To Make a “First”
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.