9/13/13 – Squamish local Marc-Andre Leclerc soloed the complete Grand Wall of the Chief in less than 58 minutes, taking about a minute off the previous speed record.
Leclerc says he did not have the record in mind when he began soloing the Grand Wall on September 11, but just wanted to solo some classic routes. For equipment, he brought only a harness, two daisy chains, two quickdraws, and a single-length runner as he started up Apron Strings (a two-pitch 5.10 start to Grand Wall). “I climbed up two meters and then suddenly thought to myself, ‘I may as well time this’ and reversed to the ground to check my watch/phone,” he wrote at his blog. “It was 10:32. I waited for it to change to 10:33, but it was taking too long so I shoved the phone back into my pocket and began climbing instead.”
Leclerc passed one party en route to the Split Pillar on the Grand Wall. He free-soloed through the Sword crux, then used his daisy chains to aid up the bolt ladders above the Sword and on Perry’s Layback. When he reached Bellygood Ledge at the top of the main Grand Wall route, he jogged left to the start of the Roman Chimneys. Here he checked the watch: 41 minutes for 12 guidebook pitches.
“I had 18 minutes to solo the chimneys in order to match the current speed record (59 minutes, held by Alex Honnold and Mason Earle). This is where I actually committed to an attempt to break the record,” Leclerc wrote. “I had never soloed the chimneys before, so I climbed cautiously, particularly through the initial 5.11a slab crux.”
Leclerc free-soloed the four 5.10 and 5.11 pitches of Roman Chimneys and reached the ledge at the end at precisely 11:30 a.m., between 57 and 58 minutes after leaving the ground.
“It was quite spontaneous,” he wrote. “I certainly didn’t go to bed the night before thinking about breaking any records. In fact the thought didn’t enter my mind until I was three or so pitches up the climb and moving steadily along. I never felt as if I was ‘rushing’ or throwing caution to the wind. I climbed as quickly as I was comfortable with, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience!”
As a warm-down, Leclerc free-soloed Borderline into High Plains Drifter on the Sheriff’s Badge. All told, the day added up to about 30 pitches up to 5.11c.
Leclerc, 20, had already done some extremely noteworthy soloing this summer. In early August, he soloed three full-length routes on the Chief in a single day, including some painstaking aid pitches. And in late July he soloed two routes on the north face of British Columbia’s mighty Slesse Mountain in a day.
Date of ascent: September 11, 2013