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North America, United States, California, Yosemite Valley, Various Activity

Yosemite Valley, Various Activity. Big news was the free climbing of two El Capitan routes. The first to go was Lurking Fear, which fell at the able hands of Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell (see note below). In 1994, Steve Schneider, with help from Alan Lester and Jeff Schoen, had freed 95 percent of the route. All that remained was a single move on the second pitch and a 60-foot traverse on pitch seven. Caldwell and Rodden freed these sections at 5.13c, climbing the entire route in team free style, with both members leading or following every pitch.

The second route to fall was Golden Gate, a combination of the Salathé and Heart routes (see note below). Forty-one pitches long, it stands as the longest route on El Cap excepting the girdle traverse. The route has three pitches of 5.13 and many of 5.12, and was completed in October.

The other big news was Dean Potter’s free solo of Astroman. He is only the second person to make this climb in this manner, the first being Peter Croft. Although Dean used an easier variation to get around the technical crux of the third pitch, he deserves full credit for having mastered this climb.

On the speed climbing front, little was done to continue the mass destruction of records established in 1999. Partially responsible for this slowdown was the fact that many record breakers were exploring the remote walls of Baffin Island and Pakistan. Several notable solo records caught the spotlight, however. Foremost was Hans Florine’s solo linkup of two El Capitan routes in a single day in June. Lurking Fear went down first in a record-breaking 9:20. After descending his newly established rappel route to the left of the West Face, Florine also made quick work of the West Face in 8:16, also a solo record. This is the first time anybody has soloed two El Cap routes together in a day; his time for both routes was just under 21 hours.

Ammon McNeely made the fastest solo ever of Eagle’s Way in 51:14 in August. Ten hours into the route, he exhausted his water supply, but he still went for it, hoping to find some water on the climb. He found none, and ultimately got pretty darn thirsty, at one point contemplating drinking his own urine.

Just two partner records were made on El Cap. The first was the West Buttress, which was climbed in 13:42 by Florine and Chandlee Harrel in July. The second was The Realm of the Flying Monkeys, which was climbed in 12:37 by Chandlee Harrel and Greg Murphy in September. Besides El Cap, other records of note were Cedar Wright and Dean Potter’s climb of the South Face of Washington’s Column in 1:59 in March, Cedar Wright and Ammon McNeely’s climb of Skull Queen in June in a time of 2:59, and Cedar Wright’s blitz of the Royal Arches car-to-car in 52 minutes and 26 seconds! On Leaning Tower, Ammon McNeely made a solo record of the West Face in 4:50 in September. Cecilia Buil of Spain made the fastest female solo of the same route in 11:30. Other proud female solos were of Wyoming Sheep Ranch over ten days, without fixed ropes, by Silvia Vidal (Spain) and The Shortest Straw, over five days without fixed ropes, by Aimee Aucoin. Both are thought to be first female solos, and likely the second or third solo overall of each route.

Finally, unreported from 1999 was Randy Leavitt’s first ascent of the amazing corner on the Elephant’s Graveyard, which was originally bolted by Roland Arsons. Leavitt removed some of the ill-placed bolts and instead used natural pro, including many ballnuts, in the seam. An initial difficult face section leads to an amazing corner that goes on wild stemming that gets harder as the corner becomes more overhanging to the right. Leavitt called the route Book of Hate and ventured a grade of 5.13d.

Steve Schneider