Guaranteed Rugged Climbing Route
Guaranteed Rugged offers plenty of exposure. (photo/Brent Nixon)

Biggest Bolted Climb on the Continent: New 33-Pitch Route Developed in Canada

Earlier this month, a team of four Canada-based climbers made the first ascent of the longest bolted route in North America.

Thirty-three pitches long and roughly 3,000 feet tall, “Guaranteed Rugged” (5.10d) involves as much rock climbing as most El Capitan routes — and it doesn’t require a single cam.

The first-ascent team, which includes Lisa Newhook, her fiance Brent Nixon, plus friends Sean Draper and Kate Naus, wrapped up the project on May 22. “Guaranteed Rugged” — named for nearby city Lillooet’s official tourism slogan — is located in Marble Canyon, a soaring limestone formation near the south end of the Marble Range in British Columbia.

Nixon and Newhook began bolting the route in February 2020 after warm conditions shut down their ice climbing aspirations. The pair noticed a massive sunlit headwall from the highway. Before long, Nixon was on lead, bolting the first few pitches in a pair of mountaineering boots.

33 Pitches, $3,000

After a few initial bolting sessions, the daunting scale of the objective began to set in, and Nixon and Newhook recruited Draper and Naus to assist with the workload.

Over the next 2 years, the foursome cleaned tons of choss and drilled hundreds of bolts all on lead — except for a few filler bolts they later placed on rappel to minimize sketchy runouts. All said and done, the team estimates a total expenditure of over $3,000 in tools and hardware.

 

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A post shared by Lisa Newhook (@lisanewhook)


The entire first-ascentionist group “climbed the route from base to summit” during the weekend of May 22, Newhook wrote on Instagram. “Brent and I swung leads (not to mention he climbed the whole route in his approach shoes). The route has some incredible exposure and some really fun climbing.”

According to the route’s extensive Mountain Project page, “Guaranteed Rugged” breaks down into three key sections. The first 19 pitches weave through low-angle 5.6-5.8 slabs, which we assume are absolutely calf-crushing.

Next, the “Steep Headwall” features five pitches of vertical to slightly overhanging terrain, including three back-back crux 5.10d’s. At the top of pitch 25, the angle kicks back for a long slog up the final summit ridge. The last pitch — aka “The Crown” — is a 5.9 jug haul. The team described it as “one of the finest on the route with steep, exposed climbing high above the valley.”

33 Pitches of ‘Sportaneering’

Of the 33 total pitches, nine are rated 5.10. Nixon recognizes that the suggested grades still need to be confirmed by consensus. All belay stations have a pre-equalized single ring anchor, and it’s possible to rappel and bail back to the ground from any anchor with a 70m rope.

 

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A post shared by Brent Nixon (@brentnixon)

Though one can climb the route with just 12 quickdraws, a few runners, and a rope, the first-ascent team is adamant that it’s not a casual sport climb. Under the “Hazards and Risks” section on Mountain Project, the team mentions “loose rock,” “mini debris flows,” and a suggestion that future climbers “tread lightly.” There is no cell service in the area. Weather conditions can fluctuate rapidly.

Ultimately, it sounds like “Guaranteed Rugged” is more of an alpine route than a sport climb. We’re guessing it lives up to its name!

There are several mega-long bolted climbs in North America. “Guaranteed Rugged” now towers above them all. El Potrero Chico’s famous “Time Wave Zero” (5.12a, 23 pitches) offers a similar profile with varied climbing on slabs, pockets, and overhangs leading to a looming headwall. “Squawstruck” is a 22-pitch 5.11 involving lots of unroped scrambling located in Rock Canyon, Utah.

If “sportaneering” is your thing, “Guaranteed Rugged” is clearly a must-do. Go forth and send, but do so with caution. Crumbly limestone 2,000 feet off the deck is no joke.

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Austin Beck-Doss
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Austin Beck-Doss is a Staff Writer at GearJunkie.

Austin has been writing about climbing, hiking, and snow sports for 5 years.

Prior to that, Austin worked as a rock climbing guide for an adaptive recreation organization.

Based in Wyoming, Austin enjoys hiking in quiet areas, recording observations as drawings, and looking for new (old) rocks to climb.