Sweet Gems Of The Sea To Sky: Brilliant, Faceted Climbing Spots Worth Adding To Your Hit List

Cunning gem-hunters can find a variety of solid routes along the Green River, south of Pemberton. Jonathan Siegrist pans for a nugget on the Klarafied Boulder.

words:: Jimmy Martinello

Thoughts of gems usually evoke precious stones or crystals – rubies or diamonds and such. The sweet gems here are similar: they’re rocks – unique, precious and possessing a wealth of beauty that can enlighten the soul.

But, like all gems, they don’t always come easy. Accessing these spectacular Sea to Sky climbs will require a bit of effort, a little research, and a willingness to just get out there and off the beaten track. Sweet gems don’t come without a bit of digging, right?

The most brilliant gemstone takes the biggest cojones. Leslie Timms at Nairn Falls.

Or digging in. One particular mission to Anvil Island stands out. Guarded by a 10-kilometre approach of open ocean, the southwest side of Anvil offers sun-soaked golden granite, steep climbing right out of the ocean floor. On a sunny day in February, two buddies and I launched our paddleboards and pushed off into the winter wind and cold.

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Arriving at the rock, we promptly punctured an inflatable paddleboard, but our minds and spirits were drawn towards the rock rather than the problem of having three people and two boards. Climbing and exploring new routes took us right to sunset, and with temperatures dropping and cool winds rising we decided to lash together a sweet raft using our (two good and one deflated) boards, three driftwood cross braces, and rope, lots and lots of climbing rope.

Our mighty vessel performed well, until we crested the south shore of Anvil Island and entered the winter winds. A phone call home to our wives revealed that Howe Sound weather was calling for gale force winds and a frigid Arctic outflow, we were strongly advised to hunker down and stay on Anvil.

Even after being blown to Bowen on a previous attempt, Trevor McDonald returns to uncover some brilliance on Anvil Island.

But with a full moon energizing our spirits we opted to go for it, figuring a few hours of paddling downwind would land us in Horseshoe Bay. As the frozen tempests tore us away from Anvil Island, however, we realized a different destination was in store. Fifteen kilometres of moonlit, chilly and massive swell later and we paddled into Bowen Island’s Snug Cove just before midnight to warm welcomes, hot baths, and steak and eggs – from one extreme to the next (thanks Rosie and Pete!).

Likely we should have listened to our ladies, but these sorts of adventures are to be expected when you’re out hunting for the sweet gems
of the Sea to Sky. It may be a lengthy paddle, a gnarly bushwack, or a Tyrolian traverse over a raging river, but when the time comes, just dig deep, collaborate, take some risks and most of all appreciate the beauty of the quest. Sometimes the journey there (or back) is just as valuable as the gem you’re searching for.