New longest sport climb in North America

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Four Canadian climbers have built a monstrous 3,500-foot route at Marble Canyon in British Columbia – and it’s completely bolted down. Brent Nixon and his fiancée Lisa Newhook, along with friends Sean Draper and Kate Naus, completed the project on May 22, cutting the shackles of nearly three years of work. Your limestone line with 33 pitches, Guaranteed robust (5.10d), is today the longest drilling route on the continent, by a clear margin.

That highest bolted route in the United States is likely fly boys, an 18-pitch 5.9 in Washington coming in at 1,800 feet. There are longer routes in Mexico, like that of El Potrero Chico time wave zero (5.12a), a 2,300 footer. but Guaranteed robust blasts those routes away by over 1,000 feet. In length, this Tier V route is even longer than most Yosemite Big Wall classics, including the Nose (VI 5.9 C2 3,000 feet).

While Marble Canyon is a well-known ice climbing destination, there aren’t many established rock routes in the park, Nixon said Climb. “It’s limestone so it’s a lot cheaper for bolts, there aren’t a lot of trad routes there either,” he added.

Kate Naus on the last pitch “The Crown” Pitch 33, 5.9. (Photo: Brent Nixon)

While there were a handful of routes that tackled parts of the monolithic wall that dominates the gorge such as The Yellow Brick Road (5.11c), Guaranteed robust is possibly the first route to fully chart a course from the bottom to the top of the 3,500-foot face. The route passes through three distinct sections: a slab-like lower apron, an intimidating, exposed headwall, and a final summit ridge that culminates in a spectacular 5.9-degree climb thousands of feet above the valley floor.

Nixon, who is based in Vancouver, said the team went up to Marble Canyon at least six or seven times a year for the weekend to work on the route and anchor the entire line with lead. The project not only took time and effort, it was also a financial sink. Between the 300 bolts, drill bits, used rope, and other equipment, not to mention gas, food, lodging, and other travel expenses, Nixon estimated the team spent easily over $3,000 (CAD) on the facility Guaranteed robust.

They also invested a lot of time putting one together Holistic mountain project page for the route, with detailed descriptions for each rope length, potential bivouac spots, ascent and descent, possible dangers, etc., as well as a detailed topo. “There will be enough adventure on this route,” Nixon said. “You don’t want people to guess too much. It’s going to be a long day no matter how much information you have. It is a serious undertaking.”

Climber scales the headwall of North America's longest sport via ferrata.
Kate Naus on the front wall, pitch 22 5.10d. (Photo: Brent Nixon)

Nixon emphasized that although the route was completely drilled, it was much more of an alpine ascent than a sport climb. “People look at it and see some easy climbing and dismiss it as a bunch of easy hikes, but I’d say that’s not the case at all,” Nixon said. The Key Wall features three 5.10d pitches in a row (pitches 22 to 24), and the route is fairly sustainable overall, with nearly ⅓ of the 33 pitches rated 5.10 (although Nixon added that the pitches are still consensus need to be assessed). .

“The first 19 pitches are at a slightly lower angle, but there are these beautiful gray tufted plastered limestone slab courses interspersed with sheer walls that climb Snakes & Ladders style,” he said. “Then at pitch 19 you hit this big headwall and all of a sudden you see five pitches of steep 5.10. Now you’re really pulling on your arms. Some places are maybe even slightly overhanging, and that after you have already climbed 19 pitches.”

Climbers then emerge onto a lower-angle upper ridge, with a variety of easy hikes interspersed with a few 5.9 sections, culminating in the final pitch, “The Crown.” “It’s this incredible height of 5.9 meters above the valley floor, just a perfect vertical limestone pitcher going up,” Nixon said.

The route’s name comes from a billboard outside the small town of Lillooet near the rock. The team stayed in Lillooet while working on the line during the colder months. “It’s a railroad town, a logging town, maybe 1,000 people,” Nixon said. “When you drive into town there is a big sign that says ‘Welcome to Lillooet! Guaranteed robust!’ and we all just saw that… and knew we had the name of the route.”

Group photo at the summit after erecting North America's longest sport ascent.
Group summit photo after sending. Cheering on some Crown Royal. (Photo: Lisa Newhook)

Nixon said he was aware that bolted multi-pitches were notorious for attracting inexperienced sport climbers who could walk over their heads. “That was one of our biggest fears,” he added, “is that there will be beginners who will see bolts and say, ‘Sport climbing!’ and they start it.”

To avoid making the home route a SAR effort every weekend, Nixon and his friends kept the rope length short, allowing rappels using a 70-meter rope at each point on the route. He also used single ring balanced anchors at each belay. “You don’t even have to build an anchor, it’s a balanced chain station with a master point already built in,” he said.

But despite these conveniences, Nixon insisted the line is no picnic. “On such a large scale, there is no way to sterilize this route,” he said. “It’s limestone. We’ve spent a lot of time removing rock, but there’s still a lot of loose rock. Handles can break. Even though you’re on the valley floor, you might be wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but the top pitch is 1,000 meters above you. It’s a completely different climate. It could be freezing up there. You shouldn’t underestimate this track.”

in summary, Guaranteed robust is exactly that. Robust.

Owen Clarke is a freelance writer living on the go. Besides his time in the mountains, he loves motorcycles, heavy meadaI, video games, and key lime pie.

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