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Five Hard New Canadian Sport Climbs in Past Decade

The first 5.15 in Canada was sent in 2016, there are now three

Canada’s sport climbing season is relatively short compared to other countries, depending on where you are, but that hasn’t stopped countless hard climbs from being established over the past decade.

The number of difficult routes grew much faster from 2010 to the end of 2019 than it did from 2000 to 2009. A lot of that has to do with the rise in popularity of climbing, which has brought thousands of new climbers to crags from coast to coast to coast.

Below are five standout new sport climbs from Canada’s most popular climbing areas, but there are hundreds of other 5.13 and 5.14 climbs that could make the list. From west coast to east coast, here are five memorable climbs from the past 10 years.

Spirit of the West 5.14a

Tom Wright bolted Spirit of the West in January of 2015 and sent it that October. He tried the 35-metre 15-bolt line over 40 times. It became an instant classic and saw repeats by Vikki Weldon, Jon Siegrist and Sonnie Trotter.

After Weldon sent the route in 2018, she said, “Three years of obsession, progress, failure, doubt and hope all came to a head today! The wind blew, the rock was sticky and the crew was all time. Still wrapping my head around it, but my heart is full and my face hurts from smiling.”

Fight Club 5.15b

In 2016, Alex Megos made the first ascent of Fight Club, Canada’s first 5.15. He graded the steep limestone routes 5.15b. It’s found at Ravens Crag above the town of Banff.

The route had been known as the “prow project” for over 20 years. Bolting started in the early 1990s by Peter Arbic and was attempted by some of Canada’s best climbers over the past two decades. Arbic only bolted the lower half, which Megos sent at 5.14b on his second try. Canmore-based Sonnie Trotter then extended the route on the same day and discovered a cryptic sequence for Megos to unlock.

After five or six days of projecting, Megos sent on Aug. 14, two days after his 23rd birthday. Megos said it was as hard as First Round, First Minute 5.15b. In 2018, Adam Ondra climbed a new 5.15b at Acephale, a new 5.15a in Echo Canyon and projected Fight Club, but didn’t have the time to piece it together.

Home Away From Home 5.14c/d

On Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment, Joe Skopec made the first ascent of A Home Away From Home 5.14c/d in 2018. He spent two years working on the steep line. “I started crying when I clipped the anchors,” said Skopec.

“Crying and cheering. Probably sounded like the weirdest combo. I’ve never tried anything more then a month.” Skopec has sent most of Ontario’s hardest routes, including Titan 5.14a and his Bromance 5.14b and Deja Vu 5.14b.

Metelkova 5.14b

Back in 2014, Julien Bourassa-Moreau made the first ascent of Metelkova 5.14b at Baldy in Quebec. The technical and powerful routes is one of the most difficult in the province.

Bourassa-Moreau had already opened a number of hard routes at the steep crag south of Montreal, including Cassiopee 5.14a, which he first climbed in 2008.

Bourassa-Moreau on Metelkova 5.14b Photo Nic Charron

 

Cipher 5.14c

Sebastian Pacey-Smith sent Atlantic Canada’s hardest route last year with Cipher, which he graded 5.14c. Pacey-Smith is based in Fredericton, New Brunswick and worked on the climb for one year.

“I have been slowly pushing the top grade of hard climbing in Atlantic Canada over the past few years with first ascent’s of Slam Piece 5.13d in 2016 (hardest sport climb in Atlantic Canada at the time), Tachyon Shift 5.14a in 2017 (replacing Slam Piece as the hardest in New Brunswick) and Lucidity V11 (hardest boulder in New Brunswick).”

Pacey-Smith described the route as, “Deceptively steep. Deceptively hard. This route climbs the 35 degree overhang to the right of Steep As Flake.”