To Make a “First”

Gripped - - EDITORIAL - Bran­don Pul­lan

A dream of many climbers is to climb some­thing be­fore any­one else, whether on a com­pletely new route or by mak­ing a first free as­cent. As more climbers push stan­dards and seek out un­climbed lines, the num­ber of pos­si­ble firsts de­clines ev­ery year. We are lucky in Canada to have so much un­de­vel­oped rock re­main­ing, but climbers must work harder than ever be­fore to find the next f irst.

One of the best ways to make a first is to know what has been or hasn’t been climbed. A com­bi­na­tion of read­ing guide­books and talk­ing to lo­cals can un­lock the se­crets of what’s left to do in cer­tain ar­eas. Lo­cal ethics will ap­ply to how you go about mak­ing your first. If you’re free climb­ing an old aid route, can you add or re­move hard­ware to make it safer? If you’re es­tab­lish­ing a new route, can you use a power drill or re­move plants. An­other thing to keep in mind is whether or not what you want to do is al­ready a project.

To es­tab­lish a sport route re­quires an ex­ten­sive kit of gear, from brushes and crow bars to static ropes, drill and ham­mers. New boul­der­ing prob­lems re­quire far less, a few wire brushes and other clean­ing equip­ment. Maybe a rope to clean top-outs and high­balls. New alpine routes vary de­pend­ing on the steep­ness and rock type. “Easy” alpine routes of­ten don’t need much clean­ing as they in­her­ently have poor rock that could never be com­pletely cleaned. Steeper alpine routes are some­times aid climbed to be cleaned and then pro­jected to be freed.

In this is­sue, we have a mix of f irsts. From the f irst as­cent of Mount Louis in 1916 on p. 28 to Mayan Smith-Go­bat and Ines Papert’s at­tempt at a f irst free as­cent in Patag­o­nia. We also look at when 5.15 will be a grade es­tab­lished in Canada or sent by a Cana­dian on p. 40. On p. 14 Les­lie Timms talks to Sab­rina Chap­man about be­com­ing the first woman to send 5.13d at Lion’s Head. And on p. 10 Richard Gre­gory talks about his f irst climbs in the Bu­ga­boos. Last but not least, Son­nie Trot­ter made the f irst as­cent of the Prow Wall on The Chief in Squamish, an eight-pitch 5.14.

There are many firsts to still go down in Canada, from cer­tain grades to climb­ing re­mote walls. Firsts also in­clude break­throughs in ac­cess is­sues, like the open­ing of a crag or ac­cep­tance of cer­tain styles of de­vel­op­ment. Many climbers in Canada will have firsts this year. Some will make their first lead, some their first 5.12 and some their first climb. Good luck to ev­ery­one on their firsts this year and if you do some­thing be­fore any­one else, let us know. We love to hear about f irsts.

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