The Yosemite climbing season is always a highlight of the calendar but this year the spotlight on El Capitan and the surrounding sheer walls has been especially intense. Adam Ondra is in Yosemite for the first time and has already attempted an onsight of the Nose and made significant progress on the Dawn Wall. However, the past week or so has seen a flurry of activity in Yosemite that has temporarily put Ondra in the shade, with British climber Pete Whittaker to the fore. Let’s take a look at the big news from El Capitan over the last week or so.
Pete Whittaker Makes First All-Free Rope Solo of El Capitan in a Day
Pete Whittaker, known for his exploits with Wideboyz climbing partner Tom Randall, made the first ever all-free rope solo of El Capitan in a single day on the 10th of November. Using the rope solo techniques he recently mastered on a trip to Squamish, British Columbia, Whittaker hauled himself up the 37-pitch Freerider route (graded 5.12d) in a highly impressive time of 20 hours and 6 minutes.
To put Whittaker’s time into perspective, the only previously successful all-free rope soloes of Freerider took Jorg Verhoeven 4 days and Stephane Perron a full week to complete. Whittaker spoke to UK Climbing to express his emotions on reaching the top. “It was difficult to do all the rope logistics, handling, cleaning and jumaring whilst climbing trickyish pitches. I was just psyched to climb a wall by myself and top out on my own, it felt like I’d worked hard.”
Whittaker’s achievement is all the more remarkable since he only began rope soloing this year! With Tom Randall sending a new route in Blackers Hole this month, it seems that even when they are apart the Wideboyz spur each other on to ever greater heights.
Jorg Verhoeven Makes First Repeat of Dihedral Wall
As one of the few climbers to rope solo Freerider, Dutch climber Jorg Verhoeven is well placed to admire Whittaker’s achievement. He was likely too busy to do so, however, given that he was engaged in a mammoth 5-day assault on El Capitan’s Dihedral Wall, graded 8b+ and considered one of the hardest multi-pitch climbs in Yosemite.
The Dihedral Wall had only previously been free climbed in 2004 by Tommy Caldwell. Verhoeven described his repeat climb as a “beast” and “exhausting,” before listing some of the technical challenges he faced: “14a crux, two 13d’s, three 13c’s, three 13b’s, a 12+ off width and the rest filled with 5.12 climbing. All slabs and pin scarred dihedrals…”
What’s Next for El Capitan?
Adam Ondra has been making good progress on the Dawn Wall, carrying gear up to a ledge camp and getting to grips with some of its toughest pitches. An attempt at a ground-up, first free repeat of the Dawn Wall could be on the way soon. Watch this space.