Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll is arguably one of the best multi-pitch trad climbers with hard new routes and repeats around the world.

This summer, the Belgian climber was in Squamish and made the second ascent of Hazel Findlay’s wild Tainted Love 5.13+R corner crack high on The Chief.

“I love climbing,” said Villanueva O’Driscoll. “It’s the challenge. Moving over rock, giving it everything, exploring. I like all styles of climbing. Good quality, bulletproof rock with perfect holds is amazing to climb, and so is wet, mossy, chossy off-widths.

“There is nothing I don’t like about big wall free climbing. Any activity I do is related to climbing really. I like to slackline. It teaches me to be in an optimal state of mind in which thought, emotion and experience become one. It brings me to a state where the notion of time does not exist, everything happens in the here and now, where everything is connected.

“The same state of mind as when the climbing flows. My tin whistle is an essential part of my climbing equipment. When I’m dangling high up a vertical cliff, stuck in a storm in a small portaledge for days in a row, my tin whistle is there to make sure that I’m not waiting. I’m being. I play music.”

I did it! Whoop. So desperately… In the heat and the smoke. This route has the ability to completely wipe your memory of beta (since there are almost no holds and only one obvious feature). I feel like it was a team ascent with Neil Dyer inspiring me to go up there and belying me a tonne. We called it 'Tainted Love aka Northern Soul' after the song and the feeling of loving something like climbing but also kind of hating it sometimes (when your legs are burning and you feet hate you and you've forgotten whether to stem or to bridge.) I'd say it's 5.13d R placing the gear, 8b, or E8 6c. It's all on gear and placing the gear is definitely cruxy (tiny wires). I really hope someone repeats this thing because the climbing is crazy cool and I feel like this kind of technical but powerful climbing is a dying art. #fuckingbrits #burningbridges #themythicalbeing #smokeshow #slammedopen thanks Jonny Baker for all the shots.

A post shared by Hazel Findlay (@hazel_findlay) on

Findlay made the first ascent of the shallow seam last summer and said after: I had no plan to climb a hard trad first ascent when I turned up in Squamish. In fact, I simply wanted to get a lot of pitches under my belt. But, as ever, I followed my nose and when my friend Neil mentioned there was a sweet unclimbed corner at the top of the Chief, I of course obliged and joined him. Whilst lowering into it, I knew this was my dream pitch.

Crazy hard but uniquely technical movements of which most normal climbing cannot prepare you for. There are just a handful of holds on the whole pitch; a hand jam and a few finger locks. Upward progress is achieved by pushing alone. Extreme pushing with the legs and extreme palming with the hands. Moving between such precarious positions would be difficult enough if the gear was easy to place. Unfortunately, the route is mostly protected by micro wires (which gives you some indication of how small the crack is).

Some people I chatted to suggested I place a bolt or two, ensuring that at least some people would repeat it. I’m not necessarily against bolts on trad routes but the Brit in me could see that this was a better challenge without the bolts. I wanted to leave it as a pure trad challenge and if people wanted just the physical challenge then they could easily top rope it.

When it came to the send day I gave myself 30 per cent chance of success. It was crazy hot out and due to the forest fires, there was no breeze for relief. Despite the terrible conditions I reminded myself that “sending” is mostly mental with the real variables and limitations existing between your ears. Characteristically, Neil climbed it calmly and coolly on top rope exclaiming that he wasn’t ready to lead it.

I didn’t climb it “well,” typically I messed up all my beta, forgot everything I was supposed to remember but still, I managed to pull some magic tricks out the bag and moment by moment shook my way to the top.

It was a great experience to climb this route. A lot because the mental and physical challenge of the route met my abilities perfectly. In this space magic happens and I did things I didn’t think I was capable of. It was also amazing because I had Neil there to belay me, who was likely more keen for me to do the route than I was myself. Having this level of support and psych at the other end of your rope means a lot. Also thanks to Jonny Baker for capturing the send on film.

Watch Findlay’s Send:

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