Posted on: December 1, 2003

Yosemite this summer remained a testing ground for the world’s elite climbers. On El Capitan, in early June, Spaniard Iker Pou managed a continuous redpoint ascent of El Niño, which he up-rated to 5.14a after a crucial hold broke on a 5.12d pitch. On August 1, Steve Schneider, Heather Baer and Brian Cork managed to free El Niño as well, though they avoided the new 5.14a pitch by establishing an alternate 5.13a variation.

On the west side of El Cap, Tommy Caldwell was busy working the moves on the West Buttress Route, which Matt Wilder nearly freed last year. Tommy, assisted by his wife, Beth Rodden-Caldwell, completed the first free ascent from June 4-8 using fixed lines; Beth freed every pitch but one-a .12c offwidth pitch. Tommy found the crux to be a 5.13c slab that Matt Wilder had already redpointed. The route still awaits a continuous free ascent.

Yuji Hirayama, on his attempts to redpoint Lurking Fear, was shut down by one tricky pitch that he said, "remains a mystery to me." While he didn’t manage a complete redpoint, he did manage to drop jaws by speed climbing the route in early June in three hours four minutes, employing such bold tactics as climbing 5.12 cracks with a fifty-foot loop of rope fixed into the anchor and barely stepping into etriers at all.


Yuji wasn't the only one pushing the limits of speed climbing this spring season; the perpetually motivated Huber brothers climbed the Zodiac in two hours and thirty-two minutes on June 15 after a near-free ascent was shut down by the heat. The Hubers will attempt to free the Zodiac again this fall. Speed ascents like these have pushed speed climbing to the next level, proving that all of the energy put into freeing these big routes can also yield mind-boggling speed records.

— Cedar Wright, Yosemite Valley, California, USA

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