Local Squamish climber Gabe Lawson has climbed long-time project The Megg, grading it V16 - or Font 8C+ - making it the hardest boulder problem in Canada.
Speaking with us earlier today, Gabe told us that The Megg had been a project for around two decades, in which time it saw attempts from the likes of Nalle Hukkataival, Drew Ruana, and Keenan Takahashi. Lawson himself spent sixteen sessions on the boulder over a ten month period.
We asked Gabe some more questions about The Megg, his process on it, and his plans for the future:
Some top climbers have attempted The Megg, who were they, and did you share any time on the boulder with any of them?
I did share a bit of time with some strong folks who tried it briefly, though for some of them it was summer, so less than ideal conditions. Ethan Salvo, Lucas Uchida, Andy Lamb, Tim Clifford, Georg Joost all gave it attempts without a ton of success.
Prior to that, the boulder was also tried briefly by Nalle, Tim Doyle, Drew, Keenan and a few others.
How accessible is the boulder?
The boulder is highly accessible, it's in a popular area called The Farm, which is home to The Reckoning, Sit-start (V14) V14 among other classics. It's only 30 seconds from the parking.
The boulder looks technical the whole way through, how does it break down?
The boulder I'd say is fairly technical, even by Squamish standards. The holds are small, and very intricate, they're mostly subtle crystals that demand perfect skin and limit the number of tries you can give in a day.
As a breakdown it felt like a four move V14, into a V11/V12 vert finish. The wide span move out left felt like the hardest single move I've done in 15 years of climbing.
How do conditions affect the boulder?
In winter, when we get a good weather window, the friction can be significantly better than summer. A summer ascent, to me, would be incredibly impressive.
What was your process when projecting The Megg?
My process mostly involved trying it from one move in. In summer, and for the first several sessions, I could not do the first move. So I resigned myself to trying it from one move in, until I could eventually link from there to the top. After that I began trying from the bottom. I probably climbed into the upper wide bump move more than 50 times before linking it. In total I'd guess it took me more than 400 attempts.
What are your biggest strengths as a boulderer?
In terms of strengths as a boulderer, I'd say I climb best in the less steep terrain, anywhere from slab to 45 degrees is where I'm most comfortable. In Squamish we don't have a ton of super difficult roofs, so my style has developed this way simply because that's the majority of the climbing around here. I started soloing and trad climbing at a fairly young age, so I'm able to deal with the mental challenges of highballing and that can be crucial in Squamish, as many of our top outs are high off the deck.
Is anyone close to making a 2nd ascent?
As for a 2nd ascent, there are several locals that I believe could eventually put it together. Most notably is low key crusher Andy Lamb, out of all the people I tried it with he made the most number of moves and, having already climbed V16, he absolutely has what it takes. Jake Scharfman, Adrian Kask & Lucas Uchida would be the other candidates I think have what it takes. There are other beta options for climbers shorter than me, so I don't think height will be a limiting factor.
8C+ is new territory both for yourself and for Canada, was it difficult deciding the grade?
It was difficult deciding on the grade. It's obviously a big step up from any established boulder in Squamish, but is it enough to warrant V16? That's hard to say, as I have nothing to really compare it to given the unique style. Livin' Large (V16), in South Africa, would be a good comparison. Several climbers who tried The Megg did mention that it felt harder than The Big Island (f8C), in Fontainbleau.
In my opinion, being one of the most experienced granite climbers in Canada, it took everything I had learned from 15 years of climbing to get it done. Since I'm not a professional, and I don't have sponsors and outside pressure, it's easier for me to make this proposal than it would be for someone with a big reputation on the line. I see it as a risk, proposing a number this big, but my hope is that it paves the way for the up and coming generation to establish their own projects with confidence and reference points. I do believe we'll see 8C+ and 9A FA's in Squamish in the coming year or two. If someone wants to come and downgrade it, I'll be the first to congratulate them. I'd rather give someone this opportunity and satisfaction, than perpetuate a cycle of Squamish sandbags.
Any other hard projects you've got your eyes on?
As for what's next, I have my eye on the other undone king lines in town, ranging from 8B to 8C. For the most part, the biggest reason they haven't been sent yet is the height. Most of them are 25-35 feet high over less than ideal landings.
I also put 17 days into 'Encore Une Dyno', which I believe is one of, if not the, hardest dyno in the world. Put up at V12 by Tyler Thompson originally, it goes directly from the start to the finish of a classic 8A, skipping 11 hand moves in one. I came somewhat close in the summer but I didn't get it done. There's also a few bolted sport routes in the 9a+ range which I have my eyes on, particularly an arete bolted 20 years ago, beside Dreamcatcher (5.14d). I just hope to keep climbing and getting better, as there are a handful of world class projects left and I'd like to finish as many as I can.