EL CAPITAN FREE-CLIMBING BONANZA

Posted on: June 26, 2007


Beth Rodden belaying Tommy Caldwell on Golden Gate (VI 5.13b, 40 pitches), which he free climbed in under twenty hours on June 3 in Yosemite Valley. The week before with Rodden he also free climbed El Corazon (VI 5.13b, 35 pitches), which happens also to climb through this pitch. The 2007 Yosemite season has been filled with an unusual number of free ascents, especially on the celebrated Free Rider (VI 5.12d). [Photo] Lincoln Else

For the six weeks in May and June before the first hot spell swept through Yosemite Valley, Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden climbed at the forefront of a free-climbing barrage on El Capitan with sends of El Corazon (VI 5.13b, 35 pitches) and Golden Gate (VI 5.13b, 40 pitches). The fact that at least ten people have free climbed Free Rider (VI 5.12d, 37 pitches) in the last two months, Rodden said, is indicative of the liveliness throughout the Valley this season.

To take a break from an unclimbed project on the right side of El Cap, Caldwell and Rodden free climbed El Corazon, first freed in 2001 by Alex Huber and Max Reichel, ground-up during the last seven days of May. It climbs to Mammoth Terraces and hooks into Magic Mushroom. Caldwell led most of the route, swapping leads with Rodden to Gray Ledges on the first third of the route.

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On June 3, three days after completing El Corazon, Rodden jugged behind Caldwell, who free climbed Golden Gate in under twenty hours with two falls. About forty pitches long ("Tommy has a lot of energy," Rodden confirmed), Golden Gate shares sections with El Corazon but heads toward Salathe near the summit. Caldwell was able to onsight every pitch that El Corazon doesn't share, including the Monster Offwidth crux pitch.

Caldwell has now free climbed every route on El Capitan besides El Nino (VI 5.13c, 30 pitches). The weather is too hot for Caldwell to attempt El Nino this summer, but Rodden said that Caldwell would be pleased to complete all the established free lines. "When it cools off," she said, "we have zillions more climbs to do."

From El Corazon, Rodden and Caldwell were able to watch Justin Sjong and Rob Miller free a variation (5.13c/d) of Muir Wall (VI 5.13c). When Caldwell freed that route, he took the standard Shaft Variation (5.13c, Cosgrove-Smith), which requires climbing through two bad pitches of loose blocks. Sjong and Miller avoided the loose rock on more difficult ground, then hooked back into the standard line.

Also, French climber Stephanie Bodet free climbed Free Rider (VI 5.12d), which makes her the second female to do so, after Steph Davis, and the third woman to lead every pitch of a free route on El Cap, after Lynn Hill and Davis. Bodet rehearsed the route for four days before climbing it in a five-day push, taking two falls.

Canadian Stephane Perron made another Free Rider first by rope soloing the climb, all free. Having made ascents of Astroman (5.11c, 300m) and Crucifix (5.12b, 300m) in the same style, Perron decided to go after the Valley's most popular difficult climb this year. Perron led nearly every pitch without falling on his seven-day push in May. For the three pitches that didn't go on the first try, he cleaned the route on rappel and climbed the section on his next go. He also managed a one-day ascent, with Max Turgeon, of The Nose (VI 5.10 A1, ca. 3,000').

Sources: Beth Rodden, Chris McNamara, Lincoln Else

Beth Rodden working through 5.7 knobs near the top of El Corazon (VI 5.13b, 35 pitches). In 2001 Alex Huber and Max Reichel made the first free ascent in two days; Rodden and Tommy Caldwell spent seven working their way up the wall. Caldwell has now climbed every free route on El Capitan, aside from El Nino (VI 5.13c, 30 pitches). [Photo] Lincoln Else

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