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Canadian Climbing 2017 Memorable Moments

Historic sends at crags and in the alpine

It was a big year in Canadian climbing. From January to December, climbers were pushing it on rock, ice and in the mountains.

Some climbers ticked their first 5.14, some their first 5.15 and some soloed dangerous routes. Below is a collection, in no particular order, of some of the most memorable moments of Canadian climbing in 2017.

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Alannah Yip Climbs Pulse 5.14a: West Coast crusher and Canadian competition champion Alannah Yip sent Pulse, the first 5.14a ever established in Canada. Not only that, but she grabbed the first female ascent for those keeping track.

Yip, 24, told us after her send, “Thanks to everyone who I ever ran into climbing up there, I got so much help and support from people. I’ve never done a route that requires so much micro-beta (like taping specific fingers for sharp holds, finger locking just so, thumb stacking….) and everyone up there was always so amazing.”

Earlier in the year, she sent Division Bell 5.13d, her first of the grade. And before that she made relatively quick work of Young Blood 5.13a and Dirty Rascals 5.13a. Before that, Yip won Lead, Speed and Bouldering championships in Canada.

Metamorphosis Gets Second Ascent: Metamorphosis above Diamond Lake in Onatario was a breakthrough route when first climbed by Nathan Kutcher in 2012. The long M10 links lower ice with a hanging dagger through a steep crack protected by cams. Stas Beskin made the second ascent in January with one cam pre-placed in the crack.

Beskin said after, “The crap gear getting further and further below me and the bolt seeming miles away. Finally nearing the top I found another pod that would take a cam, but the two pieces of the size I needed were far below as I tried to work in the next size up. It finally slipped in just far enough to grab and I continued upward.”

First Ice Ascent of The Chief: The colder-than-usual winter froze many old classic ice routes and many new ones. On the Chief, Jian Condon, Jason Kruk, Paul McSorley and Tony Richardson made the first ascent of Ultimate Ultimate Everything, the winter variation of Ultimate Everything 5.10.

They started at the base and finished on the summit. A week later, Luka Lindic, Tim Emmett and Marc-Andre Leclerc repeated the line and linked it with the three-pitch classic The Dream WI5 that ends at the top gondola station.

New East Coast Mixed: Ontario competition climbers Nathan Kutcher and Rebecca Lewis took a break from the World Cup circuit spent time establishing new mixed routes on the east coast. Above the Bay of Fundy, the climbed a number of new single-pitch steep mixed routes, including Trogdor M9 and Teen Girl Squad.

They had to deal with the rising Atlantic Ocean tides. “The sea is wild,” said Lewis. “This is the problem developing routes on the Bay of Fundy, we can’t get to most of the cliffs during high tide. We finished work on our routes before high tide and then sat back and watched the waves roll in.”

New Newfoundland Routes: Will Mayo and Anna Pfaff climbed two new ice routes in Newfoundland: Psycho Killer M9 WI7 150m and Dreamline WI6+ (with Joe Terravecchia) next to Pissing Mare Falls.

“The wildly exposed 230’ sixth and final pitch traversed rightward on mottled, explosive spray ice which became thinner toward the top,” said Mayo about Dreamline. “We returned to the drop-off site at 4:30 and our guides arrived at 5 p.m. with smoked salmon and trout, warmed on the muffler pots of their snowmobiles, along with a bottle of scotch. This was the most adventuresome and satisfying ice climb of our careers, we all agree.”

New Stanley Headwall Route: Jon Walsh and Raphael Slawinski made the first ascent of Cosmik Debris M7 WI6 150m left of Nemesis and right of Rhamnusia on the Stanley Headwall in B.C. It was Walsh’s fourth time on the route, after three earlier sessions finished him on Nemesis.

It starts up an obvious crack and onto a face with some bolts and heads straight up through a roof to ice. “The route name is a reference to the incredible amount of avalanche debris on the approach, which ran way below the climb and snapped a bunch of trees before turning the corner and continuing down valley,” said Walsh.

Marc-Andre Leclerc’s Big Rockies Free-Solos: Marc-Andre Leclerc climbed a number of new routes in the Ghost River Valley ground-up free-solo. He made the likely first free-solos of Southern Exposure 5.11a 300m and Mantissa 5.10d 300m in the Ghost, Cheesmond Express 5.10c 600m on Ha Ling and Flying Buttress to East Ridge of Mount Deltaform IV, 1,500m.

He then Soloed Screams from the Balcony 5.11, 150m at Saddleback and Pinko 5.10, 500m on Rimwall. Leclerc has amassed the biggest list of bold solos in the Rockies of his generation.

New Squamish Aid: Jon Rigg, Chris Trull and Danny Guestrin climbed a new aid route up The Chief in Squamish this spring. After a few days on the wall, they finished Pantera which goes at V 5.10 A3+ over 12 pitches.

It climbs pitches on Green Thumb, Specter, Ghostdancing, Bald Egos and finishes up Pandemonium, and opens new terrain along the way. They brought four litres of wine and 40 beers.

Pantera V 5.10 A3+ on The Chief in Squamish

New Valley of 10 Peaks Alpine: Mount Tuzo in Alberta is one of the 10 peaks above Moraine Lake. In spring, Quentin Roberts and Alik Berg climbed the new Hiding in Plain Sight M5 AI5.

They climbed the big alpine route in 18 hours. Roberts said after, “The lower section of the route was pretty scratchy and thin, the upper ice pillars were wild alpine ice really high off the ground.”

Jon Lauchlan Award Success: East Coast climbers Max Fisher and Fred Giroux were awarded the 2017 Jon Lauchlan Award to climb new routes on the Homathko Icefield on the West Coast. The pair made the first ascent of Mount Grenville’s 350-metre northwest face up Melquiades M4+ AI4.

And of Peak 9332’s northeast face up the 300-metre Remedios the Beauty AI3. They also established the 600-metre all-rock route Macondo 5.10 up Galleon Peak. Fisher said, “We decided to leave the ice climbing tools at camp and went rock climbing on Galleon Peak. We meandered our way up the south face and managed to find a few good pitches of granite alpine climbing.”

New routing in the Homathko Photo Max Fisher

New Powell River Big Walls: It was a busy summer in B.C. thanks to the dry conditions that gave climbers access to steep walls in the backcountry.

Around Powell River, Drew Leiterman and Travis Foster made the first ascent of the Red Alert Wall up Jungle is Massive VI 5.10 C2, 1,565 metres of granite in 25 rope-stretching pitches. Evan Guilbault and Colin Landeck made the first ascent of the new 27-pitch Sacred Stone VI 5.10 A1 up a new wall called Super Unknown, also near Powell River.

New Leaning Tower Big Walls: In B.C.’s interior are some of Canada’s biggest mountain ranges and the Leaning Tower group in the Purcell Range are one of the most remote. In 1986, Fred Beckey and friends attempted a route up the steep Wall Tower. The big line was finally climbed by Aaron Hanson and Vince Ryglis and called The White Tiger VI 5.11 A3.

In 1975, Joe Meyer and Joanna McComb attempted to breach the east face of The Pulpit, a nearby tower. It wasn’t until this summer that Kevin Martin and Ian Dusome finally reached the top of the wall up Preaching to the Choir V 5.10 C1.

Squamish Hard Lines Repeated: In Squamish, a number of classic hard routes were repeated this summer. American Mason Earle made the 11th ascent of the famous Cobra Crack 5.14b after many attempts.

American Mike Foley made the fifth ascent of Chris Sharma’s Dreamcatcher 5.14d on the Cacodemon Boulder. And Miles Adamson made the third ascent of Year of the Snake 5.13dR before trying to add a sit-start to a solo, which never came together.

Hazel Findlay Opens New 5.13dR: Hazel Findlay spent the past few seasons recovering from a shoulder operation, but she was back in top form in Squamish this summer.

She made the first ascent of an old project and noted after, “We called it Tainted Love aka Northern Soul after the song and the feeling of loving something like climbing but also kind of hating it sometimes. I’d say it’s 5.13dR placing the gear. It’s all on gear and placing the gear is definitely cruxy (tiny wires).”

I did it! Whoop. So desperately… In the heat and the smoke. This route has the ability to completely wipe your memory of beta (since there are almost no holds and only one obvious feature). I feel like it was a team ascent with Neil Dyer inspiring me to go up there and belying me a tonne. We called it ‘Tainted Love aka Northern Soul’ after the song and the feeling of loving something like climbing but also kind of hating it sometimes (when your legs are burning and you feet hate you and you’ve forgotten whether to stem or to bridge.) I’d say it’s 5.13d R placing the gear, 8b, or E8 6c. It’s all on gear and placing the gear is definitely cruxy (tiny wires). I really hope someone repeats this thing because the climbing is crazy cool and I feel like this kind of technical but powerful climbing is a dying art. #fuckingbrits #burningbridges #themythicalbeing #smokeshow #slammedopen thanks Jonny Baker for all the shots.

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Sonnie Trotter Links Big Rockies Lines: Sonnie Trotter was expecting his second child in the summer, but that didn’t stop him from going after his annual goal to push hard climbing in the Canadian alpine. On Mount Louis, he linked the hardest pitches of his 15-pitch route The Shining to push the grade up to 5.14a.

On Castle Mountain, he made the first integral of The Moat 5.11d, Castles in the Sky 5.14a and Eisenhower Tower 5.5 to make another 15-pitch 5.14 he dubbed War Hammer. By summer’s end, he was hoping to also send Blue Jeans Direct 5.14 on Yamnuska and create a new standard of big Rockies lines to climb in one summer.

Ashlar Ridge Potential Discovered: The Canadian Rockies had its busiest year in ages thanks to the free park passes for Canada’s 150th birthday.

In Jasper, the kilometres-long and 400-metre high Ashlar Ridge got a handful of new climbs, including the 12-pitch Ay Mamasita! 5.12a and the eight-pitch Roger’s Lunch Buffet 5.10a. Both routes are bolted and you can walk off. A big thanks to the Edmonton Bolt Fund and those putting the routes up.

New Big Bow Valley Multi-Pitch: The Bow Valley is one of Canada’s most climber-populated areas and this year the area had a number of new big multi-pitch routes added. On Heart Mountain, Chas Yonge finished an old project and completed the 17-pitch all-bolted Heart Line.

By the summer’s end there was up to 10 parties on it a day. On Goat Mountain, Tyler Kirkland and Mark Carlson finished their Fluffy Goat Butt-Face, a 21-pitch all-bolted 5.11a that requires up to 18 hours to complete car to car.

Tyler Kirkland heading up Fluffy Goat Butt-Face. Photo Dan Kim

Pass Lake Sport Boom: In Northwestern Ontario, Pass Lake stands alone as one of Canada’s only sandstone sport climbing crags. You can park next to the wall and thanks to locals, there are now over 60 sport climbs.

Dr. Patrick Martel added the following routes, Separate Vacation 5.11, Pitt Party 5.10, Unreasonable Expectations 5.10, Blow Me Away 5.10 and Heippa Reijo! 5.12a. Local Aric Fishman added a number of moderate bolted climbs in the fall.

Yves Gravelle Opens V13 at Val-David: Val David is one of Canada’s most historic places to climb crags and boulders. Yves Gravelle spent a number of days in 2017 trying to piece together his hard project that he first cleaned six years ago.

It starts low under a roof and requires a full-span right-hand reach to sloper you then match. From there, a dyno to a low-percentage sloper gets you to the second crux. It’s the first V13 at Val-David.

Remote Quebec Big Wall’s Newest Line: Patrick Brouillard and Charles Lacroix climbed a new nine-pitch V 5.10+ C2+ far north of Quebec City.

They called their 200-metre route Les Clandestins and it climbs the impressive Mont de l’équerre un Hautes Gorges de la Rivière Malbaie on Charlevoix. It’s where the famous ice climb Pomme d’or WI5 is. It was the first new route up the cliff in 40 years.

Mega Bugaboos Linkup: Will Stanhope and Leo Houlding linked the three west faces of the Howser Towers in a 2,000-metre, 5.12+, 58 rope-length, 23.5-hour push. The first to link all walls in a day.

Stanhope said after: “Managed to complete a long term project with Houlding: the three west faces of the Howser Towers in the Bugaboos, free in a day. I’ve had this in the back of my head since climbing the Central Howser in 2009 with Jason Kruk and Matt Segal.

“It’s a dream come true and we really had to dig deep for this one. Thanks so much Leo for believing in the project and for all the inspiration over the years. 2000 metres of climbing up to 5.12+, 58 rope lengths in 23.5 hours. Started with Chocolate Fudge Brownie on the Central at first light, then did Spicy Red Beans/ All Along the Watchtower on the North, and finished with The Beckey/Chouinard on the South Tower.”

Monarch Mountain Southwest Face Climbed: Simon Richardson and Michael Rinn made the first ascent of Game of Thrones up the southwest face of Monarch Mountain in the Coast Mountains in August up a 1,250-metre 5.10a.

Richardson said after: “Several teams have targeted the route in the last ten years, but weather and difficult planning intervened. So this summer, Micha Rinn from Germany and I decided to make an attempt. We flew in by helicopter on July 28 (the normal way of approaching the Coast Mountains nowadays) and climbed the route from August 4 to 6.

“The climbing was mainly on rock and involved 42 pitches up to 5.10a with 400m of moving together on easier ground. Unlike the Waddington Range that is mainly comprised of excellent granite, Monarch is formed from a metamorphosed volcanic. This provided very solid rock in the upper half of the route, but protection was difficult to find and we had many long run outs. We descended the West Face route that was first climbed in 1953 during the second ascent of the peak.”

Amanda Berezowski Climbs 5.14a: West Coaster Amanda Berezowski climbed her first and second 5.14a this year. Her first of the grade was Dinosaur Highway and her second was Northern Man, both at Horne Lake.

After her first 5.14, she said: “My first 14! Pretty psyched as I just barely squeezed it in before it’s wet for a few months. This route had a lot of different movement packed into it. Two months ago a lot of it felt dynamic, but by the send almost none of it. I really like that the other 5.13s at Horne really prepare you for it and then it’s just a little step up.”

I thugged it to the top of something today! 😎💯🔝 (language @marcel.aarden taught me 😆) Northern Man (or woman now! 💅🏼🎀) climbs through the first crux of ADATO & heads left to finish on Pushers. It’s my second 5.14a/8b+ …not quite ADATO, but with the season coming to an end & a possible Red River Gorge trip in 2 days 🎉…WELL, I’m glad I got my but up something! …By the way 10 degrees, 90% humidity & 30km winds ain’t no thang! 😉🌧 Thank you to @andrewmostad for the encouragement & perfect belay! • 📷 from @yannicknc when it was still 30 degrees 🔥 #sendage #ropedragandall #keepgoing #tryharder #believe #determined #positivevibes #womenonlead #strongmindstrongbody #strongisbeautiful #womenempowerment #bodyposiclimbing #freeyourmindandclimb #cantstopwontstop #climbing #rockclimbing #sportclimbing #omtownathlete @climbonsquamish @e9clothing @e9canada

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Gord McArthur Sends First D16: Gord McArthur made the first ascent of his multi-year project near Cranbrook and called the 85-metre climb Storm Giant. It’s the world’s first D16.

McArthur said after: “A journey to say the least. Three years, trying, failing. What seemed impossible turned into a discovery of how far I could push my body. Over 80 metres of upside down climbing, clipping 50+ draws and after 45 minutes of climbing today…i clipped the chains.”

Evan Hau Climbs First 5.15: Evan Hau became the first Canadian to climb 5.15a with his first ascent of Honour and Glory in Echo Canyon in Alberta.

Hau wrote in a story for Gripped magazine: “I named it Honour and Glory to celebrate what gladiators fought for in ancient times at the Roman Colosseum. I felt like a gladiator going up there all the time to do battle with it and I wanted to stick with that theme.

“Honour and Glory turned out to be the perfect route for me, no stopper moves, but no easy moves either, just 45 metres of pure power endurance. Honour and Glory is the hardest route I’ve ever climbed and I’m happy I build it from scratch. I hope it will get the attention it deserves in the future.”

Courage Highway is Four-Pitch Ontario 5.11: Orient Bay in Northern Ontario, north of Lake Superior, has a number of 100-metre walls next to Highway 11. For over 20 years, climbers have been adding new routes and updating old ones. This fall, long-time Orient Bay developer, and southern Ontario local, Steve Charlton returned for some unfinished business.

He joined Thunder Bay climbers Aric Fishman, Kyle Brooks, Cory McFarlane, Andy Noga and Duncan Hutchison to complete a decades-old project and push it to the top of the wall. In the end, the team completed Courage Highway, a four-pitch all-bolted 95-metre 5.11b to the top. “I really look forward to more people being able to enjoy a place I love so much,” said Charlton. “To see a route go directly up the centre of the wall and have the moves go at such an attainable grade, is truly a gift from the rock gods.”

Julia Bobak Sends Her First 5.14a: West Coast climber Julia Bobak ticked her first 5.14a with her climb of Motivation at Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. It came after a few seasons of Bobak pushing the grades up through the 5.13s.

After her climb, she said, “Beyond stoked to have put away my fall project, and first of the grade. While projecting hard sport climbs always requires some sacrifice, I feel like battling this one through constant illness and injury took a little more out of me than usual, both physically and mentally. Instead of getting psyched on the next project, I’m looking forward to a few weeks on the rest-eat-physio cycle.”

New Big Mount Hector 5.9: Mark Klassen is one of Canada’s most accomplished new-routers with a number of must-climb lines out west. Over the past few summers, he’s established a 10-pitch 5.9 on Mount Hector’s south Ridge that he called Apollo.

“I first envisioned this climb while working at the Lake Louise Ski Area in 1988/89 but I did not actually investigate the route until a ski tour in April 2014,” said Klassen. “In the summer of 2015 I walked to the base and decided to begin working on it. Although I first envisioned the route I would never have got up it without the help of everyone else who participated.”

Protection Valley Gets Attention: There was a boom in new routes in Protection Valley behind Castle Mountain near the town of Banff. Kris Irwin and Jay Mills teamed up to climb their new Grab the Cupcakes M6 WI4+. Jon Walsh and Jonny Simms climbed the new 110-metre Paradise City M6 WI4, which is next to the rarely formed Paradis Perdu.

Mix Fix M7 is a 150-metre hard climb by Walsh and Jeff Mercier. Then there’s the new Safe Space by Raphael Slawinski, Alik Berg and Steven Kovalenko at M7R WI4. One of the first new climbs of the season was the 210-metre Dirtbag Dreams WI4+ by Landon Thompson, Walsh and Paul Taylor.

Tony McLane Solos Big Rockies Face: Tony McLane soloed the north face of Mount Geikie in the Canadian Rockies. It was the first time anyone soloed the 1,500-metre face. He climbed The Lowe/Hannibal 5.11 up 750 metres of quartzite to 450 metres of mixed climbing into the upper buttress of the original 1967 route by John Hudson and Royal Robbins.

McLane wrote in the American Alpine Journal: “I sat beneath a clear, calm sky sipping coffee. The warm beverage soothed my apprehension, which had been building through a long, restless night below the north face of Mt. Geikie. The Lowe-Hannibal Route—750m of beautiful quartzite topped by 450m of icy mixed ground—loomed above.

“My nerves began to ease as I sat on my pad watching the sun lift over the horizon. It was Aug. 8. With such fine weather, I was soon more afraid of squandering a great opportunity with a premature retreat than I was of soloing the enormous face.” Read story here.

New Squamish 5.13d Slab: British climber Jacob Cook climbed a new 5.13d in Squamish called The Magician. The short route is at Crag X and has one bolt.

Cook said after: “The craziest slab I’ve ever climbed, requiring dynamic movement, timing and poise to flow upwards. Thanks to Marc-Andre Lecler for having the vision, putting the bolt in and then showing me the line.

“It’s almost impossible to grade routes like this because they feel magically easy when they go and impossible every other time. It’s definitely a notch harder than Smashing Windows 5.13c up the hill, which is why I went for 513d. Hopefully someone else wants to try it and can let me know what they think.”

Mount Slesse East Face Freed: Jacob Cook and Tony McLane made the first free ascent, and second ever, of the east face of Slesse Mountain (often called Mount Slesse) in B.C.’s Cascade Mountains.

The first ascent of the 1,000-metre wall was in the mid-1990s by Sean Easton and Dave Edgar, using aid and free techniques.

After Cook and McLane’s early September ascent, Cook wrote on Instagram: “We climbed the 1,000-metre wall in 11 hours via our new route Welcome to the Wack 5.11+. The climbing features some excellent granite, as well as some frankly terrifying runouts and loose sections. This wall has waited 21 years for a second ascent and was my big alpine goal for the summer. What an adventure. Thanks Tony!”

New Rockies Six-Pitch 5.13: Miles Adamson and Zach Watson established Don’t Rock the Boatswain in the Inner Sanctuary on Grotto Mountain is six pitches at 5.13a. It took 25 days over a few years.

Adamson said after: “Zach and I sent! We’re naming it Don’t Rock the Boatswain. A boatswain is a platform you can hang to stand on when there is no belay ledge. The entire route we bolted on lead, mostly from free stances. Six pitches: 5.11c, 5.13a, 5.12c, 5.12b, 5.12b, 5.12a. The 25 days or so we put into this route was spread over the course of the last five years.”

New Ontario Big Cliff Developed: Central Ontario has long been a place for long and rambly ice climbs. But over the past few seasons, climbers have developed a number of walls up to 150 meres, the biggest being Eyeball.

The established routes range from 5.6 to 5.11 and from one to six pitches. The area still has a ways to go before it’s ready to be weekend destination. More info to come as development continues.

Nasty Habit is New Beer Climb: Jon Walsh established the four-pitch Nasty Habit M6 WI5 over two days. It climbs ice and rock to the right of Twisted WI5 near Field in B.C. The first three pitches were climbed with Michelle Kadatz, Tim Banfield joined for two.

A new first pitch and the fourth mixed pitch was climbed with Sebastian Taborszky. The beer climbs are a collection of routes on Mount Stephen and Mount Dennis that are all named after beer. A few days later, Raphael Slawinski and Sarah Hueniken climbed a new route to the left called Blob Blob Blob M6+.

Climbing Nasty Habit Photo Tim Banfield

Cobra Crack Climbed Three Times: Canada’s most famous crack got three ascents in 2017, bumping the total number up to 13.

Mason Earle and Logan Barber had both attempted the steep crack a number of times over a few years. It took Said Belhaj only eight days to send. Barber said after: ““It took me a long time to work out, as the beta on the videos of other people climbing this section doesn’t suit me at all. I’m pretty sure the others are all close to a foot taller than me as they do some massive reaches between the good jams.”

Cobra Crack Sends
2006 – Sonnie Trotter (Canada)
2008 – Nicolas Favresse (Belgium)
2008 – Ethan Pringle (USA)
2008 – Matt Segal (USA)
2009 – Will Stanhope (Canada)
2009 – Yuji Hirayama (Japan)
2011 – Alex Honnold (USA)
2013 – Pete Whittaker (UK)
2013 – Tom Randall (UK)
2016 – Ben Harnden (Canada)
2017 – Mason Earle (USA)
2017 – Logan Barber (Australia)
2017 – Said Belhaj (Sweden)

I dont like giving anyone, or anything, the Finger. Neither do I like taming animals. But sometimes exceptions have to be made. Back in -05 @sonnietrotter and I hiked up to check Didier work a futuristic, perfect crack in Squamish. It was a “restday” so I did a few easy routes and went up to touch the perfect granite splitter on a top rope. Several years and ascents later I was finally back to try to tame the Cobra myself. Thanks to all the preparations, beta and help I managed to do it. I felt lucky and luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity (Seneca). Now in LA trying to buy a car and fish tacos -should be a bit easier?! 📸 Nathaniel Vigeant @nvimage @petzl.sverige @petzl_official #petzl #petzlteam #petzlsirocco @lasportiva_sverige @lasportivagram #c2verticalsafety @thule #thulecrew @verve_climbing #verveclimbing @lyofood #lyoteam @kaskofsweden #kaskofsweden @climbskinspain @problemsolver_hangboards @clifbar #clifbarsweden @metabo_germany #hilleberg #cobracrack #squamish #climbing_photos_of_instagram

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