Canada has some hard routes, from burly to long and technical 5.14s. Here is a select list of some of the hardest. The following was written by Sophia Vlahos.

Canadian climbing legend, Sonnie Trotter, has largely influenced the world of climbing in Canada by establishing and making first ascents on numerous routes. In 2010, Trotter established a 5.14a route called Sugar Daddy in Squamish, which is a direct start to Big Daddy Overhang, 5.12b.

Trotter stated, “It climbs really aggressively, powerful, lots of heel hooking and squeezing, two tiny crimps and a sketchy mantel at the top, about two body lengths above the last pieces of gear, which are placed almost blind behind a solid, but disconcerting flake.”

Many climbers dream of the day they will be able to harness their skill and climb a 5.14, like Trotter. Luckily, Canada is home to numerous 5.14 climbs waiting to be sent. Climbers wishing to test their skill levels or take note on future projects, look no further.

Below is a list of some of the hardest single-pitch free climbs in Canada. The list is made up of routes that range from 5.14a to 5.14d and include climbs from east and west coasts. Many of these climbs have attracted great attention from a wide audience of climbers and have been sent and attempted by the pros.

Route One: Dreamcatcher 5.14d, Squamish, British Columbia

The famous Dreamcatcher is one of the hardest sport climbing routes in Canada. The granite route is located on the Cacodemon boulder and has become an iconic climb in Squamish. Chris Sharma bolted the route in 2005 and also claimed the first ascent grading the route 5.14d.

Jamie Finlayson projecting Dreamcatcher, 5.14d. Photo Rich Wheater
Jamie Finlayson projecting Dreamcatcher, 5.14d. Photo Rich Wheater

Dreamcatcher went unrepeated for many years, despite attempts made by climbers such as Alex Honnold and Ethan Pringle. The route has only been successfully free climbed three times as Sean McColl made the second ascent in 2009 and Ben Harden completed the third ascent in 2012.

In 2015, Adam Ondra attempted to flash Dreamcatcher but was unsuccessful when his heel popped at the pin scars of the route.

Route Two: Silent Menace 5.14c, Squamish, British Columbia

First climbed by Sonnie Trotter, the 5.14a had a crucial hold break off in 2007. The route was sent in 2009 by Ben Harnden and renamed the route Smell the Glove 5.14c. There was some controversy about the renaming of the climb and both names are now used.

Jamie Finlayson on Silent Menace in Feb. 2014. Photo by Jamie Finlayon via GoPro
Jamie Finlayson on Silent Menace in Feb. 2014. Photo by Jamie Finlayon via GoPro

Route Three: Sugar Daddy 5.14a, Squamish, British Columbia

In 2010, Sonnie Trotter established a 5.14 route called Sugar Daddy in Squamish. The route is a direct start to Big Daddy Overhang, 5.12b. While Trotter initially contemplated bolting the route, persuasion from Jeremy Blumel and Will Stanhope, convinced him otherwise.

Sonnie Trotter on Sugar Daddy 5.14a. Photo Trotter's Collection
Sonnie Trotter on Sugar Daddy 5.14a. Photo Trotter’s Collection

Route Four: Cobra Crack 5.14a, Squamish, British Columbia

Cobra Crack is one of the most famous crack climbs in the world. The route is located in Squamish and is graded 5.14a. Sonnie Trotter claimed the first ascent in 2006, followed by Nico Favresse in 2008 and they both claimed it was undoubtedly one of the hardest trad routes they have ever attempted.

Pete Whittaker on Cobra Crack. Photo Screengrab from Wild Boyz II
Pete Whittaker on Cobra Crack. Photo Screengrab from Wild Boyz II

Climbers who have also completed this route include: Yuji Hirayama, Alex Honnold, Pete Whittaker, Matt Segal, Ethan Pringle, Tom Randall and Will Stanhope.

Route Five: Family Man 5.14b, Skaha, B.C.

Sonnie Trotter sent Family Man in Oct. 2014 after a number of sessions. The steep crack is unrepeated, despite a number of attempts by strong climbers. After his send, Trotter said, “I named the route Family Man and I am proposing a grade of soft 5.14b, only because it’s harder than all the 5.14as I did this year, and certainly more committing.

Sonnie Trotter on Family Man. Photo Jared Nelson
Sonnie Trotter on Family Man. Photo Jared Nelson

“But I’m also sleep deprived with swollen finger tips, so who knows where this line will settle. Either way, she sure is a beauty.”

Route Six: Bunda de Fora, 5.14d, Acephale, Alberta

One of the most difficult sport climbs in North America and debatably one of the hardest routes in Canada is the famous Bunda de Fora. The route is located in Acephale, Alberta and was first bolted by Ryan Johnstone but remained unclimbed for several of years.

Evan working on Bunda de Fora 5.14d. Photo Marc Bourdon
Evan Hau working on Bunda de Fora 5.14d. Photo Marc Bourdon

In 2006, Lev Pinter established the first ascent and graded the route 5.14d. The route has since been repeated by Dave Graham in 2007, Joe Kinder in 2012, Josh Muller in 2012 and Evan Hau in 2013.

The route is most noted as a true test of power and endurance as although it is only 20 metres long, it is composed of very difficult moves that support the hard grade. In 2011, a hold broke which drastically increased the difficulty and duration of the crux sequence and increased the difficulty of the clipping.

Route Seven: Prime Time, 5.14c, Acephale, Alberta

Prime Time is one of the longest standing projects found in Acephale, Alberta and is graded 5.14c. Derek Galloway bolted the route and Josh Muller made the first ascent in 2012.

Ben Blakney on Prime Time. Photo Josh Muller
Ben Blakney trying Prime Time. Photo Josh Muller/Blakney’s Blog

Route Eight: First Flight, 5.14c, Acephale, Alberta

In 2014, Josh Muller also claimed the first ascent of First Flight, a 5.14c route in Acephale. The route was bolted by Lev Pinter in 2013 and shares the same starting crux as Prime Time.

Josh Muller on First Flight Photo Read Macadam
Josh Muller on First Flight Photo Read Macadam

Route Nine: The Prestige, 5.14c, Planet X, Alberta

In 2014, Evan Hau made the first ascent of The Prestige, one of the hardest routes in the Canadian Rockies. The route is located in Cougar Creek near Canmore and is graded 5.14c.

Evan Hau on The Prestige Photo courtesy of Hau
Evan Hau on The Prestige Photo courtesy of Hau

Route 10: The Path, 5.14a, Lake Louise, Alberta

One of the most iconic and hardest trad routes in North America is “The Path” located at the Outhouse Wall in Lake Louise. The route was bolted over 25 years ago however in 2007, Sonnie Trotter rappelled the line and removed the bolts to establish a trad route graded 5.14a.

Tommy Caldwell sending The Path. Photo Sonnie Trotter
Tommy Caldwell sending The Path. Photo Sonnie Trotter

Trotter redpointed the route five weeks later, followed by other climbers such as Matt Wilder in 2009, Miles Adamson in 2012 and Tommy Caldwell in 2013.

Route 11: Forever Expired 5.14d, Lion’s Head, Ontario

Forever Expired is the hardest route in Ontario and was established by Sonnie Trotter in 2004. Trotter claimed the first ascent of this route and it has since been unrepeated. The route is located in Lion’s Head and is graded 5.14d.

Lion's Head in Ontario. Photo Leslie Timms
Climbers at Lion’s Head. Photo Leslie Timms

Route 12: Titan 5.14a, Lion’s Head, Ontario

Titan is a classic route found at Lion’s Head. The route was originally bolted as two pitches of 5.13, but was sent by Sonnie Trotter as one continuous climb.

Sam Eastman on Titan
Sam Eastman on Titan.  Photo Brett Lantz Photography

Route 13: Atlas Shrugged, 5.14a, Lion’s Head, Ontario

In August 2015, Daniel Martian added a new difficult route to the Titan area in Lion’s Head. The new route climbs next to the famous Titan 5.14a on the Titan Wall. The route is 35 metres long and has the same start as Titan, but diverts after the second crux.

Mike Williams took this photo of Daniel Martin on Batman 5.13d, look closely. For more photos from William's, visit here.
Daniel Martian on Batman 5.13d, look closely. For more photos from  Mike William’s, visit here.

Route 14: La Zebree, 5.14a, Mont-King, Val David, Quebec

La Zebree is a crack climb located in Val David, Quebec. It is graded 5.14a and is noted as the hardest crack climb in the province and possibly in the east coast. The route is extremely steep as it overhangs 10 metres in its 25 metres of height.

La
Oullet on La Zebree. Photo Benoit Robitaille

In 2004, Jean-Francois Beaulieu pink-pointed the first free ascent and in 2007, Jean-Pierre “Peewee” Ouellet completed the first true red point, while placing all his gear on lead.

Hardest Multi Pitch (5.14) Routes in Canada

Aside from difficult single pitch routes, Canada is also home to 5.14 multi-pitches. The effort and time devoted by climbers to develop these big wall routes often goes unseen, but some take months and even decades to establish and send. Here are two such routes.

Route 1: Tom Egan Memorial Route, 5.14, Bugaboos, B.C.

John Simpson and Daryl Hatten established this route in 1978 and named it after their friend Tom Egan who passed away in a plane crash. In August 2015, Will Stanhope and his partner Matt Segal freed the route on the east face of Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos.

Matt Segal on the Tom Egan Memorial Route. Photo by Tim Kemple (@TimKemple)
Matt Segal on the Tom Egan Memorial Route. Photo by Tim Kemple (@TimKemple)

While the pair had been working on this project for over four years and had spent over 100 days on the wall, they ended up climbing the 13-pitch route in a single, four-day push. The Tom Egan Memorial route is one of the most technically difficult all free alpine rock routes in North America.

Route 2: Castles in the Sky 5.14a, Castle Mountain, Alberta

In 2012, Sonnie Trotter saw this route from the highway and decided to take a further look. As a result, Trotter ended up establishing one of the hardest multi-pitch routes in Canada. Castles in the Sky has five pitches up to 5.14 on steep and crimpy dolomite. The route is fully equipped and unrepeated.

Sonnie Trotter on the 5.14 pitch of Castles in the Sky. Photo Ben Moon
Sonnie Trotter on the 5.14 pitch of Castles in the Sky. Photo Ben Moon

The Future of Hard Canadian Routes and 5.15

While this list highlights that there are plenty of 5.14 routes to explore, Canada is yet to see the establishment of a 5.15a route. 5.15 routes are a rare breed as there are only a small number around the world. Climbers are waiting for the day for a 5.15a route to be established and sent in Canada and it is only a matter of time before this dream is fulfilled.

Sonnie Trotter spoke with Gripped and commented on the future of 5.15 routes in Canada stating, “I think the first 5.15a in Canada could be anywhere to be honest, it’s all about the right person finding the right line and investing the right amount of time and energy.”

Sonnie Trotter high on his and Tommy Caldwell's route The Shining 5.13+ on Mount Louis. The Shining takes the line of weakness up this steep, ledge-less wall. Other lines await to be climbed, is this where the future of Canadian alpine sport climbing will take place? Photo John Price Photography
Sonnie Trotter high on his and Tommy Caldwell’s route The Shining 5.13+ on Mount Louis.  Photo John Price Photography

Although Trotter has little interest in finding, cleaning and bolting a 5.15a route he said, “I would be very excited if someone did establish a 5.15a, because I’d be super stoked to try one.”

When the day comes and a 5.15a route is established in Canada, Trotter believes that Sean McColl is more than capable of sending it, stating that, “He has the potential to climb a 5.15 rather quickly in my opinion.”

In 2009, McColl made the second ascent of the famous Squamish route Dreamcatcher 5.14d. The route has still only had three ascents. Photo Gary Foster
McColl  on the second ascent of Dreamcatcher 5.14d. The route has still only had three ascents. Photo Gary Foster

We have a short season in Canada, but that hasn’t stopped a number of climbers from establishing futuristic lines. There are difficult projects in almost every province. Here is a photo of a potential 5.14+ gear route in Northwestern Ontario, at a crag called Claghorn.

The aesthetic project at Claghorn in Northwest Ontario is one of the finest looking routes in the area. Is it the future of hard climbing in Canada? Photo Nick Rochacewich
The aesthetic project at Claghorn in Northwest Ontario is one of the finest looking routes in the area. Is it the future of hard climbing in Ontario? Photo Nick Rochacewich

The 30-metre pitch has bolts and a steep crack. It was bolted by Nick Rochacewich, who established the hardest routes in the area up to 5.13+, and remains unclimbed.

– Sophia Vlahos has been an intern and important member of the Gripped team this summer. Look for future pieces by her on Gripped.com and in Gripped Magazine.

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