Evan Hau on Becoming the First Canadian to climb 5.15
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