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One of Canada’s Hardest Rock Climbs is Gone Forever

The Tom Egan Memorial Route was a 13-pitch 5.14 in the Bugaboos. It collapsed this week in a major rockfall on Snowpatch Spire

Photo by: Ines Papert

A rockfall wiped out a huge part of Snowpatch Spire’s east face this week which has forever changed this area of the Bugaboos and access to certain routes. There are at least 11 rock climbs that have been destroyed or changed due to the rockfall. The face had classic aid and free routes, including the 13-pitch Tom Egan Memorial Route which is now gone.

The Tom Egan Memorial Route was first climbed in 1978 Daryl Hatten and John Simpson at A3. From Aug. 11 to 14 in 2015, Will Stanhope freed the entire route with his partner Matt Segal who nearly freed the entire route. As Stanhope reported, “Matt came up short on the crux face pitch and supported me to the end of the climb. This is seriously the most insecure pitch I have ever tried and it could’ve gone either way for me.  I got very, very lucky.  Matt is a champion in my eyes and the best partner a guy could ask for.”

Stanhope first checked out the Tom Egan Memorial Route in 2010 with Hazel Findlay after they climbed The Power of Lard 5.12. In his report in the American Alpine Journal, Stanhope wrote, “We rappelled down the line with mouths agape. A laser-cut splitter ran the entire length of the face, barely big enough for fingers.” Stanhope spent around 100 days working to free it.

“The route climbs Sweet Sylvia and traverses across a face pitch to the headwall cracks of the Tom Egan,” said Stanhope. “The face pitch is the crux at 5.14.  The next crack pitch, dubbed ‘Blood on the Crack’ is the second hardest pitch and goes at 5.14-.” The next two pitches are 5.13 and 5.13R respectively. The route then rejoins Sweet Sylvia before the angle eases and a handful of 5.10/ 5.9 crack pitches lead to the Yellow Tower.”

Tom Egan Memorial Route. Source: American Alpine Journal 2016

After Stanhope’s free ascent, Segal said, “After four long days on the wall enduring lots of shitty weather I just wasn’t able to stick the crux face pitch before we decided to move on due to the deteriorating weather forecast. I’ve never put so much effort into one climb and am extremely heartbroken for not sending with Will but I’m super honored to have witnessed his ascent and to have shared so many days on the wall with him. Plus I’m feeling pretty fortunate we stuck the descent in an absolutely mind blowing electrical hail storm!”

Several climbers attempted to free Tom Egan Memorial Route over the past few years, including Kevin Jorgeson and Jacob Cook. Stanhope said the next step would be to free the cracks from ledge to ledge. “Looking toward the future, perhaps someone, someday, will link all the pitches on the Tom Egan headwall, ledge to ledge, in one 80-metre, 5.15 pitch,” Stanhope wrote in the American Alpine Journal. “We broke up our climb using the old aid belays, none of which could remotely be called no-hands stances. As always, the style can be improved upon. Let the progression continue!”

After the rockfall, Stanhope shared a message on social media that read, “Sad day on Snowpatch. Greatful for the epic sessions [with] Matt Segal.” You can watch the film Boys in the Bugs about the first free ascent of the Tom Egan Memorial Route on Reel Rock here, watch the trailer below. Several other rock climbs were destroyed in the rockfall on Snowpatch Spire this week.

Tom Egan Memorial Route

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Lead photo: Ines Papert