You’ve seen him around town; rainbow-coloured side pony tail, avant-garde fashion sense, and definitely a one of a kind guy.
Hevy Duty is a recognizable local fixture, and significant contributor to the climbing, slackline, and downtown community in Squamish. Hevy likes to talk, which he does with a stark English accent that he hasn’t lost, despite living in North America since 1989. He’ll talk about the changing times, climbing, music he’s into lately, his new app, Cragger, or he’ll just chip in his two cents about any topic you bring up. And it’s a guarantee that your conversation will be entertaining, if not enlightening.
What’s the Deal?
His given name is Alan Stevenson–which is speckled throughout climbing guide books around the world, as he’s been putting up climbing routes for most of his life. Squamish is no exception. His dedicated work in the Smoke Bluffs has made many lower grade climbs accessible for the average climber. During the rainy winter days, Hevy can be found establishing new climbing routes: dangling on a rope alone in the Smoke Bluffs, scrubbing moss from the granite.
His nickname, Hevy Duty, seems very fitting considering his outlook on life. Part of the ethos Hevy embodies is to eke out your own path and in climbing that means establishing your own routes. “Anyone can climb old routes! Go to Baffin Island, go to backside, put up your own routes,” he states, noting the vast climbing potential in North America relative to England. In everyday life, this electing your own path mentality translates into his motto, “Climb, eat, dance, repeat.” Having just celebrated his 65th birthday, he still spends a fair bit of time doing these things.
Hevy spent the first part of his life on this continent in the Western United States. He worked in construction to fuel his passion to live and climb in the iconic American climbing destinations like Yosemite, Indian Creek and Boulder. He garnered a reputation in the climbing world as a gritty, rough and tumble Brit with a heart of gold. An online climbing forum with a thread titled, “Alan ‘Hevy Duty’ Stevenson Appreciation Thread,” gives credence to his legendary status. Some climbers to whom Hevy showed the ropes, or who shared a comical experience with him in days gone by, have recalled a few moments. Hevy ended up in Squamish in 2001, and has been here ever since, contributing what he can to Squamish community and culture.
Ever the catalyzer of community, Hevy has the magical quality of observing when change is afoot and motivating people around it. “One year, someone was on about slacklining, so I figured why not have a little festival. No one knew what was.” Hevy helped build the slackline community in Squamish by starting Hevy Fest in 2007. He has since become side-tracked on other projects and so Hevy Fest didn’t run last summer, nor this one. But, there is a plan in place: he has spoken to world record slackliner Spencer Seabrooke about rekindling the event.
“I’ve been watching. Paper guide books are great–I know they are. I’ve got lots of them. The reality is, their time has come, their time gone. It’s just the way it is. Newspapers are on the way out. The [smart] phone is ubiquitous. Everyone’s got one.”
For his newest project, a mobile app called Cragger, Hevy teamed up with technically minded locals Darrell Houle and Will Nolan to build this comprehensive guide to cragging in Squamsh. They have set it up so that climbers in other regions, who are keen on publishing can use the template to upload their digital guidebooks. It looks like the next region to have a such a listing will be Skaha Bluffs in Penticton.
The Kids are Alright
For an older bloke, Hevy is notably up to date with contemporary technology. “It’s just like magic and it’s really interesting. Kids spend their whole lives on the screens, so they learn from the screen.” He points to the way youth make change in a society, and how the old paradigm of youth as detractors and degenerates is flawed.
“Young people are crazy!?!? Young people will keep society vibrant,” exclaims Hevy.
“In this world, people don’t realize you have to embrace young people because we’ve changed from an industrial to a technological society, and every kid that grows up is dominated by touch screen. You want to work at Walmart now, you have to be able to use a touch screen on the cash register. It’s hard for old people. You have to change.”
With the exception of the rising costs of housing, Hevy is quite pleased about the wave of changes sweeping over Squamish. “When I arrived here, stood on top of the Chief and looked down the valley, halfway down was the orange fog and you could smell it. We had 24 hours a day logging. Now, everyone wants to come here and it’s no longer a s*#! hole.” He embraces the reality of changes in Squamish. “The market will change; it comes in cycles and the last it happened was with the Olympics. Other than the housing, I think the changes are great. You can have a business and you might succeed–if you are a young entrepreneur and you do a business that’s relevant.” With an entrepreneurial bent himself, Hevy sees the potential Squamish holds for enterprising minds.
His rapid cadence, rainbow hair, and rock-scrubbing ways may seem out of place, but Hevy knows what’s up. He is the kind of person who ekes out his own path; he always has.