After four summers and over one-hundred days of effort, Canadian Will Stanhope has made the first free ascent of the Tom Egan Memorial Route on the east face of Snowpatch Spire in The Bugaboos, British Columbia. Returning with his long-term partner for the project - Matt Segal - the climb took four days to complete and has been graded V 5.14. Four consecutive headwall pitches up to 5.14 make the climb the most technically difficult alpine rock route in North America and one of the hardest in the world.
The pair narrowly missed out on a dual free-ascent, with Segal failing to complete only the crux pitch; his attempt cut short by poor weather conditions. Over the last four years, Stanhope and Segal have spent many summer months camping near to the considerably remote route in their determination to succeed.
The route was established in 1978 and involved 13 pitches of Grade V A3 climbing to reach the spire's northeast ridge. Stanhope's free route begins on Sweet Sylvia (5.12b) and follows a bolted crux face pitch (5.14) before reaching headwall cracks on the Tom Egan Memorial Route. A tricky finger crack weighing in at 5.14- sustains interest, followed by two 5.13 pitches and easier terrain as it rejoins Sweet Sylvia.
Segal commented on his Facebook athlete page:
"I've never put so much effort into one climb and am extremely heartbroken for not sending with Will but I'm super honored to have witnessed his ascent and to have shared so many days on the wall with him. Plus I'm feeling pretty fortunate we stuck the descent in an absolutely mind blowing electrical hail storm!"