Evan Hau, Top Canadian Sport Climber Aims High in 2015
Evan Hau is a Calgary-based climber who is among the top sport climbers in the country with some of the Rockies’ hardest routes under his belt.
Over the last few years, Evan has racked up one of the most impressive scorecards on Sendage.com. With four 5.14 first ascents among the nearly 20 5.14s on his sent list. Of the over 100 5.13s, he he’s made 13 onsights of 5.13a, 14 5.14b onsights and four 5.13c onsights.
In 2013, Evan sent Bunda De Fora, which some consider it the hardest route in Canada. In 2014, Evan made the first ascent of The Prestige 5.14c, one of the hardest routes in the Rockies.
Gripped’s editor Brandon Pullan touched base with Evan shortly after Evan’s recent first ascent of Fit Bird Direct 5.14a at The Coliseum in Echo Canyon. It sounds like Evan is planning on making some big sends in 2015.
Gripped: Where do you live and train?
Evan: I live in Calgary and climb at the Calgary Climbing Centre in the wintertime when I’m not on a climbing trip. The majority of my training comes in the summertime climbing in the Bow Valley at places such as Acephale, Planet X and Echo Canyon.
G: When did you start climbing?
E: I started climbing in 2004 in my first year of university through the Queen’s Climbing Club and the Boiler Room. It was a great community and environment to develop as a climber and the group really drove my passion to pursue climbing as far as I could.
G: Did you ever compete?
E: I’ve dabbled in competitions but my passion is climbing outdoors and I don’t really focus on hard indoor climbing. Indoor and outdoor climbing seem to be branching off more and more as different disciplines and it’s difficult to excel at both. The competition field in Alberta is extremely strong and I’m always amazed at what some of the athletes can do when I’m enjoying myself as a spectator.
G: How long have you been projecting hard routes?
E: I spent the summer of 2007 living in Canmore. I didn’t really know anyone in the local climbing community at the time and was told Acephale was a good place to meet people. Projecting seemed to be the name of the game there so I gave it a try. My very first project was The 39 Steps on the Pavement. The projecting style definitely appealed to me and remains my favorite style even though it means 80 per cent of the time I’m just sitting in my harness staring at the wall and not doing any actual climbing.
G: What’s your hardest send?
E: Bunda de Fora, 5.14d. It is located at Acephale, Alberta, is the most difficult route in Alberta, and a contender for the most difficult route in Canada. The route begins with difficult 5.13 crimping, into a V13 crux, followed by a technical 5.13c finish.
G: What was the process like to redpoint it?
E: I actually wrote my Bunda memoirs last year but never released it, here are some snippets.
–I first started trying Bunda de Fora in 2012. It was well beyond my ability at the time, and I didn’t really think that I could actually send it. However, I was immediately psyched on the route. I couldn’t do any of the hard moves, the easy moves felt desperate, and I couldn’t make any of the clips, but I was psyched.
-From the beginning, the goal was just to have fun and enjoy any little bits of progression as success. The first day that I managed to link just the crux sequence, Josh Muller remarked “Now that you’ve done that, your body’s going to go into shock.” Boy was he right; I couldn’t climb any more that day.
-It took me a solid two seasons of effort in the end. The send itself was special. There was a point midway through the crux I felt so good there was no doubt in my mind that this was it, even though I hadn’t even reached my previous high point yet and still had about 5 more crux moves to go. Clipping the chains was such an amazing feeling and I couldn’t believe how easy the redpoint felt when even the individual moves had felt impossible just the year before.
G: You seem as interested in FAs as in repeats, how come?
It’s partly out of necessity as I’ve done many of the existing routes in the Bow Valley. I’ve also reached a point now where I have both the ability and the desire to blaze my own path instead of following in others footsteps. Regardless of the difficulty, it’s exciting to climb on brand new rock and try to do something no one else has done before. First ascents are generally harder work than repeats, but well worth the extra effort. Luckily, the Bow Valley has no shortage of rock for anyone seeking adventure.
G: Describe The Prestige 5.14c, the name, who bolted it and so on.
E: I established the first ascent of The Prestige at Planet X in 2014. It was an abandoned project going straight up the middle of the wall. I named it to go along with the adjacent route, The Illusionist 5.14a, as a play on the movie titles. The route can also be broken into 3 sections in reference to the movie: an easy intro slab (the pledge), a V13 crux (the turn), and a V9/10 exit crux (the prestige). The route features tufa textured blocky holds and technical movement which is typical for Planet X.
G: Spain, Kalymnos or Rockies, where’s the best potential for hard new routes?
E: Of these three choices, Spain is the runaway winner. The Flatanger cave in Norway looks pretty sick though.
G: You have four 5.14a FAs, what’s it like starting in to a 5.14 project, do you hope it’s the next 5.14d?
E: Getting on projects can be an exciting and intimidating process. Sometimes, I have some indication of how hard it is, either from the route equipper, others who have tried it, or from rappelling/bolting the line myself. Other times I have absolutely no idea what the difficulty will be like and just start trying it. Unlike working on an established route, there is often no chalk or tick marks to lead the way, the holds are typically dirty and need cleaning, there are no Youtube videos to steal beta from, and there is no one to spray beta. I’m on my own to figure it out.
I have to decide things such as: Will this route actually go or are some sections too blank? Are the crux sections uncharacteristically difficult? What is the quality of this route and would it be a good addition to the wall? Am I actually psyched to put in the effort to clean up the route and work on it?
I try to look for routes that will be high quality without focusing too much on the eventual grade, though I am hoping to discover The Bow Valley’s first 5.15a. I understand that establishing a brand new route at that difficultly would take an incredible effort and it can actually be a relief to discover that a climb is “only” 5.14a since it’s a much more attainable grade for me and something I can do relatively quickly.
G: You recently did the FA of Fit Bird Direct, who bolted it and what’s the climbing like?
E: The original Fit Bird and the direct start were bolted by the man responsible for much of The Coliseum’s development: Matt Pieterson. The direct start adds five bolts of sustained difficult moves before joining immediately into the 5.13d section of Fit Bird and ups the pump factor significantly. Overall it is an endurance climb and does not feature any super serious crux moves which are typical of most other Bow Valley 5.14s so I think this is a great addition to give aspiring 5.14 climbers some more options. I would describe it as continually climbing V6 boulder problems for 30-plus metres with hardly anywhere to rest.
G: Do you prefer steep and juggy, vertical and tech or slabby and smeary?
E: I’d say steep and thuggy. At the 5.14 level, the term “jug” is a bit ambiguous. I think I’ve built a reputation of calling 10 degrees overhanging “vertical” and five degrees overhanging “slab.” Some people would accuse that I’ve never even been on a real slab climb.
G: What’s your favourite 5.14 in Canada or do you not think about that?
E: I get asked this a lot so I have to think about it. It’s hard to single out a favourite, but I’ll stick with the classics and recommend Kurrgo at Planet X and Leviathan at Acephale. I’m obviously biased but I think all the 5.14s I’ve established are amazing, all except for one, but I won’t say which one.
G: Do you like multi-pitches or trad routes?
E: There is so much potential for hard multi-pitch lines in the Rockies that my climbing will likely gravitate there in the future, but my current focus is still on hard single pitch sport routes. Other than Lake Louise, I am too scared to climb on gear in the Rockies.
G: Have you ever gone on a bouldering road trip?
E: I’ve spent quite a lot of time bouldering, and I’ve visited many of the major bouldering destinations in North America. Most notable and most recently was a two-month road trip through Las Vegas, Bishop, and Joe’s Valley where I only bouldered.
G: Who are some of your climbing heroes?
E: The legend Chris Sharma. I think I’ve modeled my climbing to his carefree approach and making sure climbing is always fun, but still having the ability to focus and pull down when the time comes. I also admire his relentless efforts to continually try projects over and over until they go down.
G: What are your plans for the summer?
I have July and August off and plan to spend the entire time in the Bow Valley. This season I’m mostly keen on putting up new routes and doing first ascents. I have quite a few projects throughout the Bow Valley in mind, some of which are certainly in the 5.14+ range. I’m pretty psyched that various efforts across the Bow Valley have more than doubled the tally of 5.14 routes from the last printed version of the guidebook, and hopefully we can increase that tally this year.
–Written by Gripped editor Brandon Pullan who’s been inspired by Evan to project a hard sport route this summer.