On June 2, a hammerless David Allfrey sent his first solo El Cap route, the 1,800 foot Zodiac, casually logging a speed record in just under 11 hours. The previous solo record for the 16-pitch route, listed on speedclimb.com, was 11 hours 18 minutes by Nick Fowler, back in 2002.
“I love the Zodiac. I think it’s one of the best routes on El Cap,” Allfrey wrote in an email to Rock and Ice, when asked why he chose Zodiac for his first solo. “But it is also the quintessential trade route. It’s like the benchmark, baseline aid route, one of the most famous in the world. It is steep as hell and just the right length to be big but not soul crushing. So this draws me to it, but it’s a fun and classic route too that I enjoy climbing.”
Allfrey wrote, “Soloing is a lot more work, obviously. You have to do twice as much, climb the pitch, rap down, clean it. I had a lot of different rope tricks and was able to avoid rappelling back down on four of the pitches, and I linked pitches in several different places to minimize transitions. Hard to say if it actually helped me move faster, but it broke the route into smaller mental pieces, and I think that helped.”
Still, Allfrey noted, “Soloing is just a lot more work, and for me it is not my favorite to go out alone. It took a lot of mental energy just to force myself into the idea. It was something I wanted to have done but was powerfully nervous to try and do. I’m really glad it went so well and was such a good time.”
On his decision not to bring a hammer, Allfrey told friend Peter Zabrok, “If you can’t climb this route clean, you shouldn’t be up there.”
Despite this being his first El Cap solo, the Vegas-based climber has an impressive speed resume. A search for his name on the Speed Climbing tab of yosemitebigwall.com pulls up thirteen speed records, all in the last decade. Eight of those were with some Yosemite dirtbag (I didn’t recognize the name but you might’ve heard of him… Alex Honnold?), and all but one were on El Cap routes. This time four years ago, Allfrey and Honnold climbed seven El Cap routes in seven days. In the process, the duo set four speed records. On this seven day assault they climbed Zodiac in five hours five minutes. El Cap speed records to Allfrey’s name include Tangerine Trip (VI 5.9 A3; 9:28), West Buttress (VI 5.9 A3; 7:01), Octopussy (VI 5.9 A3; 18:08), Excalibur (VI 5.8 A3; 16:10), Triple Direct (VI 5.9 A2; 5:15), New Jersey Turnpike (VI 5.10 A4; 12:24), Eagle’s Way (VI 5.8 A3; 7:56), Lunar Eclipse (VI 5.7 A4; 11:22), Shortest Straw (VI 5.7 A4; 12:20), Zenyatta Mondatta (VI 5.7 A4; 16:53), Virginia (VI 5.8 A3; 13:58), Scorched Earth (VI 5.8 A4; 22:28), and now a solo of Zodiac.
Next, Allfrey’s heading to Trango Valley in Pakistan with Anna Pfaff and Andres Martin. “Hopefully we will get a chance to try the Trango Tower, something that has been a life goal for all three of us for a long time,” he wrote.
When asked to choose a song that embodied his Zodiac climb, Allfrey responded, “Something like Metallica with a few moments of Taylor Swift to lighten it up.” -Owen Clarke