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RECORD-BREAKING LINK-UPS IN SQUAMISH, THE BUGABOOS
Posted on: September 3, 2007
Matt Maddaloni on Pitch 1 of University Wall (5.12a, 8 pitches). On August 11 with Paul Cordy following, Maddaloni tagged three of the Chief's four summits via: University Wall to four pitches through the Roman Chimneys (5.11a, 4 pitches), The Northern Lights (5.12a, 12 pitches) on Zodiac Wall and Freeway (5.11c, 12 pitches) at the Dihedrals. Four days later, he made the longest solo push in Bugaboos history by soloing fifty pitches on five distinct peaks. [Photo] Paul Cordy
The increasing popularity of linking multiple routes in a single push (as climbers get better, the walls don't grow bigger) has created a number of coveted first link-up, and first free link-up, ascents for the world's best marathon climbers on the most cherished alpine ranges and multi-pitch crags. In August, Matt Maddaloni made two such record-breaking ascents, in Squamish and the Bugaboos of British Columbia.
On August 11 with Paul Cordy following, Maddaloni led thirty-seven pitches to tag three summits of Squamish's Stawamus Chief, besting Sig Isaac's record-holding enchainment from 1996. They warmed up on Seasoned in the Sun (5.10), then climbed University Wall (5.12a) to the Roman Chimneys (5.11a) to the first summit (610m) of the Chief. They rode bikes to the base of Zodiac Wall and climbed up The Northern Lights (5.12a), then descended on foot and sped up Freeway (5.11c). They called their sixteen-and-a-half-hour day the Triple Crown. Though it isn't the hardest link-up in Squamish (Sonnie Trotter and Matt Seagal linked The Grand Wall [5.13b], The Shadow [5.13b] and the Black Dyke [5.13b] on August 7, 2006), it does mark one of Squamish's longest. Maddaloni said that adding Angels Crest, and therefore the Chief's fourth summit, to the Triple Crown is possible. But "the Ultimate Link-Up," Maddaloni said, "would be climbing the Fortress of Solitude into Angels Crest including the Triple Crown and tagging all four summits with sustained hard climbing to every summit."
Four days later on August 15, Maddaloni soloed fifty pitches, linking five distinct peaks—the most climbing enchained in a single push in Bugaboos history—with difficulties up to 5.10.
Maddaloni left Applebee Campground at 4:30 a.m., hiked up the moraine field, and arrived at the classic McTech Arete (III 5.10a) at 5 a.m. He onsight soloed the route by headlamp and made a quick jaunt up the northeast buttress of Bubaboo Spire (IV 5.7), which he had soloed one year before. A long traverse across the top of the spire led him to the Kain Route, where he made two rappels to bypass the gendarme and downclimbed the rest of the route to the Upper Vowell Glacier, which he crossed. At 8:30 a.m. he arrived at the base of Pigeon Spire's West Ridge (II 5.4, with one section of 5.8). Maddaloni climbed that route and returned to the Pigeon-Howser Col, where he dropped into East Creek Campground to access another well-traveled classic, the Beckey-Chouinard Route (V 5.10a) on South Howser Tower. He worked through the low 5.10 roof crux without any problems (Maddaloni had soloed this route two years before; higher up, he got off route into 5.11 terrain, which forced him to french free on cams) and reached the big sandy ledge at 12:15 p.m. The most insecure climbing of the day, Maddaloni said, was onsighting the section that he missed last time: "5.10 overhang with a flaring flake with no secure jams, pasting between an arete and a cornery fin. Then I had to get my feet really high and throw behind my head to a hanging flake. It's a well-known spot on the Beckey-Couinard."
After the next 5.10 crux above the ledge, the first extended pitch on the headwall, Maddaloni purposefully ventured onto an exposed 5.10- face—with no opportunity to traverse back into the standard crack—to avoid dragging his pack through an offwidth section that had infuriated him two years before. Having reached the top with no water after the last crux, an exposed 5.10 traverse, Maddaloni said he felt "really tired by that point. I felt like someone severely affected by altitude." Nonetheless he began his rappels, "sloppily": a twist in the rope (Maddaloni's day job is a rigger) snagged the line, forcing him to free solo in tennis shoes to the anchor and retrieve it. Another rappel took forty-five minutes to complete; a stuck knot was near impossible to retrieve. On his last rappel of that tower, he punched through the lip of the bergschrund below—"it soaked me to the bone."
Maddaloni on Pitch 7 of The Northern Lights (5.12a, 8 pitches), Stawamus Chief, Squamish, BC. His Triple Crown, thirty-seven pitches of climbing, took Maddaloni and follower Paul Cordy under seventeen hours to complete. [Photo] Paul Cordy
For the final leg of the day, Maddaloni navigated crevasses on the Upper Vowell Glacier to reach the Pigeon-Howser Col and then on to Snowpatch Spire at 5 p.m. Once at its base he thought Surf's Up—his planned route to onsight solo—looked steeper and more difficult than the topo suggested. Instead he onsight soloed the Kraus-McCarthy (IV 5.8+) on the west face, which appeared to have a "totally soaked 5.8 roof crack crux but luckily and to my surprise had hidden dry holds and a vertical squeeze offwidth at the top, just to finish off what little energy I had left." Rappelling and down climbing safely brought him back to Applebee Campground at 8 p.m., before dark.
Maddaloni protected himself at two points on his Bugaboos link-up: on the last crux traverse of the Beckey-Chouinard, where there are two fixed pitons, and in a shallow corner on the Kraus-McCarthy (Maddaloni thinks this move to be 5.10, despite the topo's grade of 5.8+). The only help Maddaloni received on the route was some chalk given to him unexpectedly at the base of Snowpatch. From the campground, he brought food and two liters of water, a rappel device, helmet, lightweight pullover, lightweight crampons without frontpoints, small technical ice ax, cord, 8.5mm 60-meter rope, 60-meter Amsteel tech cord (to pull his rope on longer rappels, when he single-rappelled the entire length of his rope), rock shoes, tennis shoes, and some protection—a set of nuts and two link cams—and wore harness, in case he found himself in distress.
When asked what the approximate distance of his link-up was, Maddaloni could not respond, except to say: "It's a marathon in running more than anything else."