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New Squamish climbing routes honoured

Golden Scrub Brush Awards recognizes route developers' contributions
Kye Egan-Robinson climbing Frontside 180.

Behind every climbing route, there's a person with a scrub brush in hand who went through the trouble of turning it into a reality.

On Oct. 5, Squamish's climbing community honoured creators of the newest routes at the Golden Scrub Brush Awards.

While some may take it for granted, before routes can be scaled, loose rock, debris and moss must be painstakingly removed to make it safe and climbable. Anywhere between dozens to hundreds of hours are invested in preparing routes for a climb.

What's more, the effort put into this is entirely voluntary.

"Route building is similar to vertical landscaping, with elements of arboriculture, rock scaling, and landscaping," wrote local route developer Chris Small in an email to The Chief.

"It is time-intensive, hard physical work which only very few, select number of climbers volunteer to do. To give an idea of the time involved, I devoted about 900 hours to build my new cliff Splitsville near Murrin Park over a two-year period." 

Small put in at least 40 hours on his award-winning single pitch route, ‘One Thumb Up.'

L to R: Toby Ford-Kelcey, Tess Egan, James Ford-Kelcey, kye Egan-Robinson and Jason Robinson. - Tess Egan

Recognition was given to routes of all types of categories — boulder problems, multi-pitches, traditional routes and so on.

Sport climbing had a particularly good year this time around — the best new crag went to the Monastery and the best new moderate multi-pitch went to Frontside 180, which has gained a reputation for having a constant lineup.

For Tess Egan, one of the route developers, the beautiful views are one of the main things that stand out.

She, along with Jay Robinson, and Toby Foord-Kelcey developed the route starting from late 2017. It opened in the summer of 2018.

Judging from the spectacular 180-degree panoramic scenery, she anticipated the 220-metre-tall route on Mount Cheak would be popular.

"The sun would be out and you could just see straight down the valley to Squamish and this is really a beautiful position to be in all the time," said Egan, remembering the long hours cleaning the rock.

"It didn't feel like work at that point."

But another big factor in Frontside 180's success is that it fills a gap. Before this route was put up, there were few sport climbing multi-pitches of moderate difficulty.

It's also generously bolted, meaning that beginner lead climbers can scale the rock without taking a massive fall.

Furthermore, there many hike-down points, which allow people to leave midway through if they feel the going gets too tough.

This suits beginners, young climbers and people who may have accessibility issues.

Many Squamish routes aren't as welcoming.

"It leaves out a big portion of people, and we don't really always think about people who have mobility issues who still want to climb as well, or kids, or just people needing a starting platform," said Egan.

"Squamish kind of lacked that in the sport climbing world. So, yeah, I thought it was going to be quite popular."

She said the idea was to create a route that the route developers' kids could perform a first ascent on.

And they did.

Her son Kye Egan-Robinson and fellow developer's son James Foord-Kelcey pulled it off, along with their parents.

Egan credited Foord-Kelcey for coming up with the idea of developing the route.

Foord-Kelcey declined to comment for this story.

However, while Frontside 180 was one of the most popular routes, it was by no means the only one recognized.

A full list of the winners follows:

Single-pitch trad/mixed mod (<5.11)

- One Thumb Up, 5.7

- Chris Small prep. Adrienne Wheaton FA


Single-pitch trad/ mixed hard (≥5.11)

- Glacial Facial, 11c

- Nic McNutt, Taran Ortleib


Single-pitch sport moderate (<5.12)

- Recommended by the Sturgeon General, 11c

- Chris Singer


Single-pitch sport hard (≥5.12)

- The Lorax, 13a

- Eric Huges


Boulder problem V0-V3

- Under Presser, V3

- Jack Fieldhouse


Boulder problem V4-V7

- The Mastodon, V4

- Peter Michaud


Boulder problem ≥V8

- Count Your Blessings, V11

- Gabriel Moch.

- Dedicated to the memory of Brent Mickelson


Multi-pitch moderate (<5.11)

- Front Side 180, 5.8

- Tess Egan, Jay Robinson, and Toby Foord-Kelcey


Multi-pitch hard (≥5.11)

- Deep Impact, 11a

- Kaylan Worsnop, Danny Guestrin, Brent Goodman, Stephen Molgard


Best new area/crag

- The Monastery

- Tyron Brett, Eric Hughes, Toby Foord-Kelcey, Robyn Richard


Best re-scrub

- Read Between The Lines, 10a

- Kris Wild, Fern Webb


Community Recognition

- Lauren Watson. Founder and owner of Ground Up Climbing Centre

- Todd Gerhardt. Founding and longtime member of Squamish Access Society