Climb of the Week: The Tom Egan Memorial

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August 23, 2015 - The most inspirational climb this week undoubtedly was Will Stanhope’s send of the Tom Egan Memorial, the free version of an old aid route on the east face of Snowpatch Spire in Canada’s Bugaboos.

Daryl Hatten and John Simpson, who did the first ascent of the 13-pitch route in 1978, named the Tom Egan after a friend of Hatten’s who had died that same year in a small-plane crash. Stanhope and American Will Segal worked on the climb over four summers, putting in more than 100 days. Because the start of the headwall crack on the Tom Egan was too thin to climb, they had to figure out a bolt-protected face climbing variation leading from an adjacent route, Sweet Sylvia,over to the Tom Egan. During their final push, Stanhope redpointed all of the pitches but Segal was unable to complete the crux face traverse. A week after he finished the climb, we asked Stanhope to tell us more about the route.

Can you briefly describe the four big pitches?

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The first is the Drunken Dawn Wall Pitch, a.k.a. the Face Pitch (5.14). This is the crux—we called it “black magic” face climbing. Some days we’d climb well on it, other days we couldn't remotely touch our high points. It’s very cryptic, gently overhanging granite trickery, protected by bolts. Incredibly subtle and frustrating. It's an absolute miracle that the dots connect and this pitch goes free.

Blood on the Crack (5.14-) is the most gorgeous finger crack I've ever had the pleasure of climbing. I'd say the Cobra Crack [5.14 at Squamish] and the A1 Beauty pitch on The Prophet [5.13d on El Capitan] are two other pitches similar in difficulty and beauty that I've done. Taxing jamming leads to two distinct, bouldery cruxes.

The WooWoo (5.13) is a really long, burly crack pitch with barbed, painful jams. The rock changes character a bit here and goes from bone-white, perfect granite to slightly flakier, golden rock. The position is so awesome—what a joy to charge up that golden headwall, way above the glacier.

The last hard pitch is Ivokanee (5.13- R). The crack really flares out here. The jams are next to nonexistent. You climb it lurching upward, praying you don't eject backward. There's a final deadpoint above some poor nuts and pins.

Had you redpointed all the pitches when you went up for this final push or did you still need to send one or more of them? 

I had led the two hardest cracks and TR’d the uppermost one. I had also top-roped the face pitch.

What made the difference this time?

For me, success came when I stopped thinking about success. I really focused on moving intuitively and not having any expectations. I knew that if I sent the face pitch I could buckle down and send the cracks.

Did you pre-protect the trad sections of the crux headwall or place gear as you went?

There was one fixed cam on the crux splitter. A few wires on the WooWoo and a handful of nuts and pins on the final pitch. Everything else on those cruxes I placed on the fly.

You graded the route 5.14. Do you have a good sense of where the crux falls in the 5.14 range? Or is this close enough to your top grade that you’re not sure?

I spent so long on it that I can't really comment. I'd love to hear what guys like Tommy Coldwell or Sonnie Trotter say about it.

How close was Matt to sending? Do you think he will go back next summer, and if so, will you go with him?

It could've gone either way, and the tables could've easily been reversed. Matt was indeed very close. It sounds like he's psyched to go back, and it would be an honor to accompany him on his final push up the wall.