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Tim Emmett Makes First Ascent of Stunning 5.14b Near Squamish

The wildly steep line on Anvil Island hangs over the scenic blue waters of the Howe Sound

Photo by: Paul McSorley

Yesterday, Tim Emmett made the first ascent of his epic sport project on Anvil Island, a small island in the Howe Sound between Vancouver and Squamish. Emmett has spent a lot of time on Anvil in recent years, developing the crag and putting up new routes. A few years ago, he made the first ascent of the impressive Apnea 5.14a. The line is incredibly steep, with physical, pumpy climbing not found in many other places in the Sea-to-Sky corridor.

Anvil Island is a truly special climbing area. The crag sits over the scenic Howe Sound and you need a boat, Skidoo, or SUP to get there. You won’t find it any guidebook. While at the crag, it doesn’t feel like you’re in Vancouver or Squamish. It doesn’t even feel like you’re in BC or Canada.

Emmett has named the long-term project he completed yesterday Archimedes Principle, and he’s assigned it a grade of 5.14b, a step up from Apnea. I reached out to Emmett to learn more, including his projecting process, how the route compares to Apnea, the route’s interesting name, and what he’s working on now.

Emmett cutting feet on Archimedes Principle. Photo by Paul McSorley.

“The projecting process was really fun, actually,” he told me. “I love going to Anvil, it feels like going on holiday for the day. I saw the line three years ago and decided to bolt it to see if it might be possible. It’s really steep, with three-dimensional climbing up an overhanging corner feature with undercuts, side pulls, and gastons, and not many footholds. Very powerful climbing – a bit like in Gibb’s Cave.”

Archimedes Principle features a V11 boulder problem to a poor shakeout which is then followed by a section of V6/7 to join up with finish of Apnea. How do the two Emmett FAs compare? “Both routes are amazing and right next to each other,” Emmett said. “The boulder problem on Archimedes Principle is much harder than the crux in Apnea, and there is only one shake on AP which is totally horizontal, so it’s definitely a step up from Apnea. I think Apnea is a soft 5.14a, where as AP is solid 5.14b.”

For a line that requires a climber to be light and flowy above water, his route name is apt. “The Archimedes Principle is the upward force required to make an object float when immersed in liquid,” he said, explaining the origins of the route’s name. “It’s a term used in fluid dynamics, and I like the association with water and being able to float when climbing the route.”

And what’s next in store for Emmett: “I’ve got another project which links the start of Apnea into Archimedes Principle. It’s game on!”

Emmett going horizontal on Archimedes Principle. Photo by Paul McSorley.

Originally from the U.K., Emmett now lives in Squamish. You’d be hard pressed to find a climber with as diverse a set of climbing accomplishments as Emmett’s. Sport, trad, mixed, ice, big wall, alpine, mountaineering, deep-water soloing – he’s done it all.

Emmett is considered one of the pioneers of deep-water soloing, opening many lines in Spain and other locations around the world two decades ago. Along with his climbing partners, he was the first in the world to send waterfall ice climbs at grades WI 10, WI 11, WI 12, and WI 13 – all at Helmcken Falls in British Columbia. He was also part of a group to first ascend the east face of the Kedar Dome in the Himalayas.

He’s made many hard ascents in trad and sport. In 2010, he made the first ascent of Muy Caliente E9 6c in Pembroke, Wales. He’s also repeated the gritstone test piece Meshuga E9 6c and the intimidating The Path 5.14a R at Lake Louise. One of his hardest sport climbs to date was a repeat of Sonnie Trotter’s Superman 5.14c.

Tim Emmett on Apnea 5.14a

Lead photo: Paul McSorley