It’s a legacy. In 2005, Chris Sharma and Sonnie Trotter decided to throw nine bolts into what became Squamish’s most aesthetic sport climb. Since then, The Room, Squamish’s hard-climbing echo chamber, has become a place where athletes from all over the world test themselves on Canada’s hardest climbs. American Paige Claassen joined this list of climbers seven years ago on her first attempt of the route.
Although Dreamcatcher has shaken off many of the world’s strongest, Claassen never felt intimidated. While some feel the need to validate themselves on easier routes before attempting harder ones, Claassen trusted in her ability and, after perceiving the route on her first trip with her husband, she knew that she could do it.
After working the route on that trip, Claassen had the individual moves. She knew it would be possible. Still, with several links left to make, and the end of her trip approaching, she also knew she would have to come back for it. Seven years later, she did.
Just over a week ago, Claassen saw the culmination of her efforts. Her ascent made headlines in Canada, the UK and the United States due to the difficulty of the climb. While it might seem obvious as to why someone might want to climb such a beautiful route, Claassen’s interest in the several-bolt boulder problem came from its many styles.
Although the steep climb does feature many of the powerful movements many would associate with such an angle, Dreamcatcher, and Squamish generally, requires a little more precision than raw power. “I love that it requires so many skill sets,” Claassen said. “I mean you start with a slab, and then you move up this campus, sloper rail, and then this pin-scar crack and then this hard technical boulder at the top. You can’t just be good at one thing.”
Over Claassen’s last few projects, the American tried numerous challenging routes, each largely defined by a steep anti-style that does not quite fit her strengths. The route’s terrible feet and technical style, however, appealed to the ex-competition climber. The project was set.
Over the course of the pandemic, Claassen trained on a 47-degree home wall composed of Kilter pinches and a steep, dynamic style. Claassen believes this helped build her strength for the route. About two months before the border open, Claassen then began to train in a simulator at her local gym and ultimately tweaked her hamstring from all the heel hooks.
When the border did open, she returned to Squamish with Dreamcatcher in mind. Taking five days to suss out the end of the climb, Claassen fought to wire the end sequence. “I hadn’t started trying from the ground until day five. I worked the route backwards, stick clipping to the middle of the route. Since it is so short, and in that cave, you can actually stick-clip halfway up the route.
“I rehearsed the top half because I knew that’s where people fell a lot. I wanted to make sure that I had that top boulder dialed. I saved the slab until the end because it wrecks your skin.”
Ever the technical climber, Claassen knew that she would not have too much difficulty on the slab. Still, she would have to find a way to wire the ending boulder problem if she wanted to send. She began to give red-point burns on her fifth day and pulled through to the final crux twice before her ultimate send on day seven.
Even Claassen seemed surprised by how quickly she completed the route. “I expected to fall at the top a lot, like the whole month. I just got up [to the final crux] and thought, okay you made it one move further, and you are probably going to fall here. I just shut that out of my mind and thought, no, just try as hard as you can and don’t fall. I just kind of clicked into this mode and probably tried as hard as I have ever tried. Luckily, I didn’t have to take that big fall.”
Pulling over the top, Claassen said that she felt grateful. “I feel I am really fortunate to be up here trying my hardest. I know it has been a hard two years for a lot of people, so It’s just cool to be here and try hard again.” With this project down, Claassen looks to enjoy the remainder of her trip with some easier climbing and maybe a couple days of projecting.
After such an intense experience, Claassen mentioned that she is not sure what she wants to do. Now that skin maintenance is less of an issue, some well-earned rest and recuperation might make the perfect conclusion to this ground-breaking trip.
Featured image of Paige Claassen by Arjan de Kock, courtesy of Eddie Bauer.