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Katharina Saurwein, belayed by Jorg Verhoeven, climbing Tainted Love on The Chief above Squamish, Canada. The corner was first ascended in 2017 by Hazel Findlay
Photo by Jessica Talley
Katharina Saurwein climbing Tainted Love on The Chief above Squamish, Canada
Photo by Jon Glassberg
Jorg Verhoeven edging his way up Tainted Love on The Chief above Squamish, Canada
Photo by Jessica Talley
Katharina Saurwein: When you top out, it's windy and you realise all your clothes are still at the belay.
Photo by archive Saurwein

Katharina Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven tick Tainted Love at Squamish in Canada

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Austria's Katharina Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven from the Netherlands have both repeated Tainted Love, the 5.13d crack climb located on The Chief above Squamish, Canada freed by Hazel Findlay in 2017.

Katharina Saurwein from Austria and her husband Jorg Verhoeven from the Netherlands have made fast repeats of Tainted Love, a stunning and bold trad corner climb high up on The Chief above Squamish, Canada, first ascended by England's Hazel Findlay in 2017 who opted not to place any bolts. Repeated previously by Sean Villanueva-O'Driscoll, interestingly and somewhat unusually it was Saurwein who bagged the third ascent, shortly before Verhoeven. Saurwein, who like Jorg bid farewell to 15 successful years of climbing competitions a month ago, reports.

Tainted Love by Katharina Saurwein
Jorg and I have wanted to go to Squamish for years, but somehow we never made it. This year we finally managed to make it there, and we immediately fell in love with the place. The lines and rock formations seem to be made specifically with rock climbing in mind. Although we came here for the trad climbing, what makes this place so special is its variety. Five star sport climbs, multi-pitches, trad climbs and boulders are all located right next to each other.

Before coming here I had two routes in my mind: Cobra Crack and Tainted Love. Both are impressive lines that follow some very obvious features. Tainted Love is an amazing stemming corner with an extremely thin crack that is almost completely closed and utterly blank sidewalls, first ascended only recently by Hazel Findlay. It's between fifteen to twenty meters high and is protected by small offset wires and one cam.

At first both Jorg and I had a hard time just getting off the ground, we didn't know how to move and how to position our body. From one try to the next our feeling with this open dihedral improved and we learned how to position hips and shoulders and, importantly, to trust the tiny smears. This process, this experience of learning something new even after twenty years of climbing, trying moves we had never done before, is what fascinated me the most.

Due to its technical nature, Tainted Love was the first route Jorg and I worked on together and climbed in a similar time span. Jorg is usually much quicker than I am and soon moves on to a new project, while I'm left working on the old one.

We had two top rope sessions on the route, then one more on lead with preplaced gear in order to trust the pro and to learn how to stay calm as we climbed on the small wires. At one point we both had our own beta, mine was actually quite different from Jorg's due to our height difference. I had to use closer stems than Jorg and make many much smaller moves. We had a hard time not getting confused by the others' beta.

On our fourth session our goal was to simply to get used to placing the gear, but when I started climbing I felt great, so I just kept on going. Jorg talked me through the whole route and this kept me calm and helped me control my fear. Actually, I was so focused on the climbing that I didn't have time to get scared and as I slowly made my way higher and higher I suddenly found myself up on top, even before realising what had happened. Everything just worked out perfectly: I got the beta right, I'd trusted the feet and hit every hold correctly. I couldn't believe it. I was so happy, so proud, so overwhelmed!

Half an hour later Jorg had climbed it as well, in his own words ‘messing up all the sequences' and having a really hard time', and we both sat on the top ledge and enjoyed the sun. We couldn't believe our little project was over, how great this climb was and how much we'd enjoyed the process.

We both also tried Cobra Crack and Jorg was starting to look very solid on it (he only had problems with the infamous one-finger lock) while I have to admit I struggled a lot. Most of the finger locks are pretty good, but some of the moves are quite reachy and I needed at least five layers of tape to get my fingers ‘fat' enough for the crack. We're both really keen to get back to it. We'll try to improve crack climbing techniques and come back next year!

Now that Jorg and I have retired from competition climbing we can devote more of our time to climbing outside, something I'm really looking forward to. I have so many projects in mind, so many places I still want to visit. In particular though I want to improve my trad climbing skills. I've realised that I really enjoy crack climbing, but with all my training and competing, I never had enough time to do much of it. This is now going to change ;-)

Links: FB Katharina Saurwein, FB Jorg Verhoeven, La SportivaPetzlMarmot



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