Squamish Chief, Gravity Bong
North America, Canada, Coast Mountains
After five years of recons, prep work, and keeping my mouth shut, I completed my long-term nemesis. The Prow Wall is one of the last major formations to see development on the Chief, probably due to its relatively difficult access and lack of obvious connecting natural lines. Despite this, it is certainly one of the cleanest and most aesthetic walls on the Chief. Numerous solo missions and top-down prep in July resulted in fixing the entire line (on the right side of the dominant “prow” feature, right of Teddy Bear’s Picnic) with a 250m static top rope. Tony Richardson and I had a field day whipping-off two-hour micro-ascender laps of this monstrous line. Climbing for this long without racks, belaying, hauling or other such encumbrances of the traditional two-person climbing team is amazing.
It wasn’t long before I was climbing the entire line with very few falls on my ascender; it was time to remove the training wheels. On August 23, Tony and I did the first ascent, and I redpointed every pitch first try except the crux changing corners pitch. On August 28, I returned with Jason Kruk and a miserable weather forecast. The weather and my forearms held until pitch 8, when the skies and my fingers opened up. On my third attempt, the rain was blowing sideways, but the leaning, overhanging pitch kept the rock dry. Without much hope of success, I pulled on the starting crimps one more time. Latching the jug hold after the crux amidst hail and lightning was one of my most intense climbing experiences.
The resulting line ranks as one of the most sustained outings on the Chief. The nine-pitch breakdown: 5.10c, 5.11c, 5.12a, 5.12c, 5.12a, 5.12b, 5.11c, 5.13a, 5.12a. Subsequent attempts by Squamish luminaries confirm its quality as one of the best lines in Squamish. Although moderate by today’s big wall free standards, Gravity Bong will most likely stand out as the pinnacle of my climbing career.