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Joe Skopec Establishes Fire and Blood, New Ontario 5.14

Skopec came out of covid isolation strong and psyched

As climbing restrictions lift across Canada, many climbers have already roped up and visited local crags. On May 19, Joe Skopec established Fire and Blood 5.14 in eastern Ontario. Zach Treanor established the area and the route Skopec would go on to climb. The reason for Skopec’s trepidation largely revolved around a two-move sequence that utilized a nasty crux hold.

Rock climbing at most of Ontario’s crags is still not allowed, but crusher Joe Skopec has been establish routes at a secret crag over the past few years. The crag location remains undisclosed. Though the crag itself is legally allowed to be climbed at, parking and the approach cross private lands, creating access issues. Hopefully these issues will be resolved with time.

The first four bolts of Fire and Blood are in the 5.12 range, but the 50-foot route ramps up in the last 15-feet.  When Skopec originally tried the route, it felt impossible. After the last good crimps, the you move into a terrible side-pull crux-hold. When he was first working it a year ago, he hated the hold. Skopec said, “I hit it and it was so sharp that I could only climb it with tape. It would always cut through my tape, so I would re-tape and it would cut through again.”

Over these last five months, Skopec has trained two sessions a day in preparation for returning to this route among others in the area. He picked this route because it is short and did not require endurance. When he went out, Skopec noted a difference. Though his skin had been bludgeoned by the route before the pandemic, it had healed in isolation.

Skopec relayed the crux beta as a four move-boulder problem. After hitting the crux-hold, he reached out left to a low-friction left-hand. After pressing into that edge, the moves get less savage, but remain difficult. Skopec said, “You fire up, full extension, to a six-millimetre crimp with two-fingers. You hit with two-finger and then you bring your right foot up on a sloping ledge and then you hit a sloping hold. Then you cross your left hand over your right into this hand jam and relax to get the clip.” The route then finishes with a slopey V5.

Skopec was surprised that the route went so quickly after isolation. He said, “The funny thing is I thought that I would not do this line for years and years. I couldn’t hold that sharp right hand. I didn’t know how to pull on it. It just went perfectly.”

As a result, Skopec has left the route ungraded. It is definitely harder than some and easier than others, but he doesn’t mind leaving it as it stands. For Skopec, climbing is separate from grading. He said, “It’s just a way of life. It’s a big de-stressor. You live your normal life, and then you go out there, and you’re a kid again. You’re not thinking of work, you’re not thinking of anything. This is why I am here. It gets me to see the world.”