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BD Employee Brent Barghahn Attempts Ring That Bell (5.13R) in Bells Canyon

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Brent Barghahn has rope soloed the Nose in a day, claimed free ascents of both Golden Gate (VI 5.13b) and Freerider (VI 5.13a) on El Cap, and established a big-wall 5.13 first ascent Kyrgyzstan. Not to mention he’s accomplished all this while working full-time behind a desk as a Design Engineer at BD. Perhaps most crucial to his big wall success, however, are his after-work sessions on the local Wasatch granite. For the past few years, Brent has worked through the grades, repeating classic testpieces and also adding his own first ascents in the local canyons up to 5.13d. Last November, Brent felt ready to attempt a route that had gained a near-mythical status—the then unrepeated Ring That Bell (5.13R). Check out this film as Brent ties in and goes for it on one of the Wasatch’s most fearsome routes.
Video: Ben Neilson and Cole Taylor

The granite of the Wasatch range in Utah is a once-abstracted version of the greater walls of Yosemite—the cracks flare further, lean harder, and the foot holds are not only slippery, but also tend to flake away under pressure. Depending on perspective, this either makes these canyons a horribly stressful and insecure venue to push your limits, or the ultimate training ground for big wall goals.

I personally have sided with the later and heavily base my Salt Lake climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon. When beginning work as a BD engineer, I was new in town and my lineup of fresh routes to try and onsight seemed never ending. A few years into the ritual of after work outings, I exhausted this genre. My focus then turned to projecting the challenging routes on local granite and adding a few FA’s of my own. I wrote out a list of all the hardest Wasatch test pieces and began putting in the work to gain the skills needed to tick them off.

While technically one canyon over from Little Cottonwood, Ring that Bell shares the same stone and was a shadowy figure on my list. The first ascensionist’s notorious Mountain Project writeup gave descriptions of dynamic movement, insecure climbing, and even a topo of microcam-with-screamer placements to manage the objective danger. I knew this route was unrepeated. I skipped right over it and ticked off higher graded but safer routes before even seriously considering the line, as I am generally not motivated by danger in climbing. Finally, in November of 2019, I felt tuned up on the granite enough to give an attempt in a ground-up style.

Ring that Bell remains a proud line that barely protects with traditional gear. I may not have discouraged Brad’s initial prodding about adding bolts, but I am pleased that it is frozen in its original state. The danger level plays out as a near perfect inverse to physical difficulty throughout the pitch, creating a highly memorable rock climb. I cherish the local granite crags as practice climbing, frequently repeating routes to perfection, being satisfied once I can complete the maneuvers on a whim any given day. Ring that Bell, however, will reside firmly in a different category of one-and-done.

-Brent Barghahn

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