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Posted on: March 1, 2006
In October, Steph Davis became the first woman to free the Salathe Wall (VI 5.13b/c, ca. 3,200'). Davis worked on the route alone in September, rapping in from the summit to dial the crux pitches and to cache water and food. In early October, on top of El Cap, she met Cybele Blood, who had just finished her sixth Valley wall. The two hit it off, and Davis enlisted Blood's help for her free attempt.
On October 11 Davis and her husband, Dean Potter, climbed the Free Blast (Davis led every pitch), then rapped to the ground, where Davis hooked up with Blood. Two days later the woman jugged to Davis's previous high point and began their free push. Davis had planned for a five-day climb, but bad weather, other parties on the route and harder-than-expected climbing slowed her progress. When the team ran low on supplies, Blood jumared out on fixed lines to get more, but was unable to locate the water Davis had cached on the summit. Davis jugged to the top, retreived the water, and returned to the wall to continue her free efforts; Blood joined her with more food the next morning.
Five days turned to nine as other parties occupied the Headwall pitches. On October 23 the route was clear, and Davis freed the first Headwall crux, only to have the sun grow too hot to climb the second. The next morning she freed this pitch too, and the pair topped out after eleven days on the wall.
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