Having put a lot of time into new routes in Squamish over the past few years, this spring we decided to work on repeating one of the harder multi-pitches on the Chief. Colin Moorhead is an amazing but relatively unappreciated local climber who has been quietly and prolifically putting up new routes in Squamish for over 30 years! Drew and I have both admitted many times that we totally have a man-crush on Colin and his new routing skills. What better place to start than his masterpiece Gravity Bong on the Prow Wall.
The Prow Wall is situated right at the top of the Chief, around 10 pitches tall it has a ton of exposure and the feeling of a much bigger cliff. With the ocean glinting in the sun almost a kilometre below, the snowy mountains on the horizon and the eagles soaring around, it really feels like being up on the side of a remote big wall.
Gravity Bong is 11 pitches and most of them are steep, pumpy 5.12 cracks, with the 13a (7c+) crux at the very top. The hardest part is staying fresh through all the physical crack climbing on the lower wall to arrive at the crux with enough burl left in the tank to execute the steely crimp-laybacking.
What I love about big wall free climbing is the challenge of quieting the mind. As you get higher and successfully climb more pitches, the pressure to finish the route becomes stronger and stronger. On our first attempt at the entire route we arrived at the crux after a long day of hard climbing, I could feel the pressure! But as I pulled into the initial crux sequence I hit that elusive empty mind flow state, the pressure melted away and even the exposure of all that empty air beneath my feet faded into the background. My feet padded precisely between tiny granite scoops, weighting each one the perfect amount, enough to stay on the wall, not too light to slip. My hands flicked between the crimps quickly, with the bare minimum of readjusting on each hold. Flick and go, flick and go. Arriving at the anchor I didn’t dare to speak to avoid breaking the spell. As Drew followed the pitch I almost couldn’t watch, I so desperately wanted him to send as well, it’s so much sweeter sharing the success with a friend. Would the wizard work his magic again?? As he arrived at the anchor we looked at each other, both barely believing that it had actually happened. The send pineapple tasted sweet this time.
“This season Drew, we’re going to focus entirely on repeating routes, and definitely not get sucked into any new ones.”