Later on they climbed the big routes on the chief together. I ask him how he came to associate with Fraser in the first place.

"Yeah he was a young punk. God forbid you were seen with him. His mom used to pay my bus fare if I would take him along (climbing) with me. Of course later on we found out he was a better climber than all of us."

Still on those first day trips it was more about the then 14-year-old Foweraker having to drag along the eager 11-year-old Fraser, who was short on gear and apt to make the occasional mistake.

"Hamish would do a lot of sport rappels back then, so one time he thought he would double his ropes by cutting them in half. For some reason it didn't occur to him that then they would be half as long. There's actually a picture somewhere of Hamish half way down a cliff with his rope 20 feet off the deck."

Later on it would seem that his lack of gear instilled considerable resourcefulness in Fraser.

"When he was climbing up at Squamish, he would put in a piece of gear and really run it out, but he was always in control," Fowerakers says.

I wonder just how in control he could have been as a very young climber out to tackle some of the toughest faces in Canada?

"Well the days of gear just randomly failing are pretty much gone, but 20 years ago it did happen. Still Hamish was pretty athletic, pretty mental; it was obvious from almost the beginning he was several notches above every one else."

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