Gripped - - EDITORIAL - Bran­don Pul­lan

There is a lot of rock to free climb in Canada, from old aid routes to new lines. The grow­ing trend of at­tempt­ing to free aid pitches, in pur­suit of dif­fi­cult free-climb­ing seems to have gained mo­men­tum this year, es­pe­cially in B.C. A core group of ded­i­cated senders spent the sum­mer push­ing grades on bold and run-out ter­rain. Many of the routes re­quired a good moun­tain sense and the abil­ity to send 5.12 on re­mote faces. The fol­low­ing are just a few of the in­spir­ing sends from the sum­mer of 2015.

In Squamish, Marc-An­dre Leclerc sent a sec­tion of an old Perry Beck­ham and Damien Kelly aid route on the North Walls called The Raven. His new free route, which is called Raven Free, climbs two stiff pitches up to 5.12c. The “pan­cake f lake” on the sec­ond pitch is one of the most es­thetic cracks on the North Walls. It’s amaz­ing the pitches had so lit­tle at­ten­tion un­til Leclerc and his part­ner’s pres­ence. Later in the sea­son, Tony McLane and Jorge Ack­er­mann climbed a new five-pitch ex­ten­sion to The Daily Planet 5.12 on the Sher­iff ’s Badge, a fa­mous wall that faces Squamish on The Chief. Their new route is the first free line through the gi­ant roofs of the easy-to-spot “star” fea­ture. De­spite climbers talk­ing about free­ing the roofs for over a decade, it wasn’t un­til late Au­gust of this year that McLane and Ack­er­mann sent the bril­liant free climb. They called their new route The Daily Uni­verse.

Tony, the son of guide­book au­thor Kevin McLane, has been es­tab­lish­ing new free routes for years. While he climbed a new route on Mount Louis in the Rock­ies this past sum­mer, it was his climb with Jason Am­mer­laan and Nathan Mac­Don­ald on Mount Bute that stands out as the most in­spir­ing. The three climbers hiked through dense coastal bush to reach the base of a 2009 Mount Bute route that rises for 50 pitches. The f irst as­cen­tion­ists used aid, but Tony, Mac­Don­ald and Am­mer­laan wanted to climb an all-free route and they found what they came for.

In the Buga­boos, Jon Walsh fin­ished a multi-year pro­ject. He called his new 13- pitch 5.11+ Welcome to the Ma­chine. The route climbs the east face of Snow­patch Spire, which has be­come some­what of a go-to alpine “crag.” The face rises above Ap­ple­bee camp­ground and any­one at camp can watch climbers on the steep wall. Walsh has been part of a num­ber of steep new routes up to 5.12 on the face.

But, with­out a doubt, the most dif­fi­cult send of the sum­mer was Will Stan­hope and Matt Se­gal’s ef­fort on the Tom Egan Me­mo­rial Route. Stan­hope first spied the line in 2008 and af­ter rap­pelling it in 2010, he got to work in 2012 with Se­gal. Af­ter four years of ef­fort, Stan­hope made the first free as­cent in Au­gust. Se­gal came painstak­ingly close, but couldn’t free one pitch – the crux 5.14c. It is the hard­est route in the Buga­boos and grade-wise, the hard­est alpine route in North Amer­ica.

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