In mid-October Tim Kemple and Chris Lindner almost made the sixth ascent of El Niño (VI 5.13c A0), the Huber brothers 1998 free variation to the North America Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Thirteen of the route’s 30 pitches are rated 5.12 or harder, with six pitches checking in at 5.13. Kemple and Lindner freed everything but the mandatory 25-foot rappel on pitch 13 and a short, wet section of 5.12 at the top of the route. More impressive than their climbing, however, was the fact that this was Lindner’s first wall.
“Chris was so psyched. He was jugging up with this big video camera, filming himself, while I was trying to figure out ways to lighten our load,” says Kemple.
The duo swung leads, but Kemple says Lindner carried them up the bottom half of the route. “I was worried about the difficulty. Chris was like, ‘5.13c? Yeah, no big deal. I will do that second try.’” But once they got up high on the wall, the bad, runout rock brought Lindner’s confidence down a notch, and it was Kemple who carried the team to the top, including a lead of the notorious Black Roof.
“The pro was good to sucky,” says Kemple. “Honestly, there is a lot of debauchery on that route. Lots of glue to hold that crappy diorite together, and typical crap where you must have draws pre-clipped to some of the bolts or you will never clip them. That said, it was definitely one of the coolest climbing experiences of my life.”