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Top Canadian Sends of 2015

Here is a short list of some of the big sends that made headlines in 2015.

Canadians crushed in 2015, from alpine and big-wall climbing to cragging and bouldering they aimed high, and more than once made international headlines for sends in Canada and abroad.

We are lucky that Canada has so many world-class areas to explore. Here are just a few ascents that made headlines this year.

Tom Egan Memorial Route

One of the most inspiring sends of the year was Will Stanhope and Matt Segal’s ascent of the 1978 Daryl Hatten and John Simpson A3 on the East Face of Snowpatch Spire, with Stanhope freeing every pitch.

Stanhope on the Tom Egan Memorial Route.  Photo Ines Papert / Follow Stanhope on Instagram here
Stanhope on the Tom Egan Memorial Route. Photo Ines Papert / Follow Stanhope on Instagram here and Papert here.

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.”

For a story by Will Stanhope about the send, be sure to pick up the Feb/March issue of Gripped.

Simon Parton Sends V15

In December, Simon Parton became the second Canadian to climb V15 with his fifth-ascent of the Hueco-route Terremer. On his Sendage.com card, Parton wrote, “Some serious next level try hard. Day one in Hueco, two weeks left.” Three of the V14s that Parton has sent are North Ridge in Squamish, The Swarm in Bishop and Amandla V14 in Rocklands. Watch Parton send Terremer here.

Marc-Andre Leclerc Solos and Sends

The Squamish-based climber is only 23, but has quickly become one of Canada’s leading alpine climbers. Last winter, he and Colin Haley made the first ascent of the Torre Traverse from south to north and called their route La Travesia de Oso Buddha. They then made the first direct ascent of the North Face of Cerro Torre and called it Directa de la Mentira.

Leclerc then made one of the most impressive sends by a Canadian of the past few decades with his first solo ascent of the Corkscrew Route 5.10 A1 on Cerro Torre. Leclerc then made the second free solo ascent of Chiaro Di Luna, 700 m 5.10+, just a week after Brette Harrington made the first free-solo ascent.

Marc-Andre Leclerc in the crux chimney of Tomahawk.
Marc-Andre Leclerc in the crux chimney of Tomahawk. Follow Leclerc on Instagram here.

In the fall, Leclerc returned to Patagonia for the first solo ascent of Tomahawk into Exocet on Aguja Standhardt and the second solo of the peak.

He then travelled to Yosemite and made the fifth ascent of the Shaft variation to the Muir Wall 5.13b/c with Brette Harrington and Squamish-climber Alan Carne. Leclerc freed every pitch and Harrington freed all but one move on pitch 29. “Carne freed most of the route as well, including three 5.13 pitches (two on toprope) which is very impressive at 55 years old,” said Leclerc.

First All-Female Ascent on Baffin

Alberta-based team Anna Smith and Michelle Kadatz teamed up for an expedition to Baffin Island. On Mount Asgard, they successfully topped out the Scott Route 5.11 and on Mount Loki, they climbed the South Buttress 5.10.

Michelle Kadatz on some splitter rock on Baffin Island. Photo Anna Smith
Michelle Kadatz on some splitter rock on Baffin Island. Photo Anna Smith / Follow Anna on Instagram here.

The esthetic line had its first free ascent in 2012 by Joshua Lavigne, Jon Walsh and Ines Papert. Smith and Kadatz likely made the second free ascent and first all-female ascent.

Paul McSorley’s Diverse Year

Paul McSorley has long been one of Canada’s accomplished all-round climbers. In 2015, he might be the only Canadian who established routes at nearly every end of the climbing spectrum, from alpine to big rock to crag routes. Last winter, he and Jesse Huey made the first ascent of Ice Princess on the Scottish Wall on Norway’s Senja Island. “The difficulties were not too severe M6+ AI 4+ but the thin, run-out ice and rock overlaps were consistently spicy.”

Ines Papert, Paul McSorley and Mayan Smith-Gobat with Mount Waddington behind.  Photo Paul McSorley
Ines Papert, Paul McSorley and Mayan Smith-Gobat with Mount Waddington behind. Photo Paul McSorley / Follow McSorley on Instagram here.

McSorley teamed up with Vikki Weldon for a new route in Morocco called Le Zahir Akchour V 5.12b. He then teamed up with Jason Ammerlaan and Tony McLane for the new 600-metre route on Mount Louis called Bucking Horse Rider, of which he said, “From the link with Homage we took it to the summit and descended the standard raps. We left one pin in situ at the start of the runout on pitch four.”

McSorley also teamed up with Ines Papert and Mayan Smith-Gobat for a new route on Mount Waddington up the Southwest Buttress at 5.11+ M5 AI3 800m. An impressive year for any climber.

Mike Doyle and Necessary Evil

Canadian Mike Doyle has been sending 5.14 for nearly two decades. One of his long-term projects was Necessary Evil 5.14c, which was one of the first routes of the grade in America. Doyle sent the route on his 59th attempt.

Mike Doyle on Necessary Evil 5.14c.  Photo Rich Wheater
Mike Doyle on Necessary Evil 5.14c. Photo Rich Wheater / Follow Doyle on Instagram here and Wheater here.

After the climb, Doyle wrote, “Barring a hold break it was done. I just climbed each move slowly and deliberately. Stopping to rest, shake and enjoy the moment. By the time I reached the anchors, I was already relaxed again.”

Sean McColl and Two V14s in a Day

Sean McColl was climbing in Fontainebleau in April and sent a number of hard problems, including Neverland V11, Atresie Assis V13, Atresie V11, Big Golden Assis V11, Big Golden V10, TRex Assis V11, La Chose V11, The Traphouse V14, Conviction V11 and flashed Elephunk V13. Nearing the end of his trip he sent two V14s in a day.

Sean McColl on Gecko Assis V14. Photo
Sean McColl on Gecko Assis V14. Follow McColl on Instagram here.

“Did Gecko Assis first try this afternoon then headed to Rempart and took down Super Tanker,” said McColl. “Felt so strong today and the cold conditions were just what I needed. Gecko Assis took in total about an hour and Super Tanker is a link up traverse so it was just about figuring out a few moves.”

Alik Berg Rocks Big Walls

Canadian Alik Berg is a little-known crusher who has climbed a number of big and difficult routes. This year, he and American Skiy DeTray made the second winter ascent of the 1,200-metre Greenwood/Locke on the north face of Mount Temple.

Alik Berg on delicate moves on the fourth pitch.  Photo Jon Walsh
Alik Berg on delicate moves on the fourth pitch of Welcome to the Machine. Photo Jon Walsh / Visit Walsh’s blog here.

They then teamed-up for the first ascent of a new route on the east face of the Mosses Tooth in Alaska called Illusions of a Raven VI WI4R 5.9 A4 1,300 metres. Berg later teamed up with Jon Walsh for the first ascent of Welcome to the Machine, a 13-pitch 5.11+ that Walsh had worked on over a number of sessions with varying partners.

The Kooshdakhaa Spire

New Brunswick climber Max Fisher is establishing himself as one of Canada’s most adventurous international alpine climbers. He and American Eric Bonnett made the first ascent of Otter Water Boogie Man V 5.11- A1 600 metres on Kooshdakhaa Spire in Alaska.

Erik and Max on the summit of Kooshdakhaa Spire Photo Max Fisher
Bonnett and Fisher on the summit of Kooshdakhaa Spire Photo Max Fisher

They then travelled to northern B.C. by raft and climbed Lichening Bolt Buttress IV 5.11-, a 400-metre route to the top of an unclimbed peak near the Nourse River.

Pete “Pass the Piton” Zabrok Gets Third Ascent of The Real Nose

Ontario-based Pete Zabrok and Yosemite speed-climbing legend Steve Schneider made the third ascent of the 1984 The Real Nose 5.10+ A4 over 15 days. Zabrok, 55, has climbed over 50 different El Cap routes and has spent over 600 nights on the side of the iconic wall.

Pete Zabrok leading another A4 pitch on Tempest.  Photo Scott Peterson
Pete Zabrok leading an A4 pitch on Tempest. Photo Scott Peterson

In the fall, Zabrok teamed up with Scott Peterson and Jerry Greenleaf for a three-week ascent of Tempest A4 5.8.

Kate and Jasmin’s Leaning Tower Trip

Kate Rutherford and B.C.-based Jasmin Caton visited the Leaning Towers in southeastern B.C. in mid-July. They established the Slim Princess IV 5.10 up five pitches to the saddle between Wall and Block Tower and continued to the summit of Block Tower via the North Ridge.

Kate Rutherford and Jasmin Caton on the summit of Wall Tower. Photo Jasmin Caton
Kate Rutherford and Jasmin Caton on the summit of Wall Tower. Photo Jasmin Caton / Follow Jasmin on Instagram here.

For their second route, they climbed the East Face of Wall Tower and called it State of Wonder V 5.11- C1.

Evan Hau and New Hard Routes

This year, Calgary-based Hau climbed a number of hard routes in Canada. Hau spent much of the year developing The Apocalypse Cave on Grotto Mountain where he established hard routes such as Box of Souls 5.14a and Ants in Overdrive 5.13d.

Evan Hau on Queen Bee 5.13d, which he recently made the first ascent of.  Photo Kevin Wilson
Evan Hau on Queen Bee 5.14b, which he recently made the first ascent of. Photo Kevin Wilson

At the Coliseum Wall, also on Grotto, he made the first ascent of the 18-bolt Dime Piece 5.14b. At the same wall, he established Queen Bee 5.14b. Hau also finished an extension to All You Can Eat that resulted in a 45-metre 5.13d that reaches to the top of the Lookout Wall.

Squamish’s Daily Universe 

Tony McLane and Jorge Ackermann made the first ascent of The Daily Universe, a new 5.12b extension to the classic 5.12a on the Sheriff’s Badge called The Daily Planet.

Jorge Ackermann climbing through steep ground on The Daily Universe, a new 5.12b up the Sheriff's Badge on The Chief.  Photo Tony McLane
Jorge Ackermann climbing through steep ground on The Daily Universe, a new 5.12b up the Sheriff’s Badge on The Chief. Photo Tony McLane

The often-looked at extension makes for a new nine-pitch route that is the first free-climb through the big roofs of the “badge.”

Daniel Martian Sends at Lion’s Head

Daniel Martin climbed a new 5.14a next to the classic Titan at Lion’s Head he called Atlas Shrugged. It is 35 metres and follows great rock. The crux is pumpy “old-school face climbing” with trickery and slopers. Martian has a number of first ascents on the Titan Wall including Hotel Bennell 5.14a and The Man in Me 5.13d.

Vikki Weldon Sends Dinosaur Highway

In October, Vikki Weldon sent Dinosaur Highway 5.14a at Horne Lake. Vikki had been attempting the route on and off since her Spain visit in the spring. “Such a fantastic route. So happy to tick it off my bucket list and so happy to not have to pay for the ferry again for a while.”

Vikki Weldon on Dinosaur Highway during an earlier session when photographer Rich Wheater joined to  take a few shots.
Vikki Weldon on Dinosaur Highway during an earlier session when photographer Rich Wheater joined to take a few shots. Follow Vikki on Instagram here.

Earlier in the summer, Vikki sent the difficult Adder Crack 5.13b at the Longhouse in Squamish. In Gripped’s Feb/March issue, Vikki begins a three-piece series.

Josh Muller Establishes Acephale Testpiece

Josh Muller climbed his hard project at Acephale’s Upper Wall called Kinder Surprise 5.14d. Muller is one of Acephale’s most accomplished climbers as he has sent Bunda de For a 5.14d and established two other 5.14cs.

Josh Muller at the start of Kinder Surprise 5.14d at Acephale during a summer project session.  Photo Jamie Finlayson
Josh Muller at the start of Kinder Surprise 5.14d at Acephale during a summer project session. Photo Jamie Finlayson / Follow Muller on Instagram here.

“This route put up a huge fight. Between the super subtle heel and the out of control low percent dyno it took all summer of rolling the dice to have this success,” said Muller.

Quebec Climber’s Triple-Header at Cap Trinite

Slovenian climber Gasper Pintar and Quebec-based Em Pellerin spent a week at Quebec’s Cap Trinite. Their first route was Les Grand Galets that has a 5.12d stemming crux.

Em Pellerin hanging out on Cap Trinite. Photo Gasper Pintar
Em Pellerin hanging out on Cap Trinite. Photo Gasper Pintar

Then they climbed La Cavalet that starts with a slabby 5.12b and leads to a 5.13b crux. They then sent the bold Maree Haute, a five-pitch 5.12 “splitter.”

Blue Jeans Direct

Sonnie Trotter established and climbed the first 5.14a on Yamnuska. The pitch is a direct variation to the well-known Blues Jeans 5.13b. Trotter worked on developing the pitch over a number of trips throughout the summer.

Sonnie Trotter having a great time on Blue Jeans on Yamnuska during a project session of his soon-to-be 5.14.  Photo John Price
Sonnie Trotter having a great time on Blue Jeans on Yamnuska during a project session of his soon-to-be 5.14. Photo John Price / Follow Price on Instagram here and Trotter here.

Gery Unterasinger was Trotter’s partner for the send. The route adds to Trotter’s impressive list of hard big Rockies’ routes including Castles in the Sky 5.14a and The Shining 5.13+.

Earlier in the year, Trotter sent his second 5.14d with a tick of Estado Critico 5.14d at Siurana, Spain.

Jon Walsh and Storm Creek

Jon Walsh is one of Canada’s leading Rockies’ climbers. Over the past year, he has established a handful of difficult routes at the rarely-visited Storm. At the start of last winter, he established the 120-metre Plumb M8 WI6 with Marc-Andre Leclerc.

Jon Walsh on Kahveology.  Photo Jon Simms
Jon Walsh on Kahveology. Photo Jon Simms

He then climbed Kahveology M8 WI5 160 metres with Jonny Simms. “Perfect torqueing in cracks and on in-cut holds made for really fun sustained climbing,” said Walsh, “with enough stances to shake out from, although never a hands free position until the belay.”

This winter, he established a difficult trad-start to Rectal Squirrels and the pure ice variation to the Plum at WI6+.

Jamie Finlayson Rocks V13

Jamie Finlayson recovered from an operation on his with three V13s this year. In July, he sent his first route at the grade, Terminator V13 and wrote, “I can’t believe this just happened. I have never put so much time and effort into a boulder problem. This is definitely the hardest problem I have ever done. I used the high left foot beta for the cross move from the Squaminator into the Traverse.

Jamie Finlayson on Vince Pinch Low V13.  Photo Natalia Finlayson @nataliafinlasyon (blissmassagetherapy.ca)
Jamie Finlayson on Vince Pinch Low V13. Photo Natalia Finlayson / Follow Jamie on Instagram here.

This heat wave sure did not help the cause. So psyched. Later in the year, he sent Vince Pinch Low V13 and Shelter V13. Also in Squamish this summer, American Ben Herrington climbed a new route called Roundabout at the Dark Side in Squamish, of which he said, “The crux move is big. Hard to grade, if your short maybe V14 or super tall maybe V12. Awesome climb regardless.”

Sarah Hueniken Climbs M14

Near the end of the year, Sarah Hueniken made the first send of an M14 by a North American woman. At Colorado’s popular Vail crag, she made the fourth ascent of Will Mayo’s Mustang P-51, which Will Gadd had made the third ascent of the day before. Hueniken is one of Canada’s leading climbers and an alpine guide. Follow her on Instagram here.

– This is a small selection of top sends by Canadians this year in and out of Canada. There are so many more ascents, stories and epics from Canadians and by international climbers in Canada that would fit well on such a list. Follow Gripped on Instagram here.