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Will Stanhope Establishes an Airy 5.13+ R on Squamish’s Stawamus Chief

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On August 19, the Canadian climber Will Stanhope established Heavy Fuel, a bold, 5.13+ R two-pitch addition to Squamish’s Stawamus Chief. 

“[It’s an] overhanging fridge feature,” Stanhope told me over the phone. “You’re slapping it on both sides, getting these crazy heel [and] toe hooks, while plugging small, intermittent gear.” The string of micro cams “are good but spaced” and “the rope runs over a mildly-concerning arete,” which lead Stanhope to adopt traditional headpointing techniques to get the route relatively dialled before punching it on lead.

“I top roped the living hell out of it,” said Stanhope. But while the wildly exposed pitch has all the characteristics of a classic granite sport route, Stanhope knew that Heavy Fuel was destined to be a trad climb. 

He even brought the drill up on one early excursion, thinking I should put a bolt here. “But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s like graffiti on the Vatican. If it goes without a bolt, you kinda have to rise to the challenge.” 

 “I seriously had the drill pressed to the rock, having, like, an existential crisis,” he laughed.

This is the third summer Stanhope has tried the crux pitch of Heavy Fuel—with long gaps in between attempts. In 2019, Stanhope first tried the route on top rope but an unfortunate finger injury elsewhere—a foot slip and instinctive lurch wrapped the rope around his finger, and “obliterated the bone”—stymied his efforts that summer. 

He returned in 2020 for several attempts, and this year for a few more, but with a looming overseas work gig lined up, Stanhope said he felt a surging “now or never” mentality. He went up a few days before the send with close friend Sonnie Trotter, who gave him a pep talk to prepare for the redpoint. Even without the coaching, Stanhope says that watching Trotter fluidly link sections of the pitch helped him believe it was in the realm of possibility. 

In sum, Stanhope’s new 5.13+ and 5.12 pitches have freed up part of the obscure aid line Stellar System to create an all-free eight-pitch route up the Stawamus Chief. The breakdown: 5.11a and 5.11 [Freeway], 5.13+ R and 5.12 [previously Stellar System], 5.12b [Gin and Juice], and 5.10b, 5.10c, and 5.12a [Stone Free].

With Stanhope’s broken finger injury all but behind him, he says this is his first big “hooray moment” in a while. Climbing looks forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

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