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North America, Canada, British Columbia, Squamish Chief, The Fortress

Squamish Chief, The Fortress. In September, Hamish Fraser and I completed a new free route on the Sheriff’s Badge, a 1,000-foot formation on the northern section of the Squamish Chief. This was the last of the three main walls to go free. The Fortress (V 5.12, 9 pitches) starts on the Daily Planet and climbs the big comer in an amazing 60-meter pitch that exits that route via a foot-swinging roof to the left, where the Planet jogs right. Bolted face climbing followed by thin cracks leads several hundred feet to the “Big Roof.” Arapiles-like jugging out the roof lands you at a cool belay at the lip. The last two pitches basically follow left-leaning comers.

Hamish, Greg Foweraker and I spent a number of days that summer exploring upward and hitting deadends until finally breaking through to the lip of the “Big Roof’ that cuts across the entire cliff. I came back later with Dave Humphries and aid climbed the last two pitches to the top. Some days after that, Greg and I rapped in and dug and scrubbed these last two in lousy weather. We hoped that the rain would wash away the residue that our efforts had scattered. It didn’t work out that way.

On my last available climbing day before flying home to California, Hamish and I went for the big push. Things went smoothly until we cleared the Roof and met the unfreed last two pitches. The crux 5.12 holds were wet and above that the route was slathered in muck. Easy sections were hard and hard sections were absolutely pooping. We topped out as night fell.

On the down side, there was no shining summit, I had to yo-yo the wet 5.12 pitch and, worst of all, Greg wasn’t there. On the up side, we got buttered in mud and after finishing our climb after sunset, had to feel our way down in pitch dark, on all fours, like bugs. Perfect.

Peter Croft, unaffiliated