Will Stanhope and Matt Segal have freed the 1978 aid line Tom Egan Memorial Route on the east face of Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboos, British Columbia. They climbed the 13-pitch route in a single, four-day push, from August 11 to 14, calling the free climb grade V 5.14.
“The crack [looks] as if the mountain gods had used a laser to make it barely passable,” Tim Kemple wrote of the line [ASCENT – Rock and Ice issue 218 (May 2014)]. “One of the most amazing alpine projects ever.”
A four-year project, Stanhope and Segal have been attempting to free the route every summer since 2012, and have spent well over 100 days on the wall.
“The crack is super aesthetic and visible from the glacier below,” Stanhope told Rock and Ice. “Years ago, I was climbing Power of Lard on the same wall and wanted to check it out for free-climbing potential.”
He rapped in with Hazel Findlay to check it out and placed a handful of quarter-inch bolts at the original belays.
The Tom Egan Memorial Route, established as a 13-pitch aid line (Grade V 5.9 A3) in 1978 by Daryl Hatten and John Simpson, ascends the east face of Snowpatch Spire to Yellow Tower on the Northeast Ridge.
The free version starts on Sweet Sylvia (5.12b) on the right side of the east face. It then traverses to a bolted, 5.14 face pitch, the crux of the route, before entering the headwall cracks of the Tom Egan. The next pitch—the splitter, “laser” cut finger crack—dubbed Blood on the Crack is the second hardest pitch at 5.14-. Two 5.13 crack pitches follow before the route rejoins Sweet Sylvia and the angle eases off for a handful of 5.10/5.9 crack pitches to the ridge.
During the four-day redpoint push, Stanhope finally freed every pitch, claiming the first free ascent—Segal freed all but the 5.14 face-pitch.
“[Matt Segal] fought like a champion but wasn't successful in linking the crux face pitch,” Stanhope posted on Instagram. “It could've gone either way and I got very, very lucky.
“Cheers to you, brother. You're the best partner a guy could ever ask for.”
During the push, they were hit with “classic Bugaboos mixed-bag” conditions, says Stanhope, “and an electrical storm on the descent.” The deteriorating weather prevented Segal from continuing burns on the face-pitch.
But Segal’s psych is still high and he’s already back on the mountain with Stanhope for another go. Rock and Ice caught up with Stanhope as he and Segal were loading the car, a quick turnaround, to head back out.
“Matt [Segal] is blazing here for a final Hail Mary,” says Stanhope. “If he can bust through the face pitch, he’ll get the route.”
If all goes well, they plan to be back on Friday, August 21. Stay tuned for a follow up.