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Memorable Moments from Canadian Climbing in 2022

From hard new sport routes to the first free ascents of old aid lines and historic rockfall, 2022 was packed with action from the world of Canadian climbing

There were some big sends across Canada this year, so as we get ready to welcome 2023, here’s a look back at just a few of the many highlights in Canada and by Canadians abroad in 2022. For more climbing highlights from 2022 visit here.

Allison Vest Sends V14: Early in 2022, Allison Vest climbed Show Your Scars in Ogden, Utah, becoming the first Canadian woman to climb V14. After her send, Vest said, “This boulder tested every single mental tactic I had and forced me to learn some new ones. I can’t believe, 10+ sessions and a landslide of doubt later, that I’m standing on top, after dreaming of being there for weeks.” Vest went on to send several more hard problems this year including Magic Touch V13, Nothin But Sunshine V13 and Cinderella is Dead V13. As the first Canadian woman to climb V13 as well, Vest has pushed Canadian climbing forward on at least two occasions.

Bronwyn Hodgins Climbs 5.13d/5.14a Trad: Squamish-based climber and guide, Bronwyn Hodgins, repeated Necronomicon 5.13d/14a in Utah. At 30 metres in length and overhanging by 90 degrees, the route is one of the hardest roof cracks in the world. Quebec crack master Jean-Pierre Ouellet made the first ascent in 2011. Hodgins sent the line on her fifth day working the route, during her second proper redpoint attempt. Originally graded 5.13d/14a, Hodgins believes the grade is on the lower end for her due to her smaller hand size. Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker struggled where the crack thins out to tight reds and greens requiring paddles and finger locks to get through the crux. To get through other tough sections, they often had to cut feet or spin around. Hodgins employed similar trickery, including multiple 360-degree spins and a no-hands double knee bar. She chose to not place any gear during the crux, leading to some big air while projecting the route.

Bladerunner Freed at 5.14 Trad: Ben Harnden, one of Squamish’s most accomplished 5.14 trad climbers, freed an old aid route on the Kashmir Wall in Squamish at 5.14b/c. The route was established by Pat Delaney and John Furneaux back in 2000. Jeremy Smith made the first free ascent of the first pitch at 5.12b/c and climbers had looked at the second pitch over the years – the pitch that Harnden recently projected and freed. Harnden spent over 20 days working on the second pitch of Bladerunner, including the big-move V12. After he sent, he shared the news on Instagram, noting that he used twin ropes: “Twin rope fun on Pitch two of blade runner. 25+ days on this single pitch.”

Joe Skopec’s 5.14+ in Ontario: This summer, Joe Skopec, who’s repeated most of Ontario’s hardest sport routes, made the first free ascent of an old Mark Smith project at Lion’s Head, which he says is his hardest redpoint to date. He named it My Curse. “As for the grade 8c+/9a [5.14c/14d],” said Skopec. “I haven’t tried a 9a [5.14d] and have no idea. I just know it’s harder than any 8c+ [5.14c] I’ve tried. Sadly Ontario doesn’t have many upper 5.14s.” Skopec said that it’s probably one of the hardest routes in Ontario, and broke it down to: “5.13d, rest, V12, rest, pumpy 5.13d to the anchors for around 100 feet.” About the process, Skopec said, “It was hard to come mentally prepared when all I did was train alone in my garage. It was very draining to stay on top of my game and just waiting for good temps.” In terms of the focus needed to send My Curse, Skopec said, “The route is a mental battle. The crux is super run out with skipping two bolts, then afterwards everything is about 15 feet apart.” Skopec said that sending My Curse brought tears to his eyes. “I gave up so much in life to be in shape for this life. It was all worth it in the end.” We’ll have a feature on Skopec in next issue of Gripped.

Lucas Uchida’s Strong Season: Lucas Uchida had a stellar season in Squamish. He repeated Dreamcatcher 5.14d and became the fourth person to climb The Singularity, a notoriously difficult V14 in Squamish. Also this season, he flashed Room Service V12, repeated Deadlift 14 and North North Ridge V14, made the FA of Offenders of Faith V13, made the possible second ascent of The Pool LowV13.

Félicien Roy Opens New 5.14b: Quebec climber Félicien Roy spent several days at  Lone Rock Point in northern Vermont this year. During one visit, he linked several of the test-piece lines into one monster 5.14b he called A Tribord, Toute! Roy said the climb is an “amazing climbing marathon that traverses the entire overhanging section of the crag.” It starts on Ghostface Drilla 5.13c/d and moves right using burly heel hooks to a rest at seven metres. From there, you climb to a horizontal tufa that provides a cool kneebar. After that you reach a rest at the anchor for King Tubby 5.14a. Prepare for the final push to the top via Terror Wolf: the Howling Undead Warrior 5.13c. Roy visited Greece earlier this year where he climbed routes up to 5.14. Before leaving, he spent time at Lone Rock Point where his send list included Livin Astro 5.14c, Riviera 5.13d, Texas 5.13d, Welcome to Jamrock 5.14b and the first ascent of Tubby Wolf 5.14b.

New Huge WI6+ Climbed in Quebec: Jean-Philippe Bélanger, Yan Mongrain and Charles Roberge made first ascents of some sweet ice climbs 120 kilometres north of Sept-Îles at Haute-Moisie not far from the border of Newfoundland/Labrador last winter. The established a 180-metre route called Patte Blanche WI5, a 170-metre  WI5 called La Tanière, and a wild three-pitch route up three-dimensional ice through roofs and along pillars. They called it Maïkan, which translates to wolf, a 150-metre WI6+.

Maïkan WI6+ 150m

New Yamnuska 5.12c: Rory O’Donnell and Cory Rogans added a new route on Yamnuska called People of the Sun that climbs six pitches up to 5.12c. They climbed it ground-up, drilling on lead. It follows a line between Astro Yam and Quantum Leap. Jon Walsh and Katie Reeder joined them on some days. It’s the first bold route climbed ground-up on the famous limestone peak in over a decade. There are some big runouts between small gear with a few bolts.

New Rockies 5.15a and Hard Sends: At the end of the rock season, Miles Adamson made the first ascent of Semantics on University Wall east of Canmore and proposed the grade of 5.15a. He projected the route over several seasons and sent it while using a rope-soloist – read more here. Rockies-based Kelly Drager sent The Shadow, a tall 5.13d in Echo Canyon. Also in Echo Canyon, Mike Doyle repeated Honour and Glory, which he gave a personal grade of 5.14b/c.

Canadians on El Capitan: Ontario big wall specialist Pete Zabrok, who’s spent over 800 nights sleeping on the side of El Capitan, Quebec aid climber Tom Canac and Colorado-based Luke Antonia made the second ascent of Atlantis on El Cap. It was first climbed by David Turner solo in 2005 at VI 5.9 A4. We’ll have a feature story on this historic ascent in our spring issue. They spent 18 days on the wall with 12 days worth of food.

New Himalayan Route: Rockies-based climbers Maarten Van Haeren and Ethan Berman spent nearly two months in Nepal, during which time they made a significant first ascent. As Van Haeren reported, “Our basecamp was managed by Namgyal Sherpa and made delicious by our cook Dawa Sherpa. Despite our language barriers, we got to know and trust these guys, couldn’t have asked for a better team! We used our time in basecamp to scope our intended mountain, acclimatize, rest, acclimatize more, and eventually go climbing! On a five day round trip, we managed to make the first ascent of the NE face of Khang Karpo (6,647 m) via Tiny Changes (TD+ AI4 M5 1,200 m). We spent three nights on the wall, with my highest night ever at 6,300 m. We found mostly great but cold conditions, with lots of boot-swinging and puff-pants-wearing. Since we found no great alternate descent during acclimatization, we spent our last day descending most of the face.”

Hard Climbs on The Chief: In May, Stu Smith made the second ascent of the eight-pitch Prow Wall 5.14a. “It went pretty quick,” he said. “Good route that.” Also on The Chief, Sonnie Trotter made the second ascent of Heavy Fuel, a 5.13dR first climbed by Will Stanhope last year. And American Jesse Huey made the first ascent of a multi-year project that is now one of the hardest stem corners in Squamish. He didn’t grade the crux and named it Stélmexw, which means Human Being, but he said it’s the hardest climb of its style that’s he’s redpointed. On Tantalus Wall, Jacob Cook and Drew Marshall added Balance, a four-pitch 5.13b that was bolted ground-up and has some big run-outs. They also made the first ascent of Thousand-Year Storm, a 40-metre 5.13a alternative final pitch to Balance that’s described as high quality. And in the South Gully, Jason Green and crew made the first ascent of The Manitou, a new 5.11+ eight-pitch route. It was a multi-year project started back in the 1990s.

More Hard Squamish Sends: Renee Rogge, who’s originally from Ontario, made the second ascent of Total Fascination, which was first climbed by the late Marc-André Leclerc. The 5.13b was her first route at the grade and is found at the Smoke Bluffs. In Paradise Valley, Jonathan Siegrist made the second ascent of Spirit Quest 5.14d and the first ascent of a new 5.14b for a direct finish to Queen Bee. Also in Paradise Valley, Gabe Lawson opened Young King Dave, a 35-metre route prepped by Scott Milton, at 5.14c with a burly V11 boulder problem. And in Cheakamus, Sonnie Trotter found and bolted a new four-bolt 5.13a on a steep short wall with a V8-ish move. Other hard routes added to Check include Butterfly Mile 5.13b/c by Pat Sweeney, Tim’s Sloper Problem 5.14b by Gabe Lawson and The Scruffening 5.13d by Graham McGrenere.

Snowpatch Spire Rockfall: At the start of winter, a huge rockfall destroyed a dozen rock climbs on Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos, including the Tom Egan Memorial Route 5.14. Read what routes were changed by the rockfall here.

If we missed something that should be on this list then let us know at info@gripped.com. Happy New Year and be safe when out climbing, skiing and playing in the mountains!