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Happy Canada Day and Not Happy Canada Day

A time to celebrate and reflect on Canada's history in the mountains

Climbing in Canada rocks and we all celebrate it for different reasons. From the west to the east coast, our country is full of amazing people, world-class stone and unique-to-Canada climbing.

However, in this time of reconciliation, awakening and learning, we need to acknowledge that Canada exists because of colonialism and that we have a long way to go to understand how climbing fits into this great land.

First and foremost, like many of you, all of us at Gripped have come to recognize that climbing is not immune to the systemic racism that is present in every sphere of life. It is time we do our part and address our own role in fighting racism and bigotry wherever it is found. We pledge to work with the rest of the community to make climbing more inclusive, and to represent our sport in its fullness and diversity.

We are committed to improving our coverage of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, LGBTQ and other historically marginalized voices in the climbing community. Furthermore, we encourage and welcome suggestions of story ideas of BIPOC and LGBTQ voices and experiences, from experiences of racism in the world of climbing to overlooked stories that should be celebrated. If you would like to share your ideas or feedback, please contact the Editor via brandon at gripped.com.

Secondly, we need to address that colonialist and racist route and mountain names in Canada have to change, which you can read more about here. Here is my editorial from Gripped August/September 2013, which was a note on Canadian climbing that I wrote when I started as editor of Gripped.

Happy to be Here

Gripped is a magazine for Canadians. Its glossy format and Canadian content has been a good match for the rhythms and movements of Canadian climbers. David Chaundy-Smart and Sam Cohen started the publication in 1999. Searching for a name they considered Canadian Climber, Vertical Moose and The Vertical Beaver. Indeed, my life would be different if I was the editor of The Vertical Beaver.

My first time rock climbing was at Of Rock and Chalk in Newmarket, Ontario, during Gripped’s debut month, October, 1999. Now, 14 years later, I am honoured with the opportunity, as Gripped’s editor, to represent the Canada I know, and the Canada I am yet to know.

Climbing in Canada is about many things: trips to Skaha, sleeping in down sleeping bags, huddling around fires after sessions, wading canyon creeks, wearing toques to the crag, hot rocks in chalk bags, winter trips to Spain, ice climbing in Quebec,waiting for the Smoke Bluffs to dry off after rain, bouldering on the south shore of Nova Scotia, experiencing Yamnuska at least once, sport climbing at Nemo, ticks in the spring, mosquitoes in the summer, frosty tips in August, van camping on the Prairies, pockets at Grassi Lakes, avalanches at Back of the Lake, café mornings watching the sun melt the snow off the peaks, screaming barfies on Polar Circus, 5.14s at Acephale, 5.10 on the Chief, adventure climbs in Thunder Bay, au-cheval on Pigeon Spire, new winter ice in Newfoundland fjords, climbing in jeans, early-season pump, brittle-ice, rest days at the park, hard-stone at Val-David, meeting other like-minded Canadians, dreaming of Lotus Flower Tower, ocean-side espresso on the Howe-Sound, late sunsets at Echo Canyon, and when it is all over, sitting back and enjoying a beer, Canadian style. Climbing is my passion. It has been friend and foe, and it will always be there, taking and teaching.

I have been lucky to have climbed with legends such as Jim Elzinga, Sharon Wood, Brette Harrington, Jen Olson, Will Gadd, Sonnie Trotter, Ines Papert, David Lama, Lynn Hill, Marc-Andre Leclerc, Barry Blanchard, Adam Ondra, Alex Megos and Tim Auger. When I climbed with Trotter and Tommy Caldwell, I understood why they are two of North America’s best climbers; their strength on the rock is reflected by their respect for each other and the route. Belaying Will Gadd, in minus 30 degrees Celsius, in a howling snow storm, 200 m off the ground, he yelled “Hell Yeah!,” and I discovered how Canada’s best ice climber succeeds, accepting the risk and managing his fear. When I climb new alpine routes in the Rockies with old friends like Will Meinen, I am reminded why I began climbing in the first place, to have fun in wild places. When I took my mother climbing for her first time and saw her overcome her fear of heights I realized the power climbing has on the psyche, but not before she yelled, “Brandon, let me down, NOW!” And when climbing took my friends, I asked why?

A friend and mentor of mine, Derrik Patola, is a father, adventurer and climber, who lives in Thunder Bay, Ont. Against a number of life obstacles Patola has remained humble and positive, once saying, “If they are calling for 80 per cent chance of showers; that is still 20 per cent chance of sunshine!” I hope as editor of Gripped I meet others who share similar goals to Patola: to have fun and enjoy life by simple means, in the pursuit of memorable ascents and rewarding experiences.

I am thrilled and excited about being the editor of Canada’s climbing magazine and hope you enjoy the experience. Every climber has a story to tell, and it is our job at Gripped to share those stories with you, the reader. I hope these stories leave you dreaming.

Canada Flag on Ha Ling in the Rockies Photo Tim Banfield