Big Climbs, Too Many Ac­ci­dents and a New Year

Gripped - - EDITORIAL - Bran­don Pul­lan

As I look back over the past year, I can’t help but think it was one of the most break­through, up­set­ting and all-round mem­o­rable since I started climb­ing two decades ago. In Fe­bru­ary, Amer­i­can Margo Hayes be­came the first woman to climb 5.15a with her send of La Ram­bla. Then tragedy struck when top climber Ueli Steck, known for his solo speed records, died solo­ing Nuptse on an ac­clima­ti­za­tion climb in preparation for his solo climb up Mount Ever­est. It took the climb­ing world by sur­prise and left a deep sad­ness in those who knew Steck and those who ad­mired him. In June, Alex Hon­nold free-soloed El Cap­i­tan via Freerider, a 30- pitch 5.13a. He noted af­ter: “It doesn’t feel that big a deal when you fi­nally do it, be­cause you put so much ef­fort in. I mean the whole point is to make it feel not that crazy.” And then in the fall, Adam On­dra climbed 5.15d, Hayes sent an­other 5.15a, Cana­dian Gord McArthur climbed the world’s first D16 in B.C. and Evan Hau be­came the first Cana­dian to climb 5.15a with his new Hon­our and Glory near Can­more. But the bad news didn’t stop with Steck i n the spring. In be­tween the good-to-hear sto­ries were re­ports of climbers get­ting into se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents. Too many to count. Then in Oc­to­ber, we heard the news that top alpin­ist Hay­den Kennedy took his own life af­ter his part­ner Inge Perkin died in an avalanche, which Kennedy sur­vived. And then a few days later, ace big-wall climber Quinn Brett fell on The Nose and broke her back.

Our com­mu­nity takes the bad with the good. Head­ing into 2018, I can only imag­ine the sorts of things we’ll wit­ness. There’ll be mon­u­men­tal suc­cesses and unimag­in­able losses. Will we see the first 5.16? Will El Cap be free-soloed again? Will On­tario’s only 5.14d get a sec­ond as­cent? Will the North­west Face of Devil’s Thumb in Alaska fi­nally be climbed? And will a young Cana­dian rise to the top of the in­ter­na­tional scene and take us all with her or him? I hope so.

In 2017, I wanted to climb at 10 crags in Canada that I hadn’t yet vis­ited. At ev­ery crag, I met pas­sion­ate lo­cals who showed me their favourite routes and talked about their go-to spots. While it’s scream­ing-barfies and gym-climb­ing sea­son in Canada, I’m al­ready mark­ing maps for next year’s ad­ven­tures. There seems to be no end to the new places to ex­plore, new routes to climb and new friends to meet.

I heard some­one jok­ing around at a crag this year that safety is third, and hav­ing fun and look­ing good are first and sec­ond. Although I can’t dis­agree that look­ing good and hav­ing fun are equally im­por­tant, I think safety should be bumped up to num­ber one. So let’s rock old, stinky plaid and keep the good times rolling, but only af­ter we check our safeties. Wish­ing you a happy hol­i­days and safe New Year.

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