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Wild New Brunswick Aid Route Orpheus Freed

The route was talked about nearly two decades ago, aided nine years ago and freed this summer

New Brunswick climbers Peter and Jon Adamson have freed Orpheus, a wild looking line at the Amphitheatre, Welsford. It was first climbed in 2011 by Chris Norfolk and Erick Burley using some bolts and a lot of aid trickery.

The history of the route dates back 15 years to when it was suggested that the line was 5.12d A3 on the Climb Eastern Canada site here. It was dubbed Cerebus, but locals questioned if the line had actually been climbed.

In a 2011 blog post, Norfolk wrote about “Cerebus” and the controversy surrounding it after they made the official first aid ascent:

For some time this summer, we’ve been climbing the aid routes in Welsford both for fun, and to train for our upcoming trip. With most of the established routes crossed off our list, we’ve been looking around at other possibilities. For some time now, we’ve been looking at Cerebus. Cerebus is a line found next to Odin at the back of the Ampitheatre. Cerebus is also the 3-headed dog of Greek mythology who guards the underworld. Although it’s had a number of interested parties, to my knowledge it’s never been climbed. With good reason. It’s line begin’s in the most radically overhung cave in Welsford for 50 feet before breaking out into 50 more feet of overhung cracks.

The rock quality in the initial cave is mixed, with some solid granite breaking though areas of what resembles crumbly kitty-litter. The discussion around this route is part of the lore. Although it’s never been sent it apparently has a name? Even more interesting is that it’s had a grade of 5.12d proposed for it as a free climb? Odd given that it seems as if nobody has lead it and it’s nature would prove impossible to top-rope. Saturday, Erick decided to put an end to the speculation. In exceptional style, Erick lead the route ground-up, complete to the top, maximizing his use of clean aid. He placed only 3 bolts on the 30 meter pitch, all hand-drilled, some while hanging from hooks on overhung terrain.

The route had no evidence of previous attempts as far as I could tell. For the entire ordeal (6 hours to lead, 2 hours to clean), a rain of lichen and rockfall filled the ampitheatre. Even after breaking through the roof after about 4 hours hanging in his harness on lead… I didn’t hear a single gripe out of the fellow… he asked only that I send up some smokes to him on the tag line. Classic!

The route then sat more/less unrepeated until Peter racked up this year for a free attempt. He said, “This rig will require you to pull out every technique in the book, and throw every style of climbing at you.”

He has yet to suggest a grade.

Peter described the 30-metre route as: “Located at the far back of the Ampitheatre, this route climbs up the giant dark maw of a crack coming out of the cave. Start with sustained, difficult climbing up a series of shallow dihedrals past thee bolts. After the 3rd bolt, move up and right to the base of the overhanging crack/corner. Work your way up and out the corner until you can clip another bolt, then swing out of the corner to the right and climb up to an alcove. From the alcove, follow the gently overhanging crack up to anchors on a ledge.

“There are three possible finishes to this route. The easiest finish steps out to a ledge on the left near the top, and then climbs up and around back to the anchors. Alternatively, you can continue climbing straight up the crack to reach the ledge with anchors. The nicest finish walks up and right near the top along a sloping ramp using underclings, which will deposit you onto the ledge right below the anchors. Two ropes are almost mandatory for this route.”

For more from New Brunswick climbing, visit the Facebook group here. Visit Peter’s post below and check out the comments to watch a short video by east coast guidebook author Dom Caron where the above screenshot is from.