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Watch Evan Hau Send Sacrifice 5.15a in Canadian Rockies

And read an interview with him that appeared in Gripped's August/September issue

Evan Hau’s road to becoming Canada’s first 5.15 climber started years ago when he made the first ascent of Honour and Glory and suggested 5.15. With so many 5.14+ lines under his belt, it seemed like the grade would stick, but Adam Ondra’s second ascent lowered the official grade to 5.14d.

Ondra then opened one of Hau’s neighbouring projects at 5.15a, leaving Hau an opportunity to seize the title once and for all. B.C. climber Elan Jonas McRae recently made the third ascent of Sacrifice.

We touched base with Hau after his second ascent of Sacrifice.

Sacrifice Send

Words with Hau

What was the first thing that went through your mind when you clipped the chains? This is a two-part answer as there is a good rest lower down on the route following the main hard section after which the difficulty eases off significantly. I made it to the rest feeling strong. I let out a few power screams in the final moves leading to the rest. At the rest, I had a moment of disbelief followed by a moment of “Wow, I actually made it here, I might actually send!”

I tried to calm myself down to prepare for the top 5.13c part. Normally I feel confident about the top section, but it was actually quite wet that day and I normally avoid climbing the top when it is wet. A jump move worried me but I made it through. There was also a spot where I felt like I might slip due to wetness and ended up making a split-second decision to change my sequence which was nerve wracking, but it worked out. At the anchor, there was a bit of relief that I didn’t screw it up. Of course, I was also happy to have sent and clipping the chains felt amazing.

What training did you focus on during the covid lockdown? My wife Sheena and I went through a three-day cycle of strength, endurance and rest for two months with a one week break in between. We do not have a climbing wall, but we used a combination of hangboard, free weights, furniture and bodyweight exercises. We did a lot of visualization exercises and I probably climbed Sacrifice a couple hundred times in my head.

Once lockdown lifted, how many sessions did it take before the send? I felt a lot stronger on Sacrifice this season compared to last year so it seems like the lockdown training helped. It took a few days to get familiar with the route again and I was able to go for redpoint attempts right away if the conditions allowed. I sent on the eleventh session at Coliseum this year.

What’s the crux of Sacrifice? The hardest moves are centred around a blank looking block near the start. It’s a short compression crux involving intense right heel hooks. However, the real crux is a 17-move power endurance section that comes after the hardest individual moves on the climbs. Legend is that Adam Ondra skipped three bolts in that section, which are bolts six, seven and eight. I see the appeal of that, but I ended up clipping the middle bolt on all of my attempts.

Adam Ondra made the first ascent, how special is it to get the second? When I bolted the route, I was not sure if the bottom crux was even possible and I could not figure out what beta to even try. It was super inspirational watching Adam Ondra figure out the crux section. It was a motivating and important moment that encouraged me to give it more effort myself and gave me a starting point to begin my own journey with the climb.

How do you feel being the first Canadian to officially be a 5.15 climber? I feel like I went through the gamut of emotions when I originally proposed 5.15a for Honour and Glory in 2017. This time around, it does not feel much different than the usual happiness of finishing off a hard project. I am really happy to have been able to put this route together. It has been an incredible journey bolting the climb, wondering if it was possible, finally being able to do all the moves, and putting it together.

Are there other 5.15 projects awaiting a send in the Rockies? Definitely. I suspect the Queen Bee Direct open project also at Coliseum is 5.15 for any contenders out there. There’re quite a few unfinished projects around the Bow Valley and it is likely a few may fall into the 5.15 category. There is also enormous potential around the area for further development.

If there was another 5.15 you’d want to repeat, what would it be? Locally, I am keen to start working on Fight Club 5.15b. I would love to find a good 5.15a for me to project on a trip. Stoking the Fire at Santa Linya, Spain is another dream route of mine.

What’s the best hangboard for training finger strength? I really only have two months experience on a hangboard during the covid-19 lockdown, so I’m not a connoisseur of hangboards, but I think a hangboard which offers easy (jugs), medium and hard-to-hang-on-to (less than 20 seconds with no weight) holds allows a variety of exercises to be done.

What are some tips for young climbers who want to push their grades? I have always focused on the experience and the journey more than sending and the grade of a climb. If I’m going to pick a project for the long haul, I better actually enjoy the climbing. There will be many ups and downs during projecting, but as long as I try to have fun, I can enjoy each day out regardless of the outcome. Take the time to enjoy little bits of progression.