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Story Behind the Photo: Scott Milton and the Flag

This is Gripped magazine’s 20th year in print. To celebrate the anniversary, we’ll be sharing photos and stories from issues throughout the two decade.

In this photo, Canadian powerhouse Scott Milton poses in front of the Canadian flag. We published the photo in 2002.

Scott Milton

Milton talked about the photo on social media recently and said, “Not sure if I was proud of this April 2002 photoshoot or not, but at least it was funny!”

Back Story

“An American magazine published a photo of Tommy Caldwell, heroically posing with his bigwall rack in front of the American flag,” said Milton. “I couldn’t let that one go without some sort of commentary. So I came up with the Canadian version.”

Milton was the first Canadian to climb 5.14 with Mass Critique in 1993 in France, followed by To Bolt or Not To Be 5.14a in Smith Rock. He then made the first ascent of Existence Mundane 5.14b at Acephale in the Canadian Rockies, a line bolted by Richard Conover. The route had a number of glued-on chips, which Milton removed all but one of. Sonnie Trotter removed the final one a few years later.

In 2003, Milton made the first ascent of Shock and Awe 5.14c, a link-up on the Aggro Wall at Smith Rock. “Grades are a suggestion,” Milton said after his first ascent. “But, for me, it’s definitely harder than 5.14b.” Milton worked on the route for a month, taking rest days to rest his fingers from crimping tiny pockets.

“I was shocked and awed when I did it because I’d been having some really crappy days,” he says, “like not being to do the crux moves of either section off the dog.” He also made the first ascent of Chemical Ali 5.14a during his visit.

Milton is a Canadian climbing legend and his routes have gone on to be classics in the sport climbing world, which makes the above photo even more memorable.