For 85-year-old Squamish climber “Big Jim” Sinclair, the last half century has been all up hill. By Drew Copeland.

Jim Sinclair first visited Squamish in 1959, when it was still a rough-around-the-edges logging town and few climbers attempted its granite walls. Sinclair has since become one of the longest-standing members of the British Columbian town’s climbing community. “Nobody climbed hard [then],” he says. “We thought we did, and [a] few of us on 5.10 knew we were on our limit, but time took over. Now, if you don’t do 5.10, you’re hardly climbing.”

big jim sinclair on squamish big wall
While no one, including Big Jim Sinclair, remembers what year he first climbed “Merci Me,” he still tackles the two-pitch 5.8 climb on the chief’s Grand Wall.

The affable Sinclair worked at a steel plant in Surrey, British Columbia, for 40 years, visiting Squamish on holidays and weekends until he bought a home there in 1988. Despite being an out-of-towner, he took it upon himself to welcome visitors and advocate for the area, earning the affectionate title of “Mayor of the Smoke Bluffs.” Local climbing icon Tami Knight remembers her first encounter with Sinclair. “I met Big Jim on one of my early trips out to Squish, and his stories were rad.”

At 85 years old, Sinclair is still as excited to chat about climbing as ever, and he remains a robust source of information on Squamish’s history. Sinclair bagged peaks up and down the Coast Range and has a few Squamish classics to his name, including Exasperator, Diedre, Merci Me and Unfinished Symphony.

He still climbs, although on easier terrain these days. “I make a very excellent second,” he laughs. “I have jumars now, so I can still get up anything.”