Exploration and Adventure Climbing in the Sea to Sky

Words and photos: Jimmy Martinello

The plains of passage as you come up the Sea to Sky highway would without-a-doubt be the amazing granite walls of the Stawamus Chief. For a climber, this place is the gem of gems. There are enough routes on these walls to keep anyone busy for a lifetime. There isn’t a time I’m not stoked to scale up the spectacular walls that line the Chief massive… except maybe on a weekend. When the crowds arrive in the Sea to Sky it’s time to look beyond the Chief to the many other wild walls waiting to be explored in the area.

The efforts and visions of climbers in the Sea to Sky area have resulted in countless new routes and places to explore. Over the past 15 years my climbing partners and I have been accessing these new places by SUP, boat, Tyrol-ing across rivers or lowering into the depths of Nairn Falls or the Cheakamus Canyon. These images offer just a taste of my favourite memories adventuring in the Sea to Sky over the years. Hope to see you out there!

When it comes to exhilarating places to climb Nairn Falls is at the top of the list. Over a few years, my longtime climbing partner Trevor McDonald and I put up a few really special routes that climb right up out of the caverns of the falls. This one is called “Into the Mystic” and is a wild free route that gets the heart and soul pumping. Leslie Timms was stoked at the opportunity to climb it. As she put it: “climbing myself into some of the wildest positions on earth”.  This is a shot of Leslie going for it as she heads out the roof over the main falls at Nairn.

Leslie on sending ‘Into The Mystic’: “I looked down and stared deep into the black hole, while its mist sprayed across my back. I felt so incredibly alive, so connected with nature and self. Grateful for these magical moments”.

Trevor McDonald, longtime pioneer of new routing, finds his groove as he ascends his route, “Natural Mystic”. I have a ton of respect for Trevor and his vision of seeing and climbing this radical route. Yeah amigo!

Jonathan Siegrest on the tyrollean across the Green River en route to go climb at the Suicide Bluffs. This shot was from a busy couple days of shooting during Arc’teryx’s Squamish Exposed Photo Showdown last summer. I was so stoked to be a part of the event and happy to have such a rad crew. Jonathan and Caroline Jung were a blast to hang out with and I was more than happy to show them some of the gems that line the Sea to Sky corridor.

This image is a special one. After our dear friend Klara Knapek passed away, Trevor McDonald and I found and put up this boulder problem called “Klarafied” in Pemberton, BC. Here, Jonathan Siegrest enjoys the fine setting and sends it in style.

Riverside climbing. Jonathan enjoys the sweet granite on the second ascent of Jay Audenart’s new line, “Hostile Take”, over one of the many great steep routes at the Suicide Bluffs a short drive from either Pemberton or Whistler.

This is another image I shot during Squamish Exposed of Caroline Jung climbing on the sea cliffs above the waters of the Howe Sound. These cliffs are accessed by a half-hour paddle board from Squamish. Thanks to Chris Weldon and Andrew Boyd for all of their work putting up so many fine lines out here.

Jonathan and Caroline get a sweet day on the sea cliffs. Jonathan’s thoughts on the zones we explored: “I’ve been to Squamish and climbed around the area a number of times but Jimmy showed me a whole different world of obscure and absolutely amazing cliffs: many of which are within view of the Chief! I knew I was in for an adventure but I can’t say that I ever expected to climb in front of a raging waterfall, or fight an aggressive current on a paddle board with a rack of cams on my harness.”

If you paddle a few hours from Porto Cove to Anvil Island you will be rewarded with one of the best sea cliffs in the area. There are spectacular routes coming right out of the water and all-time steep and super rad climbing. This is a shot of Trevor McDonald on our new route, “Let the Good times Roll”.

Jon Burak is rewarded after a long day climbing at Anvil Island with calm glassy waters and a sweet sunset to light the way.

The final day shooting at the Squamish Exposed Photo Showdown. Obviously we didn’t have any fun.

Cover Photo: Brette Harrington gets her first taste of climbing off the paddle boards above the Howe Sound. The smooth granite of the “Whales Vein” is a good place to start.

Watch the Squamish Exposed Photo Showdown on Saturday, July 21 in Downtown Squamish during the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy. Find more information at squamish.arcteryxacademy.com.