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.