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New 33-Pitch B.C. Route is North America’s Biggest Bolted Climb!

At over 1,000 metres this new all-bolted route stands to test anyone looking to push themselves on big limestone terrain

Photo by: Brent Nixon of Kate Naus on pitch 33

Guaranteed Rugged is a new 33-pitch 5.10d all-bolted route in B.C.’s Marble Canyon. Named after the slogan for Lillooet, the closest town to the canyon, it’s now North America’s biggest all-bolted route at 1,068 metres.

Marble Canyon is one of Canada’s most amazing climbing venues, but it’s potential for modern bolted routes has only recently been discovered. With a history of climbing going back over 50 years, the huge limestone walls that rise above Pavilion Lake in Marble Canyon Provincial Park have potential for some of B.C.’s most epic long routes.

Brent Nixon, Lisa Newhook, Sean Draper and Kate Naus made the first ascent of Guaranteed Rugged on May 22, but the climb took years to prepare. Bolting 33 pitches of rock is no easy or cheap feat. Guaranteed Rugged climbs from the base of the Lower Apron to the summit of Main Wall and can be broken down to three parts: the slabby lower apron, the steep exposed headwall and the final ridge to the summit.

While you can rappel from any anchor with a 70-metre rope, it’s recommended that you hike down the six-kilometre trail back to the road. We will have a feature story on Guaranteed Rugged and Marble Canyon in the August/September issue of Gripped magazine. For the route beta visit Nixon’s topo and write-up at Mountain Project here.

Tips For Multi-Pitch Bolted Routes

There are more bolted multi-pitch routes across Canada than ever before and many of them are far more popular than their older, more run-out trad counterparts. From the east to west coast, fully protected multi-pitch routes are being established at a fast rate. These big bolted routes can be safer than anchor-to-anchor wandering adventures that require a good eye for tricky gear placements, but there are still a number of dangers that you should know about. Sport climbing at a crag versus climbing a 33-pitch bolted route require different skills.

Bolting: Sport routes are bolted with fixed protection every few metres apart, ensuring that if you fall then you’ll hopefully stay off the ground. Bolted multi-pitches have bolts that can range from a few feet to 10 metres apart depending on the terrain. Be prepared for long run-outs.

Anchors: The anchors are always fixed on sport routes and bolted multi-pitch, but you might not be able to descend from a bolted multi-pitch because of the nature of the route. So you need to be prepared to reach the top and follow the walk-off. Always bring some leaver-biners on a bolted multi-pitch in case you need to bail, as there might not be chains or ring bolts.

Route Finding: Sport routes are designed to take the route-finding out of the equation with bolts close together and often-chalked holds. Bolted multi-pitches often require some route-finding to locate the next bolt or anchor. Bring a topo and know how to use it.

Rock Quality: Sport routes are cleaned for your enjoyment and almost never have loose rock. Bolted multi-pitches almost always have some loose rock or scree on ledges. Always be aware of broken stone or friable rock. Big bolted routes can be up to 1,000 metres, and it would take years to clean every inch. Route builders will make sure that key holds are secure and cruxes are safe, but always expect loose rock.

Being Prepared: How prepared you need to be will depend on the route you’re doing. If your objective is a four-pitch 5.8 above a river, then you’re probably not as concerned about thunderstorms as you would be if you’re on a 15-pitch 5.11 in the alpine. Plan ahead, bring the appropriate clothing, bring food and water and always bring a phone or radio to communicate.

Stacked Teams Should you climb beneath another team of climbers? It depends on the route, how high the other climbers are and the rock quality. Always wear helmets and don’t plan to pass the team ahead of you. Have backup plans. Ice climbers sometimes write the name of their objective in snow on their vehicle to let others know, maybe leave a note on your back window with the name of the route you’re climbing to give others a heads-up.

Guaranteed Rugged topo by Brent Nixon
Guaranteed Rugged topo by Brent Nixon
Lower pitches. Photo by Brandon Pullan
Lillooet town sign. Photo by Brandon Pullan

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Lead photo: Brent Nixon of Kate Naus on pitch 33