Pushing the Limits
One of the first climbing books I purchased was Chic Scott’s
It chronicles the most important Canadian climbs from the dawn of the sport to the late 1990s, when the book was published. Since then, a lot has happened. Some important climbs have been made and the limits are continually pushed farther and harder. But pushing the limits can’t happen without the climbers who push them and these days, it takes obsession, strength, a strong head and an unbelievable amount of commitment.
There aren’t many climbers pushing the limits, maybe four or five in each discipline around the world. In Canada’s alpine, pushing the limits has often involved climbing steep, cold and rotten faces of north-facing stone in winter, alone and isolated. It takes more than courage to put yourself out there in an inhospitable place where most of the danger factor is out of your control. There’s an incalculable amount of hazards, every i nch of the mountain presents its own, and taking them on successfully has only been mastered by a few. And when I say mastered, I mean to the full extent a climber can master the art of alpine climbing.
This year, the climbing community has lost a number of climbers, but two were this type of alpine master. Marc-André Leclerc was 25 years old and Brian Greenwood was in his mid80s. Greenwood gave the world of climbing everything he had and it benef itted many future generations. He spent two decades pushing the limits in Canada and opened new routes on Mount Temple, Babel, Kitchener, Castle and Yamnuska. Some of his routes are so diff icult and bold that they haven’t been repeated. He retired from climbing in the early 1980s after attempting a new route on Mount Tuzo. He and Jack Firth bailed on the scary line and Greenwood decided then and there that he was done with climbing.
Leclerc also pushed the limits, not only on Canadian north faces, but on walls i n Yosemite, Patagonia, Baffin Island and Scotland. He was humble, avoided fanfare, climbed with a passion for searching out quality lines in remote places and had an almost unmatched tolerance for risk. Unlike Greenwood, Leclerc’s fire was extinguished before he could attempt his most ambitious climbs. With Leclerc’s passing, however, we not only lose the man, we lose the man’s dreams, which, if made reality, would have pushed the limits of our imaginations.
To push the limits means to take big risks, and for some, climbing is about finding that limit and seeing how far they can drive past it. While many of the biggest challenges have been accomplished, there are still countless more waiting for a climber who wants to push themselves. As Scott said in his book, “
is about the leading edge climbers who have explored the boundaries of what is possible.” For more on Greenwood turn to p. 9 and and find out more about Leclerc on p. 28.