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Route Developers Celebrated in Squamish

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On Friday, the Squamish Access Society (SAS) hosted the 2023 Golden Scrub Brush Awards in Squamish. The awards are the Squamish climbing community’s opportunity to say thank you to all the developers who work tirelessly to open new sport routes, trad routes, multi-pitches, and boulder problems. Started in 2014 by prolific route developer Chris Small, Friday marked the sixth event in the awards’ history and the first since 2019.

Held at One and a Half Ave in downtown Squamish, the 250-attendee, sold-out event began with a SAS update from SAS Chair Ben Webster. He overviewed SAS’s recent efforts including rebolting work in Area 44 and the Pillary, new perma-draw installations on the Circus and Big Show, and environmental stewardship events. Next, Emilisa Frirdich and Colin Moorhead took the stage to talk about SAS’s new wag bag initiative that’s made national and international headlines. Peter Winter then talked about the importance of the Sea to Sky Route Development Fund for supporting new route development in and around Squamish.

The 2023 Golden Scrub Brush Awards were next. In bouldering, Christian Core’s stunning, ultra-popular Majestic V6 won Best New Boulder and The Portal won Best New Bouldering Area. Found near Porteau Cove, The Portal houses awesome new lines at all grades. The area was brought to life by Marc Bourguignon, Tom Wright, Jack Fieldhouse, Mark Fraser, and Rich Kupskay, and is currently only found on the KAYA app.

The Best Rescrub award went to Colin Moorhead and Matt Waring for their revitalization of the Browning Bluffs, a cluster of crags across the highway from Murrin Park. Poltergeist Wall is the area standout, containing rescrubbed classics Poltergeist 5.12a and No More Tears 5.12c. Moorhead and Waring added a bunch of new high quality routes to the area as well such as Stone Roses 5.12a and Firestarter 5.12c.

For trad climbing, Best New Trad Crag was awarded to the Zen Garden, a new area of splitter cracks and fun boulders overlooking Shannon Falls. Nick McNutt and Jack Fieldhouse released the topo for the area this year and it’s quickly becoming one of Squamish’s premiere spots for 5.10 crack climbing. Best New Trad Route went to Ben Harnden for Blade Runner 5.14b/c, which he freed on the epic Kashmir Wall in the autumn of 2022.

Nick McNutt and Jack Fieldhouse’s Golden Scrub Brush Award for Best New Trad Crag. Photo by Jack Fieldhouse.

The winner of Best New Sport Crag was arguably the most difficult choice at this year’s awards, as there’s been an explosion of exceptional sport crags in Squamish over the past few years – Echo Beach, The Hermitage, The Hideout, Brohm Dome, Colossus, Lost Pillar, and Anvil Island, to name a few. The award went to Brohm Dome, a fantastic crag overlooking Brohm Lake that houses modern classics like Cobra Chicken 5.11a, Too Cool for Home School 5.12a, and Otra Vida 5.13a. A team effort brought Brohm Dome to life with developers Rick Willison, Alex Ryan Tucker, Robyn Richard, Tess Egan, and Jason Robinson each contributing to the crag. The award for Best New Sport Climb went to Toby Foord-Kelcey’s The Horticulturalist 5.12c at The Hideout. The climb has quickly become one of Squamish’s most popular and sought-after 5.12 sport ticks.

Best New Multi-Pitch also had a lot of stiff competition. Life in Space 5.10-, for example, first ascended by Colin Moorhead and Nick McNutt in Fall 2022, is a massive 27-pitch route that works its way up the Goldilocks Zone and Mt Habrich. Jacob Cook and Drew Marshall have also put up numerous hard multi-pitches on the Chief in recent years, often with a classic, ground-up style. While any of these would have been great choices, the award deservedly went to one of Squamish’s most popular multi-pitches, The Spirit of Squamish 5.8, opened by Aaron Kristiansen and Cameron Hunt in 2021.

This year’s ceremony gave out a special Perseverance Award to Paul Cordy for his immense effort in developing the Nch’Kay Wall in the north walls of the Chief. Over the past 15 years, Cordy has developed over 60 pitches of climbing across five multi-pitches in the area.

The final award of the night – the Lifetime Achievement Award – went to none other than Harry Young. Over the years, Young has put up trad classics in just about every region of Squamish including the Bulletheads, the Chief Backside, Slhanay, Top Shelf, New Delhi Cliff, and the Smoke Bluffs. If you climb in Squamish long enough, you’re bound to end up on one of Young’s routes. A quick search of the Squamish Select 4th Edition guidebook sees his name listed as a first ascensionist nearly 100 times.

Toby Foord-Kelcey accepts the award for Best New Sport Climb, The Horticulturalist 5.12c.

After the awards ceremony, the night shifted to a ‘Disco Dirtbag’ themed dance party. DJ Good Eric, Matt Who!?, and Nathan Hall each played a set, as Squamish climbers danced into the wee hours of the morning. After the big night, I doubt many people sent their fall season projects on Saturday, but the Golden Scrub Brush Awards were definitely worth it.

2023 Golden Scrub Brush Winners

Best New Boulder – Majestic V6 (Christian Core)

Best New Bouldering Area – The Portal (Jack Fieldhouse, Marc Bourguignon, Tom Wright, Mark Fraser, Rich Kupskay)

Best Rescrub – Browning Bluffs (Colin Moorhead, Matt Waring)

Best New Sport Route – The Horticulturalist 5.12c (Toby Foord-Kelcey)

Best New Trad Route – Blade Runner 5.14b/c (Ben Harnden)

Best New Sport Crag – Brohm Dome (Rick Willison, Alex Ryan Tucker, Robyn Richard, Tess Egan, Jason Robinson)

Best New Trad Crag – The Zen Garden (Nick McNutt, Jack Fieldhouse)

Best New Multi-Pitch – The Spirit of Squamish 5.8 (Aaron Kristiansen, Cameron Hunt)

Perseverance Award – Paul Cordy for the Nch’Kay Wall

Lifetime Achievement Award – Harry Young

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