Cal­gary’s Sea­soned Sender

Bonar McCal­lum

Gripped - - BACK TO BASICS - Gripped Mov­ing Over Stone

Bonar McCal­lum will turn 50 in May and over the past two years, he has climbed a num­ber of 5.14s, in­clud­ing his f irst at the grade. His climb­ing ca­reer started in the spring of 1989 with his friends Del Grams and Cliff Deyo. They top-roped all of the slab routes at Burg­ers and Fries at the Smoke Bluffs in Squamish. Over the next few months, McCal­lum pur­chased all nec­es­sary gear and climbed ev­ery day. In the sum­mer, af­ter tree plant­ing sea­son, he hit the road with Grams and Al Sterns in Stern’s 1970s sta­tion wagon. caught up with McCal­lum to fill i n the pieces be­tween his first and his most re­cent road trips.

What was your first road trip like? We must have watched with Doug Robin­son about 20 times be­fore the trip and those ar­eas high­lighted in the video were where we were plan­ning to go. Del and Al had taken a lead climb­ing course with Keith Reid in the sum­mer, so we were psyched to get out, place some gear and climb some great Trad Lines. We couldn’t have more poorly pre­pared for our first stop, Smith Rocks. Look­ing back I laugh at how steep I thought the climb­ing was there, my only ex­po­sure to climb­ing up to then was slab and the ver­ti­cal na­ture of Smith seemed so hard i n com­par­i­son. We climbed for a cou­ple days, got shut down on 5.10 and left quickly, head­ing for Yosemite.

Af­ter that we trav­elled to Bishop and fi­nally to Joshua Tree. There were many chances for us to kill our­selves. I vividly re­mem­ber try­ing to on­sight my first 5.11c called Crack-A-Go-Go in Yosemite and hav­ing all my gear fail. I took a 10- me­tre fall into a tree and was rel­a­tively un­harmed. Some­how we sur­vived, it was a great in­tro to the life of a dirt­bag climber.

Over the next 10 years, what were your goals for climb­ing and how did you make them hap­pen? Af­ter that f irst trip, I moved back to Ed­mon­ton and was in­tro­duced to in­door climb­ing. Over the next few years I spent my win­ters climb­ing across North Amer­ica. I funded th­ese trips by tree plant­ing in the sum­mer. I def­i­nitely im­proved, climb­ing 5.13 and boul­der­ing V9. In the mid- 1990s life caught up and I took a break from climb­ing for a num­ber of years.

Your first 5.14 was at the age of 48. How was that? That was a very mem­o­rable day for me. Ben Blakney and I had been work­ing this line a while. It was right at my limit. The 45- me­tre route breaks down as a 20- me­tre 5.12c into a V10 boul­der prob­lem and then con­tin­ues into the 5.13c crux at the top of Buf­fet Royale Ex­ten­sion. As the boul­der­ing was at my limit, I needed op­ti­mal con­di­tions. We had been bat­tling the hot July weather for many days and both of us were get­ting shut down on the pinch at the crux. When we saw a drop in the weather fore­cast, a high of 14 C, we both played hooky from work and went for it. I just man­aged to send on my first try of the day. It was a huge bat­tle all the way to the chains. Right af­ter my send Ben f loated it, mak­ing it look easy. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence for both of us to suc­ceed on the same day af­ter work­ing it for so long to­gether.

You then sent T Rex 5.14a. Was it men­tally eas­ier than Bone Thief Ex­ten­sion hav­ing bro­ken the 5.14 bar­rier? Ac­tu­ally T Rex was also pretty big men­tal bat­tle for me. It was not what I would con­sider my style, be­ing a roof climb. The route is an en­durance test-piece, it takes the most con­tin­u­ous line out of the pipedream cave in Maple Canyon, Utah. The first half of the route is a 5.13d called Mil­len­nium. The se­cond half adds an­other 10 me­tres of punchy roof climb­ing to the lip of the cave then it fin­ishes with a 5.12 head­wall past three bolts to the an­chors. Roof climb­ing was for­eign to me. I had to learn how to

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