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From 5.9 to 5.14, Five Squamish Trad Climbs to Know About

A series of climbing 101’s about the history, people, routes and gear that shaped the sport

Squamish has become the go-to for serious trad climbers looking to push themselves in Canada. There’s everything from single pitch beginner cracks to steep big walls.

Climbers started establishing routes in Squamish in the 1950s, shortly after a dirt road was completed connecting it to Vancouver. Over the years, several historical moments have played out on the granite walls above town, below are just a few.

Sentry Box

Murrin Park has a lot of great cracks, but none may be more popular than Sentry Box. It was aided in 1960 by Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper and repeated several times before Eric Weinstein stepped up in 1976 to make the first free ascent. In 1982, Peter Croft and Tami Knight added a new start. Croft would go on to make the first free-solo of the thin crack, a feat repeated many decades later by Will Stanhope. If you’re looking for an amazing crack climb with a lot of history, this is it.

Will Stanhope free-soloing Sentry Box Photo Chris Christie

Penny Lane

There may be no other 5.9 crack in the Smoke Bluffs climbed as often as Penny Lane. The first ascent was by Keith Rajala and C. McCafferty by aid in 1975. The first free ascent went to Anders Ourom and John Arts in 1978. They didn’t about the first aid ascent and dubbed it Dry Throat. The climb starts with a short crux and leads to a shallow corner. After some jams and stems, the crack eases for a fun top-out.

Penny Lane, Balding for Dollars and Lucifer’s Lips up the chimney.  Photo Brandon Pullan

The Shadow

Peter Croft made the onsight first free ascent of The Shadow, one of Canada’s most famous pitches, in 1988. The grade has been suggested at 5.12d, 5.12d+ and 5.13-. After freeing The Shadow, Croft said, “I craved an odyssey that required my all—and quite possibly more…. I wanted to dive in and draw blood, and it was OK if that blood was my own.” Since Croft, several climbers have redpointed The Shadow, but only two climbers have onsighted it: in 2018 by Em Pellerin and in 2019 by Nina Caprez.

Tainted Love

During several visits to Squamish over the years, Hazel Findlay climbed many hard trad lines, including the first ascent of Adder Crack 5.13 in 2012. In 2017, she completed the first free ascent of Tainted Love, a single-pitch stem corner high on The Chief, at 5.13+. After her send, she said, “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.” It’s since been repeated by a handful of others, including Katha Saurwein, Jorg Verhoeven and Sonnie Trotter.

Cobra Crack

Cobra Crack was first climbed by aid in 1981 by Peter Croft and Tami Knight. In the early 2000s, it became a free climbing project for a number of people, one being Ontario climber Sonnie Trotter. It took Trotter a number of visits to the Cirque of Uncrackables crag on the back of The Chief with many partners. At the time, it was likely the hardest single-pitch trad route in the world at 5.14b/c. Over the years, other climbers found beta through the crux which everyone has used since. Cobra Crack is a pristine 30-metre finger-crack that neatly splits the smooth overhanging face. Trotter’s determination resulted in at least 40 attempts prior to his successful ascent, which came at the end of June 2006. It’s been repeated a number of times by some of the best climbers in the world.

Sonnie Trotter on Cobra Crack 5.14. Photo by Paul Bride