Hazel Findlay recently made the first ascent of the hard trad route Tainted Love, aka Northern Soul (5.13d R)–a thin and powerful stem-corner that is accessed from the top of the Chief in Squamish, British Columbia.
She said she was introduced to the route by Neil Dyer, who had already spent time trying the route, and that they approached the single-pitch testpiece by rappelling in from the top.
She told Alpinist:
We did look at the pitches below to see if you could climb the whole wall with that pitch as the finale but the rock didn’t look that great, and to finish with that pitch would be super audacious. Some locals could enquire further perhaps.
I spent four mornings on the route but Neil Dyer (who was working it with me) had been up there before so he had some knowledge to share, which was helpful.
[In an Instagram post on August 6, she wrote, “I feel like it was a team ascent with Neil Dyer inspiring me to go up there and belaying me a ton…”–Ed.]
The route makes for a very interesting headpoint because there are almost no holds or obvious features you can use to plan and remember moves. We would do moves, fall off and then completely forget what we’d done. Sometimes you would entirely forget which bit of the corner you were even at because there are almost no markers.
I toproped it initially but was pretty keen to get leading straight away since it seems such an unlikely lead when the rope is above your head. At first I tried it on preplaced gear, to test the gear and my nerves; then on the third day I tried to send it, but was thwarted by heat and memory loss. The heat wave and zero wind from the forest fire smoke didn’t help. I placed all the gear on lead apart from one nut, which I got stuck before I went to try it. I placed the quickdraw on it and I feel like it didn’t make too much difference.
Regarding the R rating, she wrote:
To be fair you can get gear in a lot of the route, but the difficulty of the climbing, the tenuous nature of the body positions and the fatigue in your legs means that you don’t want to lace it. Also a lot of the gear wouldn’t necessarily be worth placing because they would be such tiny RPs. There is one runout at the top, but you wouldn’t risk hitting the ground unless a piece blew.
When asked how Tainted Love compares to other stem-corner testpieces she has climbed, such as Yosemite’s famous Book of Hate (5.13c) and El Capitan’s PreMuir Wall (VI 5.13c/d)–the latter she also climbed with Dyer and James McHaffe in 2012–Findlay wrote:
Book of Hate compares in that it’s a corner but Tainted Love is like taking the crux meter of Book of Hate and multiplying it for the whole pitch. It also works out to be fairly different climbing. It compares a little better to the PreMuir Corner except that it’s much more obtuse and instead of just straight up palming and stemming, you get caught in dead ends and you really need to have some sort of sequence which utilizes the best angles and smears…. Anyone psyched on corners please go and try it, even on toprope, because it’s a crazy pitch with movement you won’t find anywhere else.
She told UKClimbing.com that she has always been attracted to these types of climbs ever since she was very young, and that she enjoys “the sneaky technicalities of corners and the fact that pulling power won’t help you.”
Alpinist 58 included Findlay in a feature titled “Paradigm Shift,” about female trad climbers who are pushing the limits on technically difficult, committing routes.
In an interview with the Banff Centre that was included in a video by National Geographic, Findlay spoke of her hopes to inspire other women: “A lot of people focus on physical traits…but I do think there are some mental barriers for women as well…and I think they’re largely socially molded…. Growing up as a girl, you’re kind of supposed to be weaker [and] less brave; the little boys are the brave ones who jump off everything…. But I think that’s changing…. Hopefully we’ll get more young girls who are psyched to be brave.”