American climber Nathan Hadley recently spent a few weeks in the Canadian Rockies, where he impressively sent The Path 5.14R, and most of the Rockies trilogy: Castles in the Sky 5.14, The Shining Uncut 5.14 and Blue Jeans Direct 5.14. The full trilogy includes War Hammer on Castle Mountain, which includes Castles in the Sky, but also The Moat and Eisenhower Tower.
With partner Mike Kerzhner, who also sent a number of the routes, Hadley made quick work on each of the test-piece climbs which were all first climbed by Sonnie Trotter. Hadley is the fourth climber on record to send the trilogy after Trotter, Mike Doyle and Sasha DiGiulian. Each route has individually been sent a number of times. Canmore climber Dexter Bateman sent The Shining this week after 11 visits to the wall.
Of the four routes, Hadley said, “My suspicion is that none of these routes present pure 5.14 physical difficulties. But each of them have a difficult mental element. I’ve wondered if this should be factored in or not in grades.” Hadley keeps an up-to-date blog with stories about each of his climbs in the Rockies. He also recently made the first ascent of Ten Percent Direct, Index’s first 5.14. Visit here to read, excerpts below.
Castles in the Sky: On the second day, after warming up on the 5.12+ first half of the crux pitch, I gave the full pitch another shot, mainly hoping to make it further than I did on my first attempt. After smoothly climbing through the lower parts of the route to the last good rest 15 meters from the top, I tried to mentally reset for the hard climbing. After resting till my feet hurt, I started off on the exposed arête and climbed through difficult section after difficult section and to my amazement made it to an OK undercling rest after the hardest climbing. It was still a little tricky to the top and I worried about a foot slipping or a hold breaking. Trying to rest on the edge of this overhanging arête 1000 feet in the air with the wind loudly whipping at my jacket was one of the wildest moments of my life. The rope weight made the last few moves to the anchor absurdly pumpy, but I clawed my way up.
The Shining Uncut: We spent our first day working on the 90 meter “5.14a” crux pitch on a fixed line. It seemed close and Mike and I returned after a rest day optimistic about sending. On our first attempts, we both fell at about the same point—at about 75 meters! That’s a lot of climbing to do only just to fall! He messed up his sequence and I missed a good foot. Even though it would be a long shot, we thought it could go second try if every move was executed perfectly. On my second try, I climbed through some rain lower on the pitch, hoping to not slip on a wet foothold. The rain thankfully stopped and I fought from teetering off the crux. When I made it to the anchors, I couldn’t believe it! Trying to stand on tiny feet and hold on to small holds with almost 90 meters of rope weight was quite the mental challenge. I thought I was off multiple times. Sometimes you just keep holding on! The feeling of pushing that hard in that situation high on Mt. Louis was powerful! It was a perfect challenge.
The Path: I was nervous and scared though, and unsure of my beta at the first crux, peeled off. The gear held and I pulled back on. I took another fall at the redpoint crux on a Black Diamond red X4, one of the smallest cams available. It held too. I needed to get all the jitters out and get used to the feeling of being runout over small gear. After taking some falls, I knew I was safe. I thought I had one more attempt in me.
Blue Jeans Direct: The boulder, the way we were figured it out, was super dynamic and powerful, like a Moonboard problem. The holds were all positive, usually with good thumbs, but they were all sideways and far apart. It was super fun to try. After getting the power turned ON, we both sent on our second attempt.