This year, North American bouldering developed at the hands of Canadians. Several of Canada’s strongest pushed their way into the upper echelons of difficulty providing new test-pieces for the next generations of climbers. Although 2021 was both a long and a short year on account of lockdown restrictions, Canadian boulderers found a way to push themselves in the sport.
Ethan Salvo – Vilified V13
Perhaps the most striking line at the Niagara Glen, Ethan Salvo’s Vilified comes complete with a bad landing and sweeping overhang. Due to the nature of the hill it sits on, this direct exit to Personal Vendetta appears first as a face. Upon closer inspection, the climb finds itself moving up and out a 50-degree overhang on convex or flat edges. The slick Dolomite makes this climb a high-powered expression of finger strength. Still, the crux comes down to balance, a technical heel, and mental fortitude. The fall is bad if you miss the pads.
Sean Faulkner – Dunks on Deck V13/14
Most recently known for his performance at Canadian Bouldering Nationals, the silver medalist established this beautiful problem just days before flying out to the competition. The three-dimensional squeeze block is probably the prettiest Canadian first ascent of this last year and showcases the talents of one of Canada’s fastest developing boulderers. Faulkner has spent a lot of time outdoors this year, and this climb is the culmination of those efforts. It is simply one example of the potential remaining in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. Footage of the ascent will be available in SOHI Studio’s Confluence.
Alannah Yip – Room Service V12
Aside from being Canada’s first female Olympian, Alannah Yip managed to take down numerous outdoor climbs this year completing what became a successful season. Room Service is one of Canada’s most recognizable boulder problems, and in April, Yip became the first woman to climb the powerful line. The hard compression style fit the competition climber’s powerful preferences. The ascent was reticent of Thomasina Pidgeon’s ascent of The Summoning Sit, another Squamish classic that had previously only seen male ascents.
Brennan Doyle – Uncut Gems Sit V13
Brennan Doyle kicked off 2021 with an early ascent of Uncut Gems Sit, a new V13 he called the best hard line close to Victoria. The new Duncan test-piece represents only one of the 11 double-digit first ascents Doyle put up in this last year. He has likely become the most active if not one of the most active developers of hard climbing on Vancouver Island and is worth following to find some of Canada’s most secret and beautiful new climbs.
Allison Vest – Masterpiece V13
After such a strong season it is difficult to pin a single ascent down as Vest’s most influential, but her recent repeat of Masterpiece might make for one of the most exciting within the context of Canadian climbing. Mellow’s publication not only makes Vest one of a select number of women featured on the channel, but it also makes her the second Canadian to achieve a level of international recognition for an ascent on that platform. Vest climbed many other hard problems this year, found here, for a season that could inspire many to push toward their goals.
Christian Core – Merlin V12
Possibly the best climb of this difficulty in the entire country, Core’s Merlin is difficult to find but a classic, nonetheless. The sticky granite of Squamish stone is difficult to appreciate from a photo alone, but between the incredible dyke features, as well as the three-dimensional aspects of this climb, few things comes close to the fluidity of the boulder problem.
Maria Cheng – The Gunt V10
This notorious Tim Doyle boulder problem has eluded shorter climbers since its inception, but this year, Maria Cheng tackled and completed the historic Niagara Glen boulder problem with an original beta. Cheng had a strong season becoming the first woman to climb both the Gunt and Seppuku, while still managing to tick other difficult climbs. What is notable about Cheng is that she is not a pro climber. Instead, she is a weekend warrior who loves bouldering and works toward progression year-round. Her story is exciting because it shows that it does not take a pro to do something that no one else has done before.
Oscar Baudrand – Meadowlark Lemon Stand (post-break) V13, Ghost Face Killaz V13
Oscar Baudrand tore through this last year. Not only did he climb well on Lead during the World Cup Series, but he climbed his first V13, his first V14, and his second V14 all within a matter of months. To finish the year, Baudrand continued by putting up two first ascents on previously established climbs. Meadowlark Lemon is one of the most beautiful boulder problems in the West but has seen a lot of damage in recent years. Baudrand re-established the stand after its most recent break giving it a grade of V13. This difficulty was confirmed by Adam Shahar moments later. Baudrand also established the first ascent of a direct finish to Keenan Takahashi’s Ghost Face V12. The full line adds a few spicy moves that bumps the grade to V13. Baudrand dubbed the climb Ghost Face Killaz.
Elan Jonas Mcrae – Lord of the Flies V13/14
Elan Jonas Mcrae is an unknown name to those newer to Canadian climbing. The long-time Canadian boulderer has developed numerous hard projects across the country. Although he will post the occasional first ascent, it is rare to find Mcrae on social media. Still, he is one of the strongest Canadian boulderers who has spent time working some of the hardest climbs in North America. In this last year, Mcrae put up two hard climbs in BC. The first, Lord of the Flies, is a nasty little compression in Canada’s fastest developing area: Kelowna BC. The second is another brutal climb called Therapy sit. With a proposed difficulty of V13, this climb appears on Constitution Hill on Vancouver Island.
Yves Gravelle – So What and others.
It is difficult to express how much development Gravelle propagated over the last 12 months. He established the first V15 since Squamish’s Singularity, and that is only one of the many things he did for Canadian bouldering. He is responsible for Ontario and Quebec’s hardest climbs, both put up last this past year. Ontario’s Carnage is one of the most extreme looking low-balls and Ontario’s hardest problem at V14. So What V15 might be the hardest Canadian first ascent of his last year. Still, Gravelle’s Turn and Burn or perhaps Widowmaker Stand are arguably more beautiful. For more on Gravelle and his bouldering click here.