Nearly all of Canada’s top rock climbers stayed close to home this past summer thanks to covid. As a result, a lot of new routes were climbed and some old classics got more-than-usual attention.
There was a lot of news about sport climbing, thanks to sends like Becca Frangos on her first 5.14s and Canadians climbing 5.15, but there was also a renewed focus on hard trad across the country.
While there were a lot of classic hard trad lines climbed, there was a major focus throughout the summer on The Path and La Zébrée, both graded 5.14a trad.
The Path is one of Canada’s most famous pitches and now three climbers can add their names to the list of sends. Nick Rochacewich, Danny Poceta, Dexter Bateman and Simon Yamamoto all managed to send it this summer.
The route is run-out in many spots and many climbers give it 5.14R. A hold broker earlier this season, but was glued back on by Rochacewich in the original spot.
Rochacewich had been projecting The Path on and off for over five years. The Canmore-based climber is originally from Newmarket, Ont., and has climbed a anumber of 5.13+ sport routes in the past. He also bolted the famous Blue Jeans 5.13+ on Yamnuska.
“This route was kind of my only goal this summer,” said Bateman. “I felt to busy with work to do much else as far as bigger climbs go. Loved the process and loved climbing with my longtime climbing partner and pal Simon [Yamamoto] and Nick Rochacewich who used to coach both of us. Thanks to Danny as well. The parking and crowds were also a bit of a challenge, but seeing everyone happy and enjoying themselves at Lake Louise made the route and process than much better.”
The Path was first climbed by Sonnie Trotter and became a popular hard trad route after he chopped the 1980’s bolts from the project before his send. Doug McConnell, Tim Emmett, Read Macadam and Alex Megos climbed The Path in 2016, but there were no recorded ascents in 2017.
In 2018, Babsi Zangerl made the first female ascent; her partner Jacopo Larcher also sent. Other climbers who’ve climbed it include Ethan Pringle, Matt Wilder, Peter Kamitses, Miles Adamson and Tommy Caldwell (featured photo above by Trotter). In 2019, Nathan Hadley made an ascent.
Rochacewich, who’s appeared on the cover of Gripped ice climbing in Ouray, owns NWR Painting in Canmore, of which he has an Instagram account for. Despite years of climbing experience, he’s never posted a climbing video or image until his send of The Path. Watch below.
La Zébrée is one of Canada’s most famous cracks. It’s found on Mont-King at Val-David and was first led as an aid climb in 1972 by Alain Haunault at A2. Before the first free ascent, top climbers Russ Clune and Peter Croft tried to free it.
Quebec trad master Jean-Pierre Ouellet made the first redpoint ascent of La Zébrée in 2007. In the early 1990s, Francois Roy came very close to freeing the 25-metre crack, but couldn’t overcome the crux section of the second roof. He one-hanged the route many times and rated it 5.13d A0.
And then came Jeff Beaulieu, who, after a couple years of projecting it and over 40 attempts (25 in 2003), pinkpointed (pre-placed gear) the route for its first free ascent. Ouellet made the first redpoint with a pre-placed first piece. In trad climbing, it’s generally accepted that having the first piece pre-placed still counts as a redpoint.
Then Sylvain Masse freed it and placed all of the gear on lead, including the first piece.
The climb went with no fourth ascent until this summer when Julien Bourassa-Moreau redpointed it. “It’s very rare to have a route that is so aesthetic and ticks all of the boxes for a very classic climb,” he told us in an interview here.
At the start of August, Em Pellerin made the fifth redpoint and told us here,“I placed all the gear on the way up,” said Pellerin, who placed the first piece while climbing. “It’s the one that guys place from the ground.”
This past weekend, Jérôme St-Michel completed his summer project with third send of the summer and told us here, “I hope this will inspire new Canadian climbers to push their limits… trad climbing is still something that’s worth doing.”