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Interview with Miles Adamson on His New Rockies 5.14d

Top Canadian climber Miles Adamson climbs a new Bow Valley test-piece, the thinly-held Imposter Syndrome.

The Bow Valley plays host to Canada’s most challenging sport routes. With gyms closed and locals staying local, Bow Valley residents have been cranking out ascents of some of Canada’s most challenging lines.

Just over a month ago, Evan Hau would become the first Canadian to climb 5.15a on his route Sacrifice. A few weeks later, Team Canada’s Becca Frangos would ascend Leviathan, a notoriously challenging 5.14a. Each of these routes presented insecure movements and exceptional difficulty, but it would not be until last week that a terrifyingly challenging near-vert face route would be established on Mt. Gillivray’s University Wall.

Miles Adamson is not a new name in the world of hard climbing. As a former Team Canada athlete, he has been strong for over a decade, but the last five years have seen this competitor’s strength fully utilized in outdoor rock climbing.

Adamson began climbing when he was six-years-old at the Edmonton-based gym, Vertically Inclined. Before long Adamson was climbing on the local competition circuit before moving into sanctioned comps. Though Adamson loved his time competing, his interest dropped off when the style changed to the more coordination-based climbing we see today.

Though Adamson misses the friends that he used to see almost exclusively through competition, the changing style of competition and the general exclusion of the west from tour-de-blocs brought Adamson close to outdoor climbing.

With that said, outdoor climbing wasn’t always one of Adamson’s passions. He laughed, saying, “I actually remember not liking it at first.” After gaining access to a driver’s license and a car, however, that began to change. Before long Adamson would move out to B.C. for the rock climbing. He said, “I picked my school with the intention of climbing in Squamish. I would even skip class to go climb.”

While in Squamish, Adamson would go onto to complete one of the most heinous bouldering circuits in North America. He would climb all 25 of Squamish’s Top Highballs, becoming the first person to do so. He would establish three of the climbs on that circuit.

To add to his list of hard and high bouldering, Adamson would head to Bishop where he would attempt to climb Ambrosia, ground up. Though he would ultimately climb the problem after a quick suss of the top, his bold mindset stands as an inspiration of what could be possible for future highballing.

On January 1, 2020 Adamson would take another step skyward, establishing Too Tall to Fall, a V10 highball on the Grandma Peabody Boulder. This boulder problem joins Bishop’s most dangerous boulder problems.

Though Adamson has made a name for himself in highball bouldering, he refuses basic categorization. Over the course of his climbing history, he has climbed the Sonnie Trotter gear route The Path 5.14R and even nabbed the third ascent of Hau’s Honour and Glory 5.14d.

Naturally, the pandemic did not stop Adamson’s progress. Though many climbers found themselves struggling for psych with crag closures, Adamson trained. He said, “There was about a month there where I was only hangboarding, but it wasn’t too bad.” Before long Adamson had designed and built his own home wall with Matt Hendsbee and Kelsey Fleming.

As the crags began to open, Adamson began to head back toward a longstanding project on University Wall in McGillivray Canyon in the Bow Valley. The hilariously named Imposter Syndrome tilts back just a couple degrees from purely vertical face climbing, ensuring difficult technical movement on some of the gnarliest holds imaginable.

The lower boulder problem revolves around two left facing edges and a “large” foot. According to Adamson, “Without each of those holds the route probably wouldn’t go at all.” The delicate sequence requires the climber to pull hard into left hand gaston-undercling, before matching in and going from the first to the second left facing edges. Pulling hard on a right toe, the climber stands into limestone grips and finishes the lower V12 sequence. He then moves through a V5-6 on technical feet.

After exiting the moderate problem, Adamson enters the crux of the route. Building up the feet, his left-hand crushes an under-cling just below the fourth bolt. Bearing down on a thin edge with his right-hand, Adamson stands hard through a poor right foot, driving by to a savagely poor three-finger edge. Placing the left foot back on, as it comes off from the sheer magnitude of the movement, Adamson busts out to a right-hand flat edge before continuing through 5.13a/b climbing.

Adamson said, “The crux is difficult to grade. I only stuck the (left-hand) move twice, and the second time I sent the route.” He dubbed the gnarly face pitch “Imposter Syndrome” and graded it 5.14d. The name of the route speaks to the feeling many first ascensionist might experience when the out up something hard. Adamson laughed, “I always felt like it should be easy and that somebody else would be able to do it way faster. I thought it was a performance issue haha.”

After having friends also try the upper crux, it quickly became clear to Adamson that this was not the case. The 22-metre, University Wall test-piece took Adamson multiple seasons to complete, making the challenging difficulty understandable. He said, “I put in at least 20 good burns,” where he made it through the bottom boulder problem. Considering the Honour and Glory took Adamson 20 days of work to ultimately send that route in 2018, it is not difficult to presume just how challenging this new line really is.

With this project complete, Adamson is excited to move on to something new. He said, “I have been putting in bolts on some harder projects. I would certainly like to break into the 5.15 range.” As his draws are still hanging on the Ondra 5.15b, Disbelief, he notes that the similarly styled route would be one he would like to return to, though its significant difficulty will likely take him some time if he were to pursue it. In the meantime, he is excited to do some “project shopping” and either establish or repeat something that will push his maximum difficulty to another level.

Outside of his climbing, Adamson works in software design and has even created climbing specific applications for climbers top better their training. His app Climbing Coach makes it easy to design, modify and stick to your training while his new app, Setter, allows climbers to easily set and record boulder problems on their home walls.

You can follow Adamson and his crew of hard Canadian climbers on their Choss Media Youtube account and Instagram page. With ascents ranging from Adamson’s Imposter Syndrome to the first ascent of Too Tall to Fall, the radical Canadian climbing crew harks back to an exciting genre of climber-based media.

Featured photo of Miles Adamson by Kelsey Fleming.