A branch cracked and I whirled around, causing a moment of dizziness. My eyes focused on a putrid hand extending toward me, clutching. My training ingrained as instinct, I made short work of him, my adversary. But not for long; he is part of the undead brigade, swelling in ranks and threatening to unseat us, the living.
My bag packed and nourishment consumed, I quietly slipped out of the silent house into the eerie light of a bottle brown and green pre-dawn and onto my steed. Gliding through the silent streets, I scanned for movement in the shadows of the tell-tale scraping, rasping and rusted hinge-like pantomime which signal The Brigade. You just can’t relax now, in this new time where the living fight for their right just to live. I pulled into the gravel lot off the highway switching my lights off quickly to leave me in darkness. I gazed up at the Stawamus Chief in the warm sickening gloom, land marking the Apron, Pan Wall, Prow Wall and Sheriff’s Badge. My phone said 4:57 a.m. as a truck rolled to a stop beside me. I hitched my steed, threw my pack into the truck bed and climbed in.
The drive was silent of talk save when our path was blocked by small bands of the undead. We’d become so desensitized to their attacks that it barely registered when we opened the doors armed with our tools of retaliation and began the sweaty work of administering the justice of the living. It was always temporary; they came back to dead-life more quickly each time and besides, we had a gem of a route to climb. We navigated the Indian Arm FSR and finally came to a rocky halt where the hike began. After scrambling down boulders and crossing an aging rope bridge, a small and ancient trail floated up through the steaming woods and we followed willingly. There seemed to be little undead presence, maybe because fewer living traveled here to climb on this north facing wall usually seeping with ooze, algae and festooned in a mossy plumage. The Fluffy Kitten Wall, below and to the north of Mt. Habrich, usually saw early sun but now after the distribution of Brigades to the north and south and the ensuing battle waged between the living and the undead, was now barely visible through the brown-yellow smog that clung to the valley bottoms.
We arrived at the base of the wall feeling safe, as if we had finally found a place of refuge from the constant threat of the undead. The sun had finally risen to a point where we could make out the features that denoted the beginning of Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, an often talked about but rarely climbed route that climbed the full height of the wall in 7 pitches. We quickly threw on our harnesses, racked up and cast off into the vertical world; safety from the undead was more or less guaranteed now as the Brigades had yet to learn any rope access skills.
The first incredible thing was the quality of the rock on the Fluffy Kitten Wall. Amazingly textured but with no friable crystals on the surface, the route’s signature flaring cracks popped into view. After two pitches of flake cracks, left-facing corners and locks, you stand atop The Scratching Post Ledge. From there you downclimb, traverse and then climb up a glorious 20-metre section of flaring, locker 5.7 hands, pass an optional belay and continue charging up the wavering flare of this incredible face crack pitch.
The next pitches contain layback flakes and jugs in the middle of blank walls, face climbing on crisp edges well protected with bolts and a techy crux involving slopers and a chicken head. The final pitch rounds out the feature to the lip of the wall, leaving us shaking our heads as we rappel off a cedar at the pleasure of swapping leads in the sub-alpine so close to a zombie ravaged home.
We spoke no more of our journey to the Fluffy Kitten Wall, its location or the wonders of the route. Leaving the vertical world as the only truly safe haven for the climbing living was an important element of how climbers stayed alive during the dark time as the leagues of Brigades increased. Climb to live, live to climb.
Columnist’s note: The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, 7 pitches 11a, on the Fluffy Kitten Wall was climbed during the forest fire smoke period without threat of the undead. The undead element came as a continual joke while climbing in the eerie and otherworldly light bathing us during our day.