American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

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

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Yosemite Valley, various activity. (Editor’s note: Several of the ascents mentioned in this summary, particularly new routes, appear in greater detail as individual reports below.) In 2001, Yosemite continued to be an arena of significant free-climbing and blazing speed ascents. On the free climbing front, two new ascents were made on El Capitan. In the Spring, Tommy Caldwell and Nick Sagar became the first to free the Muir Wall—their free variation goes at 5.13+ and is reportedly the most sustained free line on El Cap. In September, Germans Alex Huber and Max Reichel established El Corazon (5.13b R) on the southwest face.

Although specifics are lacking, on the far right side of El Cap, Jim Bridwell established Welcome to Afghanistan, a relatively short (about 10 pitches) route with climbing to A4/5. Over 13 days in May, Jim Beyer soloed Slacker’s Toil (VI 5.9 A5B), a four and one-fourth pitch variation to Surgeon General/Lunar Eclipse. Ammon McNeely continued his string of impressive ascents, establishing Known Offender (V 5.11b A3+), on the Super Nova Wall, with Jennifer Kelly in November. Unreported from April 2000, McNeely and Cedar Wright put up High Line (VI 5.10R A4). The route is between Crack the Whip and Dime Bag, in the Super Nova area.

In June, Germans Gabor Berecz and Thomas Tivadar made what is probably the second ascent of Genesis (VI 5.11 A4) on El Cap over six days. They report: “We found the free parts not so hard. The harder aiding is often on very tiny features, which maybe won’t hold more ascents in the future.”

Leo Houlding and various partners, including Jason Pickles, Kevin Thaw, and Cedar Wright, worked a desperate free project called The Prophet. The route is based on Bad to the Bone except for the first pitch (Eagle’s Way). Five pitches, up to Bad to the Bone’s sixth belay (guidebook topo), have been freed. Thus far, pitch five is the crux at E8 6c (5.13b). Pitches have been re-led on each attempt, no fixing, and have good belays but some dangerous runouts. On some of the old “protection” bolts, Thaw says, “Hard to say how good they are, a fall would certainly test them.…”

On May 16, Brits Houlding and Pickles climbed the incredible, sustained West Face of Leaning Tower, freeing all but the initial bolt ladder at 5.13b (or E7 6c). Houlding writes, “The initial insanely steep bolt ladder remains an aid pitch and will never go free (so prove me wrong).” A few days later they climbed the route in 1 hour and 59 minutes, a new speed record.

Many protagonists of modern speed-climbing in Yosemite, like Timmy O’Neill, Dean Potter, Steve Schneider, Jason “Singer” Smith, and Cedar Wright successfully exported their skills to the world’s great alpine areas. Reports on their incredible ascents are found elsewhere in this journal.

O’Neill and Potter made an incredible enchainment of the Northwest Face on Half Dome, the South Face on Mt. Watkins and the Nose on El Capitan, becoming the first to make a one-day (23:45) ascent of three Yosemite grade VI walls on different cliffs.

The long-standing speed record on the Nose finally fell—three times. First, O’Neill and Potter climbed it in 3:59:35. Two weeks later, Hans Florine and Jim Herson upped the ante, going at 3:57:27. O’Neill and Potter answered a few days after, further raising the bar in establishing the current record of 3:24:04.

In an impressive link-up, Jim Herson and Peter Coward climbed the Salathé on El Cap and the Regular Route on Half Dome in 23 hours. They didn’t jumar any pitches, because, writes Herson, “Pete hates to jug and I don’t know how to jug.” Herson tried, “much to Peter’s dismay” (because of the time factor), to free the Salathé in the process. He didn’t quite pull it off.

On El Cap, several routes saw their first one-day ascents. Two were by Brian McCray and Ammon McNeely: Get Whacked (VI 5.10R A5, in 12:47) and Plastic Surgery Disaster (VI 5.8 A5, in 21:37). McNeely also climbed, with Jose Pereyra and Chongo Chuck, Lunar Eclipse (VI 5.10 A4) in 19:47.

Other speed records made on El Cap in 2001 include: Flight of the Albatross (14:50; variation for first 6 pitches; Florine, McCray, Kelly Simard), Muir (19:56; Nils Davis, McCray), New Jersey Turn Pike (16:09; Heather Baer, Florine, Schneider), Zenyatta Mondatta (26:25; McCray, Pereyra), Mr. Midwest (7:40; Hans & Jacqueline Florine, Schneider), East Buttress (2:05 CTC; Smith), and Lurking Fear (4:27; Smith, Wright).

Notable records on other Valley formations include Southern Man on Washington’s Column (2:38; Smith, Wright) and the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral (34 minutes—1:15 car-to-car; Smith). Also, on Higher Cathedral Spire, Andrew and Matt Wilder set records on the Regular Route (37 minutes) and the East Corner (1:15).

The best documentation of Yosemite speed climbing action, including these ascents, is found on Hans Florine’s site, www.speedclimb.com.

Kelly Cordes, AAC

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