Skaha Bluffs: Hanging on by the Edge

On March 28th, one day after spring break had ended, the Discovery boys took off for another exciting trip into the field. It wasn’t too early of a start: we were expected to arrive at the field house at 7am. Our trip involved a five hour drive to the Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park where we would spend the next 5 days rock climbing and hiking. The entire Discovery class (minus Matteo) would be together this time, our second trip together as an entire class.

When we arrived in Penticton, we visited the Penticton Archives Museum. What it lacks in size it makes up for with information on the city of Penticton and how it came to be. In the museum, there was one thing that caught the eyes of every boy: the topographical sandbox. According to our museum guide, it was the only one in Canada. We found the topographical sandbox very interesting because it could detect when the sand was being moved and would change the topography of the box when someone moved the sand around.

On the second morning we woke up to rain drops dripping onto our tents. In case you didn’t know, climbing on wet rock is extremely dangerous and not at all fun. Because the rocks at the bluffs were soaked, we took a quick trip to the Penticton Community Centre where we relaxed in the hot tub and played a game of water basketball in the pool while the bluffs dried out. Then it was on to rock climbing, the main reason we were on the trip; it seemed so abnormal that we didn’t even start climbing until the second afternoon out in the field!

The first afternoon of rock climbing consisted of heavy wind chills on the Daycare wall: not a great first impression of rock climbing; nevertheless, the boys overcame the bitter cold and scampered up the wall. Thankfully, the winds died down and allowed us to enjoy the last hour of climbing.

On our third day, the weather cleared up while the sun was shining through! With this in mind, the boys hiked into the Redtail wall ready to give it their all. As this was our first full day of climbing, many of the boys found it challenging to climb all day. By the end of the day, most of us had completed four or five climbs: a hefty amount for amateur rock climbers. The highest rated climb at the redtail wall was a 5.9 on the Yosemite decimal scale (refer to the rating system).

On our final day of climbing our guide, Russ, brought us up to the Grassy Glades wall: a 35 minute hike from the parking lot. This wall was filled with an abundance of climbs varying from 5.7 to 5.11a! While the 5.11a wasn’t set up, there was a 5.10c ready to climb. Many boys attempted it throughout the day, but no one managed to climb to the top: except Ms. Bell. She made it look easy when she climbed up the crux while the boys were left to stare. (crux – The toughest move or sequence of moves on a climb)!

Another challenging climb that many of the boys attempted was a 5.9 which involved a crack in the bluff; most of the Discovery boys had never encountered this type of climbing before; however, we had another rock climbing guide on the trip to help us: Josh. He specialized in crack climbing so he was able to teach us numerous techniques such as the hand jam, fist jam, and etc. This made getting past the crux much easier and inspired many boys to attempt the obstacle. While climbing up was still extremely challenging, getting to the top was awfully rewarding because the view was amazing! At the top of the 5.9, you had a 360 degree view which showcased Skaha Lake and the city of Penticton.

Later on in the day, the group went rappelling off the Great White wall Not only was the view breathtaking, there was also a 40 foot free fall during the rappel; it was truly an experience of a lifetime. Even boys with a fear of heights attempted the 50 foot rappel, and loved it. Everyone wanted to go again; sadly, time was winding down as we were forced to return to camp.

On our final day, we were woken by our alarms at 5:30am. Because it was the last day of base camping, we needed to pack everything out, including tarps, tents, pots, pans, and etc. We also did NOT want to arrive late as we were meeting Howie Richardson, author of the Skaha Rock Climbing Guide Book, and going on a nature hike around the 1200 climbs that exists at the Skaha Bluffs. As we trekked around the bluffs, we learnt about the history of the place, and how it was discovered 30 years ago by Russ, Howie, and a group of friends. It was amazing that we were able to meet the founders of the Skaha Bluffs!

We waved goodbye to sunny Penticton and prepared for a long, uneventful five hour bus back to Raincouver when suddenly…BANG! Everyone on the bus was awoken and curious as to what had happened. We would soon find out that we had blew out one of our back tires. Unfortunately, we were 40 kilometers from the closest town, Merritt; however, our bus had eight wheels, so we were able to crawl to Merritt on 7 wheels. We arrived safely and relaxed in A&W while the tire was replaced. As we concluded our enjoyable yet unpredictable journey, all of the Discovery boys reflected on how thrilled they were to have discovered rock climbing, and what the next trip holds.

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