On February 14, 2008, Beth Rodden redpointed a 70-foot, barely-there crack in Yosemite. It was a long abandoned Ron Kauk project that had fallen by the wayside. Rodden named it Meltdown. Despite her decision to leave it without a definitive grade, from the get-go people knew it was on another level of hard, and even, perhaps, the hardest period. Now, Carlo Traversi reports that, almost 11 years after Rodden’s first ascent, he has made the second.
Traversi wrote on Instagram this morning, “Meltdown. What a ride. First tried this beautiful line in 2013 and got completely shut down. Couldn’t figure out how to stand on the absolutely miserable footholds. The next year I tried again and solved the crux, a desperate lie back section on gently overhanging granite while smearing on glass. I thought everything would come together quickly after that but I was wrong. It’s one thing to climb through a difficult section, it’s another to be relaxed enough while you’re doing it to not burn yourself out for the rest of the route.”
Meltdown owes its difficulties to the extreme thinness and relentless nature of of the crack. In a 2010 interview with Rock and Ice, Rodden said, “5.14 Is freakin’ hard. Meltdown … was not just trying physically, but mentally because it took me over 40 days—absolutely the longest I’ve ever spent on a single route.”
After making a no-fall toprope ascent toward the end of 2015, Traversi could almost taste a proper redpoint close at hand, but still couldn’t put Meltdown to bed. Uncooperative weather kept him send-less the following two years, as well. But this fall, he wrote, “it all came together.”
“Yesterday I was able to climb in on my 3rd try of the day after a couple weird slips after the crux on the first two tries.” Traversi placed all of the protection on lead.
He ended his Instagram post by thanking Rodden for her vision: “The First Ascent of this route is a benchmark in the history of climbing and is one of the most impressive achievements I can think of in the last few decades. Respect.”
To help put the difficulty of Meltdown into further perspective, consider the conclusions of Tom Randall, one of the best crack climbers around. In a feature on the hardest cracks in the world, published in Rock and Ice issue 230 (November 2015), Randall wrote, “Visiting Yosemite in the autumn of 2014 to do some big walls, Pete Whittaker and I took a day to get to know Meltdown. While it’s extremely difficult to gauge a rating in a single visit, it’s not hard to know when something isn’t a soft tough. Almost every move on the route is desperate—there is no respite—and the footholds are appalling, so dire that in many parts of the route it’s extremely hard just to pull into static positions because the feet have to be placed semi-dynamically to stick. After a few hours of working the moves, both Pete and I walked away having done only 10 percent and scratching our heads over how the crux was even possible.”
While better known as a boulderer, Traversi has compiled a well-rounded tick list over the years, including traditional and sport ascents as well. Notable sport lines he has climbed include Kryptonite (5.14d), Fortress of Solitude, Colorado, and Bad Girls Club (5.14d), Rifle, Colorado. Among his difficult trad redpoints are Must’a Been High (5.13b R), Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. His hardest blocs include The Game (V15), Boulder Canyon, Colorado; The Story of Two Worlds (V15), Cresciano, Switzerland; In Search of Lost Time (V15), Magic Wood, Switzerland; and Practice of the Wild (V15), also in Magic Wood.
In 2017, he completed a challenge the Triple 14 Challenge, a project of his own design. In one 24 hour period, he climbed a V14 (Jade), a 5.14 (Sarchasm) and a big wall on a 14,000-foot peak (Pervertical Sanctuary, a 5.11a on the Diamond, Longs Peak).
Traversi’s ascent comes just a few months after Daniel Jung made the long-awaited second ascent of the other obvious contender for the hardest crack in the world, The Recovery Drink, Jossingford, Norway.
More to come after Rock and Ice catches up with Traversi sometime soon!