Tainted Love - New Squamish E8/13d Corner by Hazel Findlay

© Jonny Baker

Hazel Findlay has established an aesthetic new E8 6c/5.13d corner climb in Squamish, Canada, which she has named Tainted Love aka Northern Soul. Known for her penchant for awkward, technical corners, Hazel has described this line as harder than the PreMuir corner and the famous Book of Hate in Yosemite, due to its obtuse angle.

Hazel on Tainted Love aka Northern Soul, E8 6c/8b/5.13 R  © Jonny Baker
Hazel on Tainted Love aka Northern Soul, E8 6c/8b/5.13 R
© Jonny Baker

Hazel was introduced to the line by her friend, Neil Dyer - 'a British dark horse who now lives in Squamish.' She told UKC:

'The route is actually written up in the guide book as a 'project'. So it's been sitting there waiting for someone to climb it. It's an obvious beautiful corner at the top of the North Walls next to another classic hard corner called North Star. You can see it clearly from the popular route Angel's Crest.'

Hazel explained her attraction to corner climbs, which originated from trying to burn-off adults at the wall as a child:

'I've always loved corners, when I was a kid I used to bridge up the doorways of my house and make ridiculously bunched corner problems in the Warrington wall that no one over 5ft had a hope of climbing. I love the sneaky technicalities of corners and the fact that pulling power won't help you.'

Back in 2012, Hazel made the second ascent of the PreMuir 5.13c/d on El Capitan with James McHaffie and Neil Dyer. Neil is equally inspired by corners and considered Hazel an appropriate climbing partner to collaborate with on the line he had been trying in Squamish, having completed it on toprope.

Hazel described the route as follows:

'At first it seems almost impossible; there are no holds to use for hands or feet and barely any crack at all in the back for gear. The guide book describes it as 'slammed shut' (which is potentially the reason why it's not had many suitors). Then you remember that corners - unlike most climbing - are all about pushing. Corners are all about opposing forces and pushing the right amount in the right body position. It isn't delicate like slab climbing, it's powerful and fierce but instead of pulling you're pushing.

'After a bit of work on top rope I thought it would be possible to do, but not whilst placing the gear, which would be very small fiddly wires. In some places you can't place a piece and have to run it out and in other places there is no gear. The route is quite short so you can't afford to run it out too much. Luckily at half height you get respite pod with good jams and gear.'

Looking down the stunning line of Tainted Love, Squamish, Canada
© Jonny Baker

On her second session, Hazel tried the line on lead with the gear pre-placed to get a feel for it on the sharp end. A successful attempt encouraged her to finish it off placing the gear, but it wasn't long before temperatures soared to 37 degrees, the wind stopped and smoke engulfed the Stawamus Chief. She explained:

'We went back and it felt impossible; our boots melting and our palms sliding around. I thought it was useless but I wanted to keep trying, so after a few days rest we went back. We got up at 5am hoping for cooler temperatures. Luckily it was just cool enough. The send was not graceful, nor easy. It was a full battle against leg pain, heat, sweaty palms, forgetting the crazy-complex beta and placing gear. Neil looked pretty stressed belaying me. Since there are very few obvious features on the route, it's really difficult to remember what to do. Unlike the PreMuir corner where you can just put your feet anywhere and palm, this corner is too obtuse so only certain movements allow upwards movement.'

Hazel placed all of the gear on lead apart from one nut, which had become stuck previously (she put the quickdraw on whilst leading). Regarding future ascents, Hazel commented that she wouldn't be surprised if others climb it as a pink point on pre-placed gear, as it may make for a more enjoyable route in this manner.

She added:

'I hope people are psyched to try it, because I feel that with the rise of climbing gyms and sport climbing, this kind of climbing is being forgotten. We thought it was 5.13d R, 8b, or E8 6c because it's the hardest corner we've done by quite a way; it's a lot harder than the PreMuir Corner and Book of Hate. These things are very hard to grade, though, because you don't need normal climbing fitness; you need leg strength and fitness, shoulder strength, flexibility and mostly the technique. I'm sure for some strong climbers this route would feel impossible.'

Commenting on their choice of name, Hazel told us:

'We called it Tainted Love aka Northern Soul after the song and the feeling of loving something like climbing, but also kind of hating it sometimes (when your legs are burning and your feet hate you and you've forgotten whether to stem or to bridge.'

Hazel has made a full recovery from shoulder surgery in 2015 and has slowly regained her strength and fitness. In April, she redpointed Mind Control 8c at Oliana, Spain (UKC News Report).

Visit Hazel's website and Facebook page.
Read our UKC Article 'Patience Pending: The Mental Side of Injury' featuring Hazel.

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Hazel Findlay has been climbing for 25 of her 31 years, and started out trad climbing on the limestone sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire. She dabbled in competition climbing - she was the British junior champion six...

Hazel's Athlete Page 64 posts 10 videos

10 Aug, 2017
Quite. Can think of several E9s which are 8a+ climbing with substantial but 'safe' runouts (e.g. The Big Issue), and none of them seem in danger of being downgraded.
10 Aug, 2017
What is the hardest corner pitch in the world? Quarryman? changing corners? something else?
10 Aug, 2017
Agreed. And hot on the heels of her route in the Wind River range, described as 5.9 or E2. ?
10 Aug, 2017
Looks brilliant. Sounds like Hazel needs to do more new routes if she's got multiple names in mind?!
10 Aug, 2017
Quarryman is 8a. Changing corners is one of the 14a pitches on the nose, although from watching a video it looked like a fair bit of the hard bit was powerful laybacking on the arete of the corner rather than holdless stemming. So maybe a corner but potentially not the same kind of style.
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