Beth interviews Will Stanhope
I first met Will Stanhope when I visited Squamish in 2003. I was there trying to free the Grand Wall in the heat of the summer. Will was strong, psyched, and like all Canadians amazingly friendly and happy. Since my first meeting with him he has become one of the best trad/adventure climbers of his generation. With free ascents of The Cobra Crack, El Cap, and the coveted third ascent of Southern Belle on Half Dome, Will has put himself in the top tier of climbers around the world.
Seems like you make at least one trip per year to Yosemite, when did you start coming to the Valley?
I first came to the Valley when I was 18 with Jason Kruk. For as long as I've been climbing Yosemite has been "The Promised Land." We got totally kicked around on basically everything we tried- got stuck in chimneys, tried to jumar with a single jumar and a GriGri the whole way up the Nose (not recommended), and got busted for Out of Bounds Camping. The Rangers thought we had run away from home. But, when all was said and done, we had learned loads, and despite the ass-kicking, I loved the place.
What are some of your "must do" routes in Yosemite? Are there any routes you do each time you are there?
I really love Separate Reality, Midnight Lightning, the Nose, and the Nabisco Wall to name a few. I love those climbs are so steeped in history.
What are some routes (can be classics or projects) that are on your "to do" list in Yosemite?
So many! I guess the biggest goal is someday finding a new free line on El Cap, which may or may not come to fruition. But the dangling around and searching is a gift in itself.
You base out of Squamish, how do you find Yosemite and Squamish correlate?
The are quite similar. The big difference is that Yosemite's walls are much bigger and the granite is much slicker. One needs to exert more force on the jams in Yosemite. I've slipped off on really easy terrain in Yosemite a few times because I was treating the rock as if I was in Squamish.
I know you had a big adventure in South America this year, how are bigger trips to more remote places taking a role in your climbing schedule?
I've got some pipe-dream trips that I'd love to make happen. Classic spots like Baffin Island and Pakistan. There's a lifetime of remote walls in BC alone that are basically unexplored. Those kinds of trips are eye-opening and a welcome respite from grinding away at a specific project. You tend to lose fitness and finger strength on those remote alpine trips but gain so much in other regards.
A lot of top climbers have a very regimented training routine, how do you stay fit for your climbing?
I try to always keep it fun. I remember a few years ago Sonnie Trotter and I were trying Leo Houlding's route The Prophet on El Cap. Deep in the season, it started to feel like work, and I was peppering Leo with questions about beta over email. He response email concluded with something along the lines of "Enjoy that valley, man." A good point. But easy to forget deep in the grit-your-teeth, gotto-do-this-thing pressure.
Tell me a little about the mega proj with Matt - how many seasons have you guys been working on it? How did you find it?
We are working on a route called the Tom Egan Memorial Route on the East Face of Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos. It's a stunning crack line, the wildest I'd ever laid eyes on. I first rapped it in 2010 with Brit Hazel Findlay. Matt Segal and I have spent two summers and (over 50 days on the wall) trying to free it. It has definitely been a battle. But trying such an awe inspiring route in such a wild location, with a best friend, is extremely rewarding.
If you could set up your ideal day, in your ideal location, with your ideal partner, what would it be (climbing or not climbing)?
Some of my most perfect days don't involve desperate climbing.
How about this? Some strong coffee in the predawn in Squamish, followed by a 15 pitch solo circuit on Squamish's most perfect, locker finger cracks. Then a long route on the Chief like Freeway or Northern Lights with my girlfriend Jo. Then a jump in the lake. Then a BBQ on the porch of our place with a frosty beverage, staring straight at the Chief in the evening light, thinking, "what will we do tomorrow?" Hard to beat that!
Three favorite pieces of Gear:
Master cams of all sizes. Light, smooth action, fierce holding power. Best cam I've ever used.
Curve nuts: easy to place, so secure.
Gizmo mini portaledge: Perfect accessory for working big wall free climbs. Makes those uncomfortable, marginal stances dreamy.