At the risk of sounding supremely cheesy, we are stoked on Revelstoke.
We woke up on Monday morning a little disoriented, as we had crossed into Pacific Time. It was luxurious to have a full kitchen to fix coffee and a dining room table to work at. After a few hours of productivity, we made our way into town. We had spied a bakery when we arrived the night before, and being the absolute pastry fiends that we are, really wanted to see it.
This bakery was called La Baguette, which raised the stakes. We have a La Baguette in Colorado Springs that we patronize regularly, on what we’ve affectionately dubbed “croissant Fridays.” This La Baguette definitely gives ours a run for its money. We got a blueberry matcha croissant, a pecan sticky bun, and a maple latte, and all were perfection — especially the sticky bun. The cafe had lots of great food and energy. You could get breakfast sandwiches throughout the day and beers in the afternoon. And the bread looked phenomenal. We’d be
Walking down the Main Street of Revelstoke, we were struck by how unpretentious it was. I had said that Whitefish seemed like a less bougie mountain town; Revelstoke is so down to earth, you don’t even know you’re in a mountain town. We checked out a shoe store, where Ryan scored a pair of hiking boots on sale that fit perfectly. Then we popped in and out of various gift and outdoor shops. Their bookstore, in particular, was marvelous. They had a camper van parked outside the store full of books and a reading space for those walking by. As we became increasingly charmed by the town, we started to realize we wanted more time in the place.
In every state we’ve stopped, we’ve tried to purchase a 6-pack of a local beer. In town, we popped into a liquor store and got totally derailed, discovering these Canadian “vodka mudslide” drinks. They came in 5 flavors: chocolate, strawberry, banana, s’mores, and salted caramel. We were too intrigued not to purchase one. The question was, which flavor? Certainly not banana. Well, we talked to the store owner, and he said banana was his favorite. Shucks. He showed us around the beer coolers and told us about the local breweries. “Are you folks from the States?” he asked in his classic Canadian accent. “Colorado! You all are familiar with these Rocky Mountains then, eh? Oh yah, if you’re looking to explore, you should head that-a-way,” he said, gesturing towards the east. “Lots of camping and shit.”
God we love this town.
We finished the work day back at the Airbnb, resisting the temptation to eat out for lunch and finish some of our panini ingredients. When temperatures had stabilized, we set back out to go climbing.
Our experience hit two very different ends of the climbing spectrum. We first went to a crag called Upper Blanket Canyon. Upon arrival, we realized that the canyon was intimidatingly steep and we couldn’t find the approach trail. That’s when it hit me: you had to rappel two pitches down into the canyon to climb the walls. And you sure as hell better be strong enough to climb those routes — because they’re your way back out. We were not sold on this level of adventure. We hopped into the car to a crag heading back towards town, called Shaketown.
Shaketown was worlds different. After parking the car, we found a trail sign that specifically identified the crag (this is very rare). We strolled just a couple minutes along it to the walls. There, we found well-constructed log benches strewn along the base of the crag for people to view climbers, another complete novelty. It was now clear why a Mountain Project user noted: “It feels like an outdoor climbing gym!”
We started at the top of the crag on a 5.10a called Velvet Voices. I put up the route and found it totally sugarbagged. In climbing, a route will be deemed “sandbagged” if it’s rated at one level but climbs way harder. Sugarbagged is the opposite, and much less common. It felt like I had climbed a 5.9.
For what it’s worth, Mountain Project did not seem to have this area fleshed out very thoroughly (I suspected folks around here rely on physical guidebooks instead), so we were never 100% sure which routes we were on. But the next 4 pitches all went the same way; rated at one level, far less difficult than purported. We didn’t really mind, since we’re always happy to climb; but after a while, we were craving a bit more spice. Some moves to get the adrenaline up, to force some commitment. By the time we wrapped up, the air had cooled to a perfect temperature and a climbing pair had joined us at the crag. We made our way back to the car and headed to town, ready for beer and food.
On our town stroll, I spotted a “Bierhaus” that intrigued me, mainly because they had chairs made out of empty kegs. Returning there affirmed it was the place to go. The place was hopping. Inside, we discovered the pub had 24 taps and served professional-looking charcuterie boards. Overwhelmed by options, we sampled 4 different beers before choosing coconut IPAs. You know this place is legit when a beer comes in a 20-ounce glass by default. We ordered some pork and beans to tide us over with their housemade hot sauce, and all I could think of was the Weezer tune.
Before heading home, we went back to the liquor store to retrieve our mudslides. Ultimately, we decided that s’mores would be too sweet, Ryan didn’t want caramel, and I was too suspicious of banana. Chocolate seemed like the safer bet over strawberry, so we sent it. The cashier seemed to support us, saying that she’d had only the caramel (too sweet) and her sister, who loves these mudslides, also said caramel was too sweet.
We sampled the mudslides once we got back to the Airbnb, and they were darn good (especially paired with a maple creme cookie). I made quesadillas and we FaceTimed our friends. It capped off a truly splendid day.
Tuesday morning, we tragically had to check out. We started early to allow time to clean up, get some work done, and squeeze a run and final shower in. We departed the Airbnb at 10:00 on the dot, then took a breather by strolling along the river walk. Naturally, we went back to La Baguette to work, since we couldn’t resist another sticky bun and wanted to purchase bread. We chose a miche loaf, which I learned means “round” in French and is made with sourdough starter and whole wheat flour.
The next couple hours involved ironing out some logistics and wrapping up work. I wanted to return to one outdoor shop that had a climbing guidebook for the area — I wanted to compare its routes for Shaketown with those on Mountain Project. Ryan and I weren’t surprised to see great disparities between the two in terms of route names and locations, though the ratings seemed to match. It really was a sugarbagged crag.
Eventually we went for lunch at a cafe where we got hearty bagel breakfast sandwiches and potatoes. This place had a full smorgasbord of hot sauces to choose from, so we mixed and matched. One of the reasons we also loved Revelstoke: food was actually reasonably priced. In these days of serious inflation, coupled with mountain towns often overcharging, you sometimes feel like you’re getting gouged just ordering an appetizer. Not the case here. Plus everyone was just so freaking friendly. I said that I could live in Victor; I could also live in Revelstoke.
After work, it was time to send it to our next destination. We were aiming for Nelson, BC, but wanted to stop back at Shaketown to do a couple more routes. We hopped on a 5.10c and 5.11b, both more properly rated and fun. There were several climbers above us in the area we had climbed the night before, and we wanted to ask them about the area. I thought I may have left my hat up there anyway, so I wandered up. As I passed through the group, four young guys, maybe college-age, one told me, “Feel free to move any of our shit if it’s in your way.”
“Oh, no worries,” I replied. “I’m just looking for my hat. I think I may have left it here last night.”
“Oh yeah? What’s it look like?”
“Oh it’s just navy blue and says ‘USA,’” I answered, suddenly feeling kind of sheepish and dumb for wearing a blatantly American hat in Canada.
“USA! Are you guys from the States?”
“Welcome to Canada, eh!” one of them responded jokingly. “Bought any maple syrup yet?”
Now we were all laughing. I asked if they were from the area, and they indicated they were from Kelowna and it was their first time at this crag. I mentioned how inaccurate Mountain Project had been for us, and they weren’t surprised.
“Yeah, Mountain Project is pretty garbage in Canada.”
The jokester jumped in: “You’re better off using guidebooks in Canada, or maybe The Crag [a website for Canadian climbing]. Sorry, I’m a nerd.”
“That’s OK, so is Sarah,” Ryan replied.
We exchanged a few more pleasantries before wishing them a good climb and heading out. Next stop: Shelter Bay to take the ferry across Arrow Lake.
With 40 minutes until the next ferry, we sat and relaxed. The scene was so Canadian it was ridiculous. A friendly ferry officer meandering between cars, checking in on folks; a guy playing pretty legitimate banjo out of his car; a couple next to us sipping Tim Horton’s beverages on our right. What a time.
Aboard the ferry, I was transported back to my childhood. For many summers growing up, we would visit our family friends at their house in Islesboro, Maine. As a kid, I loved bringing various coloring books for the long drive, stopping at Cracker Barrel for lunch to play the peg game and get mini maple syrup bottles, and taking the ferry. I stayed outside the car nearly the whole time, a dumb smile on my face.
The drive thereafter was incredibly smooth. There’s no traffic here, really, and we’ve seen one cop during our entire time in Canada. Speed maximums are pretty arbitrary as well (although that one cop did give Ryan a signal to slow down). The rides are just so serene; we agreed that this is the driving you do when you say you’re “going for a drive.” No destination, just views.
We pushed for another 2 hours after the ferry to a bouldering spot called Grohman Boulders. Like Shaketown, we got spoiled by great signage. We wove our way along paths that looked positively Tolkien, and reached the cave boulders. There, we tackled a burly V3, crimpy V5, and mantel-y V4. Eager for just a bit more, we hiked down further to a boulder right by the water and above a train track. The view was so inviting; the neighboring town, Nelson, was lit up like a European town on the coast. We sent a V3 along an arete, followed by another crimpy V5, before packing up.
We had about 30 more minutes to drive to our campsite. Finding dispersed camping in Canada is a bit more challenging, but not impossible. Through research, I learned that you can bet on dispersed camping pretty much any place labeled as a recreation site. The vast majority of Canada is designated as “crown land,” meaning any Canadian has the right to camp on it. Non-Canadians can also camp, but you need some mysterious permit that I truly have no idea how to acquire.
Outside of Salmo, we drove up toward a rec site along a logging road and found a pull off. It was 9:00 and we hadn’t eaten, so we made oatmeal again (maybe our new favorite dinner?) and then crawled into the tent as some rain dripped down. We watched a documentary on Prime called “Grizzly Man” — we haven’t finished it, but I do recommend watching it. It is so absurd, between the mannerisms of the Grizzly Man himself and the camera angles, that you think you’re watching a mockumentary, not documentary.
When we turned it off, we listened to the rain pick up from a trickle to a light patter on the tent roof. It lulled us to sleep. Hours later, it was still coming down strong. Waking up at 6, it showed no sign of stopping. We tried to carefully pack up without getting soaked or covered in mud. It was now Tim Horton’s time.
The rain was soothing and mesmerizing to watch, as we wound our way from Salmo to Trail. We had originally planned to climb again today, but the rain vetoed it — and we were happy about it. After pretty hazy and smoky skies, the rain is so welcome. I laughed at how last night, I had asked Ryan, “Did you see the weather for tomorrow?”
“Looked like just some clouds.”
I was overjoyed to finally make it to Tim Horton’s. We both got honey crullers (infinitely better than Dunkin’ crullers) and hot black coffees. We ate in, so we were served our donuts and coffee with plates and ceramic mugs. As has been the case at every Tim Horton’s I’ve been to, there was a group of half a dozen elderly men, chatting over coffee and their pastries. I bet they do this every day. I hope I can have a ritual with friends like that when I’m older.
Back to the US of A today! We’ll miss Canada … it’s been real.