Steel Koan is one of the hardest mixed climbs in North America, the M13+ climbs up the Cineplex cave behind Panther Falls in the Rockies. Hueniken sent the route eight years after its first ascent.

In April 2013, Hueniken became the first North American woman to climb M12 after sending Musashi. She was recently on the first ascent of Overhead Hazard, M13, at Helmcken Falls with Gadd, John Freeman and Katie Bono. Hueniken has become the first North American woman to climb M13+ with her send of Steel Koan.

Will Gadd redpointed Steel Koan in 2006, it climbs an eight-metre overhang to a 10-metre horizontal roof seam, followed by a steep curtain of ice. Hueniken sent the route on her second day of redpointing efforts, on her seventh try. Gadd wrote on his blog in 2006, “There is no one crux, just powerful and intricate body movement for many moves in a row. It seems as hard as the extension I added to The Game last year M13+, but the movement is much more technical. Many of the holds broke repeatedly, and to stay honest I have to say that the line between cleaning and flat-out hold chipping is getting very blurry on high-end mixed climbs done on shite rock. I am unsure what the future of very hard mixed climbing will be due to this dilemma. Here’s a koan to play with, ‘If one tap is cleaning, how many taps are chipping?'”

Explanation for the name: If you’ve ever read any Zen philosophy you’ve probably come across a “Koan.” Koans are hard to define, they are questions that Zen followers consider, such as:

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Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?
-Hakuin Ekaku

Sarah Hueniken on Steel Koan  Photo Rafal Andronowski

Sarah Hueniken on Steel Koan Photo Rafal Andronowski