Evan Hau on Be­com­ing the First Cana­dian to climb 5.15

Gripped - - FEATURE - Story by Evan Hau

Ibe­gan climb­ing in 2004 in the era when Re­al­iza­tion was re­garded as the world’s hard­est route and 5.15a was the fron­tier of sport climb­ing. At that time, 5.15a was never some­thing I dreamed of do­ing and wasn’t a goal of mine. I’ve al­ways fo­cused on per­sonal pro­gres­sion in the sport and I slowly ad­vanced my way through the grades un­til I sent Bunda de Fora 5.14d in 2013. That was the first time 5.15 was on my radar. Up un­til that point, the Bow Val­ley had al­ways pro­vided the next log­i­cal project at the next grade for me. Back then, Bunda de Fora was the Bow Val­ley’s hard­est climb. There were a few open projects to try but mostly I dis­patched them fairly quickly. So I forked up the cash for a ham­mer drill and turned to bolt­ing, in search of the next level. Bolt­ing opened a new world and I re­al­ized how much un­tapped po­ten­tial there still is. My f irst for­ays into bolt­ing proved suc­cess­ful, as I opened a num­ber of qual­ity hard routes, but I couldn’t find the elu­sive 5.15. I just didn’t know what I was look­ing for. That re­al­iza­tion in­spired trips to Catalunya, Spain, ar­guably home to the world’s best sport climbs. In Spain, there is no short­age of hard climbs and strong climbers. In less than 15 years, the world went from hav­ing one or two 5.15s to nearly 100, many of which are in Spain. I wanted to sink my teeth into some­thing next-level and I was able to try routes like Papichulo, Selec­cio Anal and Catx­asa at 5.15a, as well as Ne­an­derthal and Stok­ing the Fire, a bit harder at 5.15b. They were too hard for me to con­sider send­ing on a trip and I knew if I wanted to ever climb the grade, I would need to find one back home.

It took three years of hik­ing, bushwack­ing, search­ing and some­times bolt­ing a new climb be­fore I found the perfect line. In that time I climbed mostly on newly bolted routes and aban­doned, open projects. Climb­ing un­touched rock taught me a lot about read­ing se­quences and dis­cov­er­ing what was pos­si­ble when there is no beta, no chalk and no tick marks to show the way. Holds may be dirty or break, which forces new se­quences through­out

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