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Don’t Rock The Boatswain, 5.14b, Goes As Hardest Multipitch in Alberta

Miles Adamson has freed a roof extension of Don’t Rock the Boatswain (5.14b) on Grotto Mountain, in the Bow River Valley, Canada

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Canadian Miles Adamson sent a roof extension of Don’t Rock the Boatswain (5.14b) on Grotto Mountain, in the Bow River Valley, Canada, yesterday around 6:00 p.m. With the proposed 5.14b extension, Don’t Rock the Boatswain is the hardest multipitch route in Alberta and one of the hardest multipitches in all of Canada, along with routes like Will Stanhope and Matt Segal’s Tom Egan Memorial Route (5.14) in the Bugaboos, and Sonnie Trotter’s Blue Jeans Direct, War Hammer and The Shining Uncut (all 5.14a).

In a phone interview with Rock and Ice, Adamson said of the initial six-pitch route, which went at 5.13a and was sent with friend Zach Watson, “It took four or five full years to get it bolted, all on lead and mostly from free stances.” Factors such as the long hike around the backside of the mountain, the scree slope on the ridge above the route, and the obvious roof—the new 5.14 pitch—necessitated a ground up bolting approach. “But we only put in around twenty five days over those years,” Adamson said. “Just bolting here and there. We redpointed last September.” The first pitches went at 5.11c, 5.13a, 5.12c, 5.12b, 5.12b and 5.12a.

Topo of Don’t Rock the Boatswain. Photo: Miles Adamson.

Adamson noted that “only the 5.12 sections and below were bolted from free stances. When things got too hard we had to just go bolt to bolt. The roof was almost entirely bolted from bolt to bolt, by taking really high and putting in one above my head.”

He recounted how, when drilling in 5.11 territory from a free stance, he “placed a skyhook on a jug to place a bolt, but didn’t test the jug. Then as I pressed in with the drill, the jug ripped off. The hold hit me in the helmet and i took a seven meter fall with the drill in my hands.”

Don’t Rock the Boatswain is on Grotto Mountain, in an area known as the Inner Sanctuary. Adamson described the area’s rock as “black compact limestone and pretty edgy, not incredibly steep normally, but our route is steep for the area, with some good vertical pitches.”

“When we first looked up at the line we saw the roof. … The goal from the beginning was always to climb the roof,” Adamson said, “But initially we weren’t sure it was going to go. The roof is just massive, you can see it from the highway when you drive by the crag.”

It took about three full days of climbing overall to send the roof. “Yesterday was my first day trying it this year,” said Adamson, “and I sent it on my third try of the day.”

Of the new 14b pitch, Adamson said, “It starts up an easier vertical wall and then hits an overhanging corner in the roof. To get into the corner, I got an edge in the seam at the back and manteled into it with my right palm on the side wall.”

“Some of the holds are so deep in the corner I couldn’t actually wear a helmet,” Adamson said, “because the overhang was so steep the helmet was knocking into the rock and blocking my movement. So I took it off and sent the last pitch helmetless.”

“Once in the corner there are several layback moves to get to a good rest,” he said. “The rest is good but awkward, as again my head would be pressed into the corner really deep.”

After the rest, the route heads into a boulder problem Adamson estimated at V10 or V11, the crux of the route. “I busted onto the roof on two underclings and hit a small edge with my right hand,” he said. “I bumped to a pocket, and kicked a heel hook out left. Several really hard compression moves got me spread out on an edge and a flat hold. To establish on the flat hold, I brought my feet back out right to a toe hook on the roof, and then moved to some edges which are positive and basically the end. Then I mantled the lip to stand on top of the wall.”

Regarding the naming of Don’t Rock the Boatswain, Adamson said, “We used boatswains on several of the pitches with hanging belays [boatswains are wooden platforms climbers bring to stand on when there are no belay ledges] and we didn’t secure them very well, so they’d flip if you stepped on them wrong.” -Owen Clarke

I did the first ascent of the Don’t Rock the Boatswain Extension, the massive roof pitch. I’m proposing a grade of 14b for it. It’s a strange overhanging corner to a good rest, which leads to a brutal boulder on the roof. The boulder is I think V11 and caps the entire multipitch. The exposure is insane as you can see 200m of wall straight to the ground as your feet cut. It is the hardest multipitch in the Bow Valley and is amoung the hardest multipitches in Canada. Zach Watson and I bolted this line entirely on lead over the course of 5 years, and sent the first 6 pitches last September. Of course on the way down the fucking rap ropes got stuck. They got so twisted together that we couldn’t overcome the friction to continue pulling. I’ve never heard of that happening before but one rope was new and was really twisty. They just twisted themselves together as we were pulling and it got worse and worse until they were totally stuck together. Zach and Morgan were bolting a mew multipitch to the side as Alex and I climbed past. We managed to throw the end of the stuck ropes to them, rap down it and then change over to their fixed ropes to get down. If they weren’t there we almost certainly would have needed a rescue. But I like rapped sideways and threw them my rope so we’re all good

A post shared by Miles Adamson (@miles_adamson) on


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