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Hazel Findlay: The First Ascent of Tainted Love (5.13d)—A Squamish Trad Testpiece

Monday, April 16, 2018
BD Athlete Hazel Findlay is known for her rad trad ability, whether she’s freeing El Cap or climbing crumbly sea-cliffs with sparse protection. When she arrived in Squamish last summer, a friend and fellow Brit knew just the route she should try. Perched precariously at the very top of the Chief, a bold stemming corner protected with little more than micro stoppers still awaited a first ascent. Watch Hazel get down to business and gun for the FA of Tainted Love (5.13d).
Video: Jonny Baker; Edit: Kipp Schorr

 

I had no plan to climb a hard trad first ascent when I turned up in Squamish. In fact, I simply wanted to get a lot of pitches under my belt. But, as ever, I followed my nose and when my friend Neil mentioned there was a sweet unclimbed corner at the top of the Chief, I of course obliged and joined him. Whilst lowering into it, I knew this was my dream pitch.

Image: Jonny Baker

Crazy hard but uniquely technical movements of which most normal climbing cannot prepare you for. There are just a handful of holds on the whole pitch; a hand jam and a few finger locks. Upward progress is achieved by pushing alone. Extreme pushing with the legs and extreme palming with the hands. Moving between such precarious positions would be difficult enough if the gear was easy to place. Unfortunately, the route is mostly protected by micro wires (which gives you some indication of how small the crack is). Some people I chatted to suggested I place a bolt or two, ensuring that at least some people would repeat it. I’m not necessarily against bolts on trad routes but the Brit in me could see that this was a better challenge without the bolts. I wanted to leave it as a pure trad challenge and if people wanted just the physical challenge then they could easily top rope it.

When it came to the send day I gave myself 30% chance of success. It was crazy hot out and due to the forest fires, there was no breeze for relief. Despite the terrible conditions I reminded myself that “sending” is mostly mental with the real variables and limitations existing between your ears. Characteristically, Neil climbed it calmly and coolly on top rope exclaiming that he wasn’t ready to lead it.

I didn’t climb it “well,” typically I messed up all my beta, forgot everything I was supposed to remember but still, I managed to pull some magic tricks out the bag and moment by moment shook my way to the top.

It was a great experience to climb this route. A lot because the mental and physical challenge of the route met my abilities perfectly. In this space magic happens and I did things I didn’t think I was capable of. It was also amazing because I had Neil there to belay me, who was likely more keen for me to do the route than I was myself. Having this level of support and psych at the other end of your rope means a lot. Also thanks to Jonny Baker for capturing the send on film.

--Hazel Findlay


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